Ego is the Enemy

It’s finally time for another book review! I haven’t summarized a book in quite some time, but I finally got some inspiration after starting a book club with my mate Jono. I’ve also been itching to share some useful knowledge that you can read up more on yourself.

The book I’ll be diving into today is called ‘Ego is the Enemy’ by Ryan Holiday. As the title suggests, it’s all about why ego is our greatest opponent and how to fight it. It was actually an eye-opener for me, as I haven’t really realized the way ego can sneak into our worldview and affect almost everything we do.

The book is segmented into 3 main sections; Aspire, Success, and Failure. Each section is comprised of multiple subsections, but I’ll only focus on a couple that resonated quite strongly with me.

Ego Funny Quotes. QuotesGram

The book essentially talks about the different stages that we experience in life and how ego develops in every stage. Ryan Holiday explains the concept by bringing in real-life examples from his personal journey, and by speaking through the stories of other historically famous people.

Let’s understand more about the ego and what we can do to prevent it from crippling us.


This is the phase where we set out to achieve something. We dream big, start chasing goals and begin a new journey. Yet, we oftentimes fall short of our ambition. Ego tends to be the culprit.

Talk, Talk, Talk

How often do we find ourselves talking endlessly about all that we want to achieve in life? Our wishes, our goals, our aspirations seem so much easier when we’re just talking about them. Getting to action or making other people have the spotlight seems less likely.

Silence is a crucial element here, especially when everyone else just seems to be a constant chatterbox. My previous post on The Art of Silence fits well into this section, as it highlights the importance of being comfortable in your own quietness.

The point here is that talking is easy. What’s ultimately always harder is walking the talk. It goes both ways. As one of the partners at the company I currently work at always says: We need to talk the walk and walk the talk. It goes both ways, but the latter is definitely more important.

Become A Student

I think it’s quite clear why this one resonates so much with me. I’ve devoted myself to constantly trying to be a life-long learner. This means approaching life like a sponge. Absorbing as much information and knowledge that I can from people that I encounter and experiences that I face.

It’s crucial not to let ego get in the way of this. We can easily pretend like we know what’s going on or fake our way through certain phases of our life, but it prevents true learning and growth. Having a white-belt mentality at the start will enable us to rapidly develop and gain expertise.

Epictetus Quote: “It is impossible for a man to learn what ...

Work, Work, Work

This point links very closely to the one on Talk, Talk, Talk, as it brings in the concept of working hard. What we often underestimate is how challenging it can be to push forward when we face setbacks. Ego often tends to come into the picture here and makes us fall into the planning fallacy. We try as best as we can to avoid doing the actual work, by spending time ‘preparing’ and trying to feel productive about it.

It’s not always going to be easy. We’re going to wish it was a straight and clear path to move forward and achieve that goal. But it’s not going to be that way. There will be challenges, whether we like it or not. The best thing we can do is embrace it and keep ourselves prepared to overcome the hurdles and become stronger.

“Every time you sit down to do work, remind yourself: I am delaying gratification by doing this. I am passing the marshmallow test. I am earning what my ambition burns for. I am making an investment in myself instead of my ego.


This is the part where we’re reaping the harvest of the hard work and enjoying success, or where the summit is potentially insight. It’s when our pride, arrogance, and ‘know-it-all’ attitude strike out. It’s where we have to be incredibly careful not to stop learning or undermine the challenges that are yet to come.

Always Stay A Student

“As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”

It’s quite clear why this is so important once we start picking up a few wins. Becoming a student is one thing. Remaining a student is something else altogether. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we’re not ‘there’. There’s no specific end goal to learning. It’s a continuous and life-long process.

When we start to feel like ‘we’ve been there and done that’, we need to keep ourselves in check. There’s always an opportunity to learn from other people, it just depends on the perspective you have.

Beware Of The Disease Of Me

Another crucial humbling point is to remind ourselves that we’re not the centre of the universe. We should not make ourselves feel like we’re the most important person in the room. We need to realize that the privilege of success is not going to continue falling into our lap once we make it.

We have to constantly seek out new challenges and embrace the opportunity to struggle. Give other people credit where it’s due and focus on developing them as well. It’s not all about you. It never will always be about you. Let that sober you up a little bit.

Meditate On the Immensity

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.”

Reflect on how far you’ve come. How much you’ve grown. How much more there is to grow. Try and see the bigger picture amidst all the distractions. Think of your purpose. Who you are. What you are doing. Your role in this world.

Meaning does not only come from activity, despite how often our ego makes us feel that way. We don’t have to be the centre of attention. We need to look beyond our own success and the rat race, and keep the real objective in mind.


We then hit a roadblock. Things don’t always work out. We might fall short of our achievement. But how do we respond and pick ourselves up? What is the inner dialogue? How do we react?

Alive Time or Dead Time?

We are almost certainly bound to experience failure in some form or the other, at some point in our life. This can be somewhat of a daunting thought, but there are always ‘make or break’ moments that follow those experiences. We either rise above the circumstance and grow, or we let it crush us and stagnate (or even deteriorate).

Alive time or dead time refers to the concept of either utilizing a negative experience to stay alive (to the learnings, the lessons and potential to grow), or to die out (by falling into bad habits, losing hope and giving up).

When faced with any form of fear, we should constantly try to look at how we can learn from it. Almost all our experiences have some form of value to offer. It’s up to us to extract it. Choose alive time.

