Ego Is the Enemy
Ego Is the Enemy

Ego Is the Enemy

With success comes the temptation to tell oneself a story, to round off the edges, to cut out your lucky breaks and add a certain mythology to it all. (Location 104)

Who do I want to be? And: What path will I take? (Location 155)

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. (Location 174)

The ego we see most commonly goes by a more casual definition: an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition. (Location 187)

One of the early members of Alcoholics Anonymous defined ego as “a conscious separation from.” From what? Everything. (Location 209)

The performance artist Marina Abramović puts it directly: “If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.” (Location 215)

We’re aspiring to something—trying to make a dent in the universe. We have achieved success—perhaps a little, perhaps a lot. Or we have failed—recently or continually. Most of us are in these stages in a fluid sense—we’re aspiring until we succeed, we succeed until we fail or until we aspire to more, and after we fail we can begin to aspire or succeed again. (Location 234)

Humble in our aspirations Gracious in our success Resilient in our failures (Location 242)

When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real. What replaces ego is humility, yes—but rock-hard humility and confidence. (Location 265)

Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight. Ego is stolen. Confidence is earned. Ego is self-anointed, its swagger is artifice. One is girding yourself, the other gaslighting. It’s the difference between potent and poisonous. (Location 266)

Tags: ego

“Talent is only the starting point.” (Location 358)

What is rare is not raw talent, skill, or even confidence, but humility, diligence, and self-awareness. (Location 369)

Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know. (Location 382)

one. Someone recently published a book called Working On My Novel, filled with social media posts from writers who are clearly not working on their novels. (Location 413)

So what is scarce and rare? Silence. The ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation and subsist without its validation. Silence is the respite of the confident and the strong. (Location 422)

Talk depletes us. Talking and doing fight for the same resources. Research shows that while goal visualization is important, after a certain point our mind begins to confuse it with actual progress. The same goes for verbalization. (Location 429)

Success requires a full 100 percent of our effort, and talk flitters part of that effort away before we can use it. (Location 436)

The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other. (Location 452)

The mixed martial arts pioneer and multi-title champion Frank Shamrock has a system he trains fighters in that he calls plus, minus, and equal. Each fighter, to become great, he said, 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. (Location 576)

A true student is like a sponge. Absorbing what goes on around him, filtering it, latching on to what he can hold. A student is self-critical and self-motivated, always trying to improve his understanding so that he can move on to the next topic, the next challenge. A real student is also his own teacher and his own critic. There is no room for ego there. (Location 593)

“It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows,” (Location 603)

Roosevelt was above passion. She had purpose. She had direction. She wasn’t driven by passion, but by reason. (Location 636)

enthusiasm, our willingness to pounce on what’s in front of us with the full measure of our zeal, the “bundle of energy” that our teachers and gurus have assured us is our most important asset. (Location 646)

Passion typically masks a weakness. Its breathlessness and impetuousness and franticness are poor substitutes for discipline, for mastery, for strength and purpose and perseverance. You need to be able to spot this in others and in yourself, because while the origins of passion may be earnest and good, its effects are comical and then monstrous. (Location 674)

What humans require in our ascent is purpose and realism. Purpose, you could say, is like passion with boundaries. Realism is detachment and perspective. (Location 686)

Tags: purpose

Purpose is about pursuing something outside yourself as opposed to pleasuring yourself. (Location 692)

Passion is form over function. Purpose is function, function, function. (Location 702)

An anteambulo proceeded in front of his patron anywhere they traveled in Rome, making way, communicating messages, and generally making the patron’s life easier. (Location 714)

Tags: career

Make other people look good and you will do well. Keep your head down, they say, and serve your boss. (Location 736)

Tags: canvas strategy

It’s not about making someone look good. It’s about providing the support so that others can be good. The better wording for the advice is this: Find canvases for other people to paint on. Be an anteambulo. Clear the path for the people above you and you will eventually create a path for yourself. (Location 739)

