100 mind-blowing lines from the book: ‘Ego is the Enemy’

Mary Good Books
Hooked on Books
Published in
11 min readOct 3, 2023

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The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. — Richard Feynman

Photo by Abbat on Unsplash

“The ego we see most commonly goes by a more casual definition: an unhealthy belief in our own importance,” says Ryan Holiday the author of the book ‘Ego is the Enemy’

Ryan has experienced ego in several stages of his life: aspiration, success, failure and over and over again. He has also seen ego destroy the people he knows and the people he has read from history.

However, the truth is, each one of us faces this enemy many times than we’d care to admit. The book is an attempt to fight our ever-present enemy, ego.

Below are some mindblowing quotes I’ve highlighted from this masterpiece:

1. Perhaps you’ve always thought of yourself as a pretty balanced person. But for people with ambitions, talents, drives, and potential to fulfill, ego comes with the territory.

2. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility — that’s ego. It’s the sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent.

3. If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.

4. When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real. What replaces ego is humility, yes — but rock-hard humility and confidence. Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight.

5. We will learn that though we think big, we must act and live small in order to accomplish what we seek.

6. It’s a temptation that exists for everyone — for talk and hype to replace action.

7. Silence is strength — particularly early on in any journey.

8. The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other.

9. In this course, it is not “Who do I want to be in life?” but “What is it that I want to accomplish in life?”

10. The power of being a student is not just that it is an extended period of instruction, it also places the ego and ambition in someone else’s hands.

11. Each fighter, to become great, needs to have someone better that they can learn from, someone lesser who they can teach, and someone equal that they can challenge themselves against.

12. A true student is like a sponge. Absorbing what goes on around him, filtering it, latching on to what he can hold.

13. The art of taking feedback is such a crucial skill in life, particularly harsh and critical feedback.

14. What humans require in our ascent is purpose and realism. Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundaries. Realism is detachment and perspective.

15. Purpose is about pursuing something outside yourself as opposed to pleasuring yourself.

16. When you want to do something — something big and important and meaningful — you will be subjected to treatment ranging from indifference to outright sabotage. Count on it.

17. Those who have subdued their ego understand that it doesn’t degrade you when others treat you poorly; it degrades them.

18. We tend to think that ego equals confidence, which is what we need to be in charge. In fact, it can have the opposite effect.

19. Be part of what’s going on around you. Feast on it, adjust for it. There’s no one to perform for. There is just work to be done and lessons to be learned, in all that is around us.

20. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Don’t cook the sauce before catching the fish. The way to cook a rabbit is first to catch a rabbit. Game slaughtered by words cannot be skinned.

21. Because you have got a start you think you are quite a merchant; look out or you will lose your head — go steady.

22. What a pitiful thing it is when a man lets a little temporary success spoil him, warp his judgment, and he forgets what he is!

23. Receive feedback, maintain hunger, and chart a proper course in life. Pride dulls these senses.

24. The question to ask, when you feel pride, then, is this: What am I missing right now that a more humble person might see?

25. It’s worth saying: just because you are quiet doesn’t mean that you are without pride. Privately thinking you’re better than others is still pride. It’s still dangerous.

26. The hard thing isn’t setting a big, hairy, audacious goal. The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goal.

27. Where we decide to put our energy decides what we’ll ultimately accomplish.

28. When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win

29. Make it so you don’t have to fake it — that’s the key.

30. Work is finding yourself alone at the track when the weather kept everyone else indoors.

31. You know a workman by the chips they leave. It’s true. To judge your progress properly, just take a look at the floor.

32. As success arrives, like it does for a team that has just won a championship, ego begins to toy with our minds and weaken the will that made us win in the first place.

33. Here we are having accomplished something. After we give ourselves proper credit, ego wants us to think, I’m special. I’m better. The rules don’t apply to me.

34. “Man is pushed by drives,” Viktor Frankl observed. “But he is pulled by values.”

35. Without the right values, success is brief.

36. Success is intoxicating, yet to sustain it requires sobriety. We can’t keep learning if we think we already know everything.

37. Can you handle success? Or will it be the worst thing that ever happened to you?

38. It takes a special kind of humility to grasp that you know less, even as you know and grasp more and more.

39. Learn from everyone and everything. From the people you beat, and the people who beat you, from the people you dislike, even from your supposed enemies

40. Pick up a book on a topic you know next to nothing about. Put yourself in rooms where you’re the least knowledgeable person.

41. It’s not enough simply to want to learn. As people progress, they must also understand how they learn and then set up processes to facilitate this continual education

42. There is a real danger in believing it when people use the word “genius” — and it’s even more dangerous when we let hubris tell ourselves we are one.

43. Too often, artists who think it was “inspiration” or “pain” that fueled their art and create an image around that — instead of hard work and sincere hustle — will eventually find themselves at the bottom of a bottle or on the wrong end of a needle.

44. Instead of pretending that we are living some great story, we must remain focused on the execution — and on executing with excellence.

45. That’s how it seems to go: we’re never happy with what we have, we want what others have too. We want to have more than everyone else

46. All of us waste precious life doing things we don’t like, to prove ourselves to people we don’t respect, and to get things we don’t want.

47. The farther you travel down that path of accomplishment, whatever it may be, the more often you meet other successful people who make you feel insignificant.

48. Only you know the race you’re running. That is, unless your ego decides the only way you have value is if you’re better than, have more than, everyone everywhere.

49. Far too often, we look at other people and make their approval the standard we feel compelled to meet, and as a result, squander our very potential and purpose.