Socrates Quote: “Falling down is not a failure. Failure ...

The Effort is Enough

“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.”

“Do your work. Do it well. Then let go, and let God.”

To me, this section focused on having a growth mindset. Ryan Holiday brought it up in a slightly different way though. When it comes to missing our targets or not achieving our set out goals, we should focus on the effort we put in. It’s not always about the result, it’s about the dedication.

He brings it up in the context of appreciation and not getting all the praise we deserve for what we set out to do. We should remind ourselves that it’s not our objective to be put on a pedestal. That’s the ego’s goal. Our goal is to try our best and keep pushing, whatever that may mean.

Always Love

When things don’t go our way, it’s easy to hate. It’s easy to blame other people and not take responsibility for the outcomes. We should keep in mind, however, that it doesn’t get us any closer to our goal. In fact, it may even arrest our development entirely.

What we need to do in moments of difficulty is to choose love. To choose forgiveness. To let go of resentment and arrogance. This is definitely easier said than done, but the outcome will always be better. Maybe not for everyone involved, but definitely for your own well-being.

Choosing love is hard because the ego convinces us that we have every right to hate and stay bitter. Which is probably true. Your anger might be justifiable. But it doesn’t mean that lashing out will help you progress. In moments of failure, always love.

Throughout our life, we’ll always be in one of those three stages. Ego will invariably try to play a role in directing us. It’s up to us to be conscious enough in our decisions, to remain humble and to always remain a student.


Let’s face it, this is something we’ve proven to be terrible at as humans. From saying what’s on your mind or how you’re feeling, to spamming emojis and swiping right. There’s just something about being truthful and vulnerable that we tend to struggle with, and it’s damaging not only to us, but everyone we interact with.

I’m speaking from experience here and I’m still working on this, so let’s dive in and see what we can unfold about the power of vulnerability and honest communication.

What is vulnerability?

The ability to be susceptible to physical or emotional attack / harm.” So how could that possibly be good for us? One of the essential tools when forming deep/meaningful relationships is having the courage to be vulnerable.

When we’re willing to risk being hurt, or to speak about difficult topics, we find much more value in the relationship.

The point is, when other people see that we’re comfortable enough to share things with them, it opens up a pathway for them to open up to us. Courage is an important word here because you need to be aware of your imperfections and be willing to share your authentic self with others.

Personally, I’ve formed the best and healthiest relationships through being vulnerable and talking about difficult issues. It’s not to say that everyone is going to be respectful and engaging, but when you do find someone who’s willing to be there for you or you want to strengthen your relationship with, just be more honest about how you feel and what’s going on with you.

This ted talk explains it perfectly:

Be your authentic self.

We often find ourselves trying to “fit” in, constantly trying to meet the expectations of our peers or family members. This is where I think problems start to arise, within yourself more than anything. The identity dilemma of who you are vs who you’re supposed to be.

When you can’t be your true self, you tend to communicate based on what will please the other person. This creates a barrier, which airs the gap for miscommunication. Constantly trying to satisfy the other person or just agreeing with them won’t create a meaningful relationship, it will just create a decent friendship.

It’s through being honest and authentic about our desires and interests, that creates respect and willingness to cooperate.

There’s a saying in Arabic that goes “Respect yourself”, which is often meant in a derogatory manner. But I think it’s a beautiful reminder to people to genuinely respect themselves, because that’s what will help others respect them and in turn form better connections. If you haven’t thought about it already, self-love comes into play here too. When you learn to love yourself, it allows other people to love you even more.

Watch your ego.

Our good ol’ arch enemy, the ego. Learning to deal with this and humble yourself is another crucial aspect in effective communication. When you’re able to put your pride aside and actually listen, it goes a long way.

Our ego tends to block up our minds, when people who are younger or “less” knowledgeable than us give us advice. We claim to already know what they’re going to say, since we have more experience than them.

However truthful that may be, it still adds to the communication barrier and makes it more difficult for us to connect with each other. So just notice when you find yourself trying to end or move on from a conversation, which could actually benefit you, because of your pride.

Real life > Texting

Sliding into the DM’s, sharing memes, commenting on stories, sending emails, group chats. It’s the new age of staying in touch and communicating. I suppose what we don’t realize is that we miss out on an important humane aspect, emotions.

We just can’t properly express ourselves through emojis; laughing faces and broken hearts don’t cut it. It’s not to say that there are no benefits to digital communication, it just makes it a lot easier to misinterpret and jump to conclusions.

I’m basically emphasizing the importance of effective communication, and that even voice noting or phone calls would be a better alternative. Of course nothing will be more pertinent than real life social encounters. Make time for the people who matter in your life, and engage as much as you can with them in the present moment. Don’t allow your digital life and character to ruin your real life.


Something I think many of us struggle with, is to just listen. Our minds jump to responses as soon as people speak to us, but it’s important to first understand what they’re truly trying to say. Part of communicating therefore, is cultivating the skill of listening and deeply engaging, without cutting the other person off.

A lot can be communicated through silence too, for connections are made with the heart, not just the tongue.

To put it all in a bundle, there are many degrees to effective communication. Most importantly, allowing yourself to be vulnerable to connect with people. This will have a ripple effect, allowing you to be your more authentic self, and hopefully more honest with what you say.

Don’t let your ego get in the way of your relationships, and always make time for those who matter to you. I’ll end this post with a common quote that we should really try to grasp:

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” 
― Stephen R. Covey