Tags: anteambulo, canvas strategy

Note: Provide the support for others to be good

When you are just starting out, we can be sure of a few fundamental realities: 1) You’re not nearly as good or as important as you think you are; 2) You have an attitude that needs to be readjusted; 3) Most of what you think you know or most of what you learned in books or in school is out of date or wrong. (Location 742)

That’s what the canvas strategy is about—helping yourself by helping others. Making a concerted effort to trade your short-term gratification for a longer-term payoff. (Location 779)

Tags: canvas strategy

Because if you pick up this mantle once, you’ll see what most people’s egos prevent them from appreciating: the person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the canvas shapes the painting. (Location 796)

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. In McClellan’s case it deprived him of the ability to lead. It robbed him of the ability to think that he even needed to act. (Location 912)

Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything that one touches turns to shit, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one had no talent or insight, and on and on and (Location 920)

Anyone—particularly the ambitious—can fall prey to this narration, good and bad. (Location 925)

As the psychologist David Elkind has famously researched, adolescence is marked by a phenomenon known now as the “imaginary audience.” (Location 933)

What successful people do is curb such flights of fancy. They ignore the temptations that might make them feel important or  skew their perspective. (Location 942)

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. (Location 953)

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. (Location 956)

The question to ask, when you feel pride, then, is this: What am I missing right now that a more humble person might see? What am I avoiding, or running from, with my bluster, franticness, and embellishments? It is far better to ask and answer these questions now, with the stakes still low, than it will be later. (Location 1012)

At the end, this isn’t about deferring pride because you don’t deserve it yet. It isn’t “Don’t boast about what hasn’t happened yet.” It is more directly “Don’t boast.” There’s nothing in it for you. (Location 1023)

“It’s not with ideas, my dear Degas, that one makes verse. It’s with words.” (Location 1032)

Or rather, with work. (Location 1033)

hours—that to get where we want to go isn’t about brilliance, but continual effort. (Location 1048)

Our ego wants the ideas and the fact that we aspire to do something about them to be enough. Wants the hours we spend planning and attending conferences or chatting with impressed friends to count toward the tally that success seems to require. It wants to be paid well for its time and it wants to do the fun stuff—the stuff that gets attention, credit, or glory. (Location 1053)

As a young man, Bill Clinton began a collection of note cards upon which he would write names and phone numbers of friends and acquaintances who might be of service when he eventually entered politics. (Location 1056)

Fac, si facis. (Do it if you’re going to do it.) (Location 1067)

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.” (Location 1070)

Tags: practice

Ego shortens it. Whether a collapse is dramatic or a slow erosion, it’s always possible and often unnecessary. We stop learning, we stop listening, and we lose our grasp on what matters. We become victims of ourselves and the competition. Sobriety, open-mindedness, organization, and purpose—these are the great stabilizers. They balance out the ego and pride that comes with achievement and recognition. (Location 1126)

“The worst disease which can afflict business executives in their work is not, as popularly supposed, alcoholism; it’s egotism,” (Location 1201)

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. (Location 1206)

The physicist John Wheeler, who helped develop the hydrogen bomb, once observed that “as our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” (Location 1248)

Tags: knowledge

Note: The more we learn, the more we realise we don't know.

It takes a special kind of humility to grasp that you know less, even as you know and grasp more and more. (Location 1250)

With accomplishment comes a growing pressure to pretend that we know more than we do. To pretend we already know everything. Scientia infla (knowledge puffs up). That’s the worry and the risk—thinking that we’re set and secure, when in reality understanding and mastery is a fluid, continual process. (Location 1252)

do. Instead of pretending that we are living some great story, we must remain focused on the execution—and on executing with excellence. (Location 1360)

Ego leads to envy and it rots the bones of people big and small. Ego undermines greatness by deluding its holder. (Location 1391)

On an individual level, however, it’s absolutely critical that you know who you’re competing with and why, that you have a clear sense of the space you’re in. (Location 1402)

This is especially true with money. If you don’t know how much you need, the default easily becomes: more. (Location 1414)