50. When “you combine insecurity and ambition,” the plagiarist and disgraced journalist Jonah Lehrer said when reflecting back on his fall, “you get an inability to say no to things.”

51. Ego tells you to cheat, though you love your spouse. Because you want what you have and what you don’t have.

52. You need to know what you don’t want and what your choices preclude. Because strategies are often mutually exclusive. One cannot be an opera singer and a teen pop idol at the same time. Life requires those trade-offs, but ego can’t allow it.

53. The more you have and do, the harder maintaining fidelity to your purpose will be, but the more critically you will need to.

54. With success, particularly power, come some of the greatest and most dangerous delusions: entitlement, control, and paranoia.

55. A smart man or woman must regularly remind themselves of the limits of their power and reach.

56. Paranoia thinks, I can’t trust anyone. I’m in this totally by myself and for myself. It says, I’m surrounded by fools.

57. As you become successful in your own field, your responsibilities may begin to change. Days become less and less about doing and more and more about making decisions. Such is the nature of leadership

58. Play for the name on the front of the jersey, and they’ll remember the name on the back

59. Creativity is a matter of receptiveness and recognition. This cannot happen if you’re convinced the world revolves around you

60. The rest of us want to get to the top as fast as humanly possible. We have no patience for waiting.

61. Don’t be deceived by recognition you have gotten or the amount of money in your bank account.

62. There’s an old line about how if you want to live happy, live hidden. It’s true. The problem is, that means the rest of us are deprived of really good examples.

63. Most successful people are people you’ve never heard of. They want it that way. It keeps them sober. It helps them do their jobs.

64. What’s difficult is to apply the right amount of pressure, at the right time, in the right way, for the right period of time, in the right car, going in the right direction.

65. Behind every goal is the drive to be happy and fulfilled — but when egotism takes hold, we lose track of our goal and end up somewhere we never intended.

66. Just because you .did something once, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it successfully forever.

67. Failure and adversity are relative and unique to each of us. Almost without exception, this is what life does: it takes our plans and dashes them to pieces. Sometimes once, sometimes lots of times.

68. Bill Walsh says, “Almost always, your road to victory goes through a place called ‘failure.’”

69. Whether what you’re going through is your fault or your problem doesn’t matter, because it’s yours to deal with right now.

70. What about you? Will your ego betray you when things get difficult? Or can you proceed without it?

71. As Goethe once observed, the great failing is “to see yourself as more than you are and to value yourself at less than your true worth.”

72. Humble and strong people don’t have the same trouble with these troubles that egotists do. There are fewer complaints and far less self-immolation. Instead, there’s stoic — even cheerful — resilience

73. There are two types of time in our lives: dead time, when people are passive and waiting, and alive time, when people are learning and acting and utilizing every second.

74. Every moment of failure, every moment or situation that we did not deliberately choose or control, presents this choice: Alive time. Dead time. Which will it be?

75. Make use of what’s around you. Don’t let stubbornness make a bad situation worse.

76. In life, there will be times when we do everything right, perhaps even perfectly. Yet the results will somehow be negative: failure, disrespect, jealousy, or even a resounding yawn from the world.

77. The less attached we are to outcomes the better.

78. Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

79. The world is, after all, indifferent to what we humans “want.” If we persist in wanting, in needing, we are simply setting ourselves up for resentment or worse. Doing the work is enough.

80. Many significant life changes come from moments in which we are thoroughly demolished, in which everything we thought we knew about the world is rendered false.

81. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills.

82. Sometimes because we can’t face what’s been said or what’s been done, we do the unthinkable in response to the unbearable: we escalate.

83. “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed,” reads John 3:20. Big and small, this is what we do.

84. Face the symptoms. Cure the disease. Ego makes it so hard — it’s easier to delay, to double down, to deliberately avoid seeing the changes we need to make in our lives.

85. change begins by hearing the criticism and the words of the people around you. Even if those words are mean spirited, angry, or hurtful. It means weighing them, discarding the ones that don’t matter, and reflecting on the ones you do

86. The problem is that when we get our identity tied up in our work, we worry that any kind of failure will then say something bad about us as a person.

87. Ego asks: Why is this happening to me? How do I save this and prove to everyone I’m as great as they think?

88. If you cannot reasonably hope for a favorable extrication, do not plunge deeper. Have the courage to make a full stop.

89. Only ego thinks embarrassment or failure are more than what they are. History is full of people who suffered abject humiliations yet recovered to have long and impressive careers.

90. When we lose, we have a choice: Are we going to make this a lose-lose situation for ourselves and everyone involved? Or will it be a lose . . . and then win?

91. He who will do anything to avoid failure will almost certainly do something worthy of a failure.

92. If your reputation can’t absorb a few blows, it wasn’t worth anything in the first place.

93. This is characteristic of how great people think. It’s not that they find failure in every success. They just hold themselves to a standard that exceeds what society might consider to be objective success

94. Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of — that’s the metric to measure yourself against.

95. It’s not about what you can get away with, it’s about what you should or shouldn’t do.

96. A person who judges himself based on his own standards doesn’t crave the spotlight the same way as someone who lets applause dictate success.

97. Thus, the paradox of hate and bitterness. It accomplishes almost exactly the opposite of what we hope it does

98. Attempting to destroy something out of hate or ego often ensures that it will be preserved and disseminated forever.

99. You know what is a better response to an attack or a slight or something you don’t like? Love. Or you could at the very least try to let it go. You could try to shake your head and laugh about it.

100. This obsession with the past, with something that someone did or how things should have been, as much as it hurts, is ego embodied. Everyone else has moved on, but you can’t, because you can’t see anything but your own way.

A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. — C. S. LEWIS

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