Best 11 Ego Is the Enemy Quotes: Stoicism Teaches Seeing Things Realistically

Ryan Holiday’s book Ego is The Enemy is about applying the ancient philosophy of stoicism to everyday life.  Stoicism is about seeing things objectively and ignoring things that are out of our control.  Our ego often stops us from seeing things in a realistic way.  In his book, Ryan Holiday talks about how our ego can be our biggest enemy.   Let’s now learn from some of the best quotes from this book.

“The ego we see most commonly goes by a more casual definition: an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition.”

Ego means the part of your mind that makes you falsely think that you are better and more important than others.  It pushes you to assume that you are the smartest person in the room.  That’s why you see people trying their best to prove themselves right during a meeting, instead of focusing on having a healthy discussion and finding the best solution.  


“Impressing people is utterly different from being truly impressive.”

Unless you are a performer or an artist, impressing people is not your goal.  If you spend a lot of time and effort impressing people, you don’t have much left to do the work, which could make you truly impressive.  Know your goal, work towards it and block the noise.  


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

When people treat you poorly or attack you verbally, don’t take it personally.  Most of the time, they attack you because of something in their mind, not because of you.  Be sympathetic towards the attacker but don’t take it personally.  If you take it personally, you become the victim.  


“Almost universally, the kind of performance we give on social media is positive. It’s more ‘Let me tell you how well things are going. Look how great I am.’ It’s rarely the truth: ‘I’m scared. I’m struggling. I don’t know.’”

Social media amplifies people’s egos.  Limit your time on or stay away from social media if you can.  Be mindful when you use it.  If you want to connect to your friends on a deeper level, how about just texting them or calling them.  If you can’t stand having an hour or two not having your phone with you, are you really using your phone or is your phone using you? 


“When success begins to slip from your finger - for whatever reason - the response isn’t to grip and claw so hard that you shatter it to pieces. It’s to understand that you must work yourself back to the aspirational phase. You must get back to first principles and best practices.”

When we encounter obstacles, don’t lose your calm.  Think all the way back to the reason you are having your particular goal.  Know your purpose.  Know your principles clearly.  Work backward from your purpose to derive your 5-year plan, your 1-year plan, your monthly plan and ,eventually, your daily plan.  Think objectively and neutrally and figure out what’s the best action to take, despite the obstacles.  


“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.”

There are people who can still focus on getting their job done when they gain a lot of fame which can be distracting.  A lot of successful people would avoid becoming famous because fame could make them lose their focus for their work.  


“People can get lucky and win. People can be assholes and win. Anyone can win. But not everyone is the best possible version of themselves.”

This world is full of randomness.  People who won weren’t necessarily the best.  Sometimes they are actually the best, while sometimes luck bails them out.  Since we can’t control luck, we should simply focus on giving our best shots.  That is to become the best version of ourselves.  That is to always do our best and then own the result, whatever the result is.  


“The pretense of knowledge is our most dangerous vice, because it prevents us from getting any better.”

If we think we are already great at something, we probably would no longer get better at that something.  It’s okay to know that you are pretty good at something, but be aware that there is always room to learn more or deeper in any particular area.  


“As a young basketball player, Bill Bradley would remind himself, ‘When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win.’”

A great way to motivate yourself to do the hard work and to humble yourself is to know that there is always someone else who is putting in the hard work when your ego tells you that you are good enough and no longer need to work hard.   


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

If you want to achieve something amazing, you need to say “no” to a lot of seemingly impressive things, such as material things and fame.  Focus on your one big goal for a very long time and ignore the cool things that your ego tells you to go after.  


“This is what the ego does. It crosses out what matters and replaces it with what doesn’t.”

Everyone has different values and priorities.  Just make sure that it is you who decide what’s important, but not your ego.  Imagine a scenario where you have to choose only one of these two: becoming useful or becoming famous.  Your ego may tell you to choose the latter but your true self may want to choose the former.  If your true self actually wants to choose the latter, that’s completely fine.  Just make sure it’s not your ego that is making the choice.  What do we connect to our true selves though?  You can meditate, you can do a long walk, or you can do whatever that calms your mind.  Just stay away from your phone and computer for a few hours and talk to yourself.  

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