Tags: wealth, money, newsletter, favorite

“The Strongest Poison ever known,” the poet William Blake wrote, “came from Caesar’s Laurel Crown.” Success casts a spell over us. (Location 1449)

early. The complete and utter sense of certainty that got you here can become a liability if you’re not careful. (Location 1462)

Entitlement assumes: This is mine. I’ve earned it. At the same time, entitlement nickels and dimes other people because it can’t conceive of valuing another person’s time as highly as its own. (Location 1485)

synonyms. His job was to set the priorities, to think big picture, and then trust the people beneath him to do the jobs they were hired for. (Location 1516)

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. (Location 1555)

Play for the name on the front of the jersey, he says, and they’ll remember the name on the back. (Location 1639)

Tags: quotes

sympatheia—a connectedness with the cosmos. (Location 1658)

“When I look up in the universe, I know I’m small, but I’m also big. I’m big because I’m connected to the universe and the universe is connected to me.” We just can’t forget which is bigger and which has been here longer. (Location 1676)

life. Realize how much came before you, and how only wisps of it remain. (Location 1705)


There’s an old line about how if you want to live happy, live hidden. (Location 1765)

gas. We must avoid what the business strategist Jim Collins terms the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” as well as the complacency that comes with plaudits. (Location 1787)

There is a line from Napoleon, who, like Alexander, died miserably. He said, “Men of great ambition have sought happiness… and have found fame.” What he means is that 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. (Location 1791)

The world conspires against us in many ways, and the laws of nature say that everything regresses toward the mean. (Location 1802)

“Almost always, your road to victory goes through a place called ‘failure.’” (Location 1897)

Whether what you’re going through is your fault or your problem doesn’t matter, because it’s yours to deal with right now. (Location 1906)

Tags: responsibility

According to Greene, 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. (Location 1964)

As they say, this moment is not your life. But it is a moment in your life. How will you use it? (Location 1987)

Tags: quotes, life, favorite

This is an opportunity for me. I am using it for my purposes. I will not let this be dead time for me. (Location 1998)

What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him. (Location 2006)

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. (Location 2027)

Note: despite your best efforts bad things may still happen

“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.” (Location 2068)

This is why we can’t let externals determine whether something was worth it or not. It’s on us. (Location 2078)

The bigger the ego the harder the fall. (Location 2101)

The world can show you the truth, but no one can force you to accept it. (Location 2123)

At any given time in the circle of life, we may be aspiring, succeeding, or failing—though right now we’re failing. With wisdom, we understand that these positions are transitory, not statements about your value as a human being. (Location 2223)

They just hold themselves to a standard that exceeds what society might consider to be objective success. (Location 2256)

Because of that, they don’t much care what other people think; they care whether they meet their own standards. And these standards are much, much higher than everyone else’s. (Location 2257)

For us, the scoreboard can’t be the only scoreboard. Warren Buffett has said the same thing, making a distinction between the inner scorecard and the external one. Your potential, the absolute best you’re capable of—that’s the metric to measure yourself against. Your standards are. Winning is not enough. 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. (Location 2266)

Note: Measure yourself against your inner scoreboard.

As Benjamin Franklin observed, those who “drink to the bottom of the cup must expect to meet with some of the dregs.” But what (Location 2388)

“People learn from their failures. Seldom do they learn anything from success.” (Location 2390)

Tags: failure

Note: We learn more from failure than success

Wisdom or ignorance? Ego is the swing vote. (Location 2392)

Aspiration leads to success (and adversity). Success creates its own adversity (and, hopefully, new ambitions). And adversity leads to aspiration and more success. It’s an endless loop. (Location 2393)

He explained that training was like sweeping the floor. Just because we’ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep. (Location 2416)

Any fool can learn from experience. The trick is to learn from other people’s experience. (Location 2466)

Tags: learning

But no less impressive an accomplishment: being better people, being happier people, being balanced people, being content people, being humble and selfless people. (Location 2474)

Every day for the rest of your life you will find yourself at one of three phases: aspiration, success, failure. You will battle the ego in each of them. You will make mistakes in each of them. (Location 2481)