10 Actionable Ideas From the Book “Ego Is The Enemy”

I recently read “Ego Is The Enemy” by Ryan Holiday. This blog post covers the main lessons in the book and actionable quotes that I found most interesting.

The book is divided into three parts which characterize the three possible phases of our lives where the ego can spiral out of control and nudge us out of our path.

  • Aspire, wanting to accomplish bigger and better goals.
  • Success, achieving our goals and receiving public praise.
  • Failure, falling from grace and dealing with internal resistance.


We are setting out to do something. We have a goal, a calling, a new beginning. Every great journey begins here — yet far too many of us never reach our intended destination. 

Ego more often than not is the culprit. We build ourselves up with fantastical stories, we pretend we have it all figured out, we let our star burn bright and hot only to fizzle out, and we have no idea why. 

These are the symptoms of ego, for which humility and reality are the cure.


Here we are at the top of a mountain we work hard to climb — or at least the summit is in sight. Now we face new temptations and problems. We breathe thinner air in an unforgiving environment. 

Why is success so ephemeral? Ego shortens it. 

Whether a collapse is dramatic or a slow erosion, it’s always possible and often necessary. We stop learning, we stop listening, and we lose our grasp on what matters. We become victims of ourselves and the competition. 

Open-mindedness, organization, and purpose — they balance out the ego and pride that comes with achievement and recognition.

When success begins to slip from your fingers — 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.


Here we are the experiencing the trials endemic to any journey. Perhaps we’ve failed, perhaps our goal turned out to be harder to achieve than anticipated.

No one is permanently successful, and not everyone finds success on the first attempt. We all deal with setbacks along the way. 

Ego not only leaves us unprepared for these circumstances, it often contributed to their occurrence in the first place. 

The way through, the way to rise again, requires a reorientation and increased self-awareness. We don’t need pit — our own or anyone else’s — we need purpose, poise, and patience.

Remember, the only real failure is abandoning your principles. Killing what you love because you can’t bear to part from it is selfish and stupid. If your reputation can’t absorb a few blows, it wasn’t worth anything in the first place.

People learn from their failures. Seldom they learn anything from success.

Other actionable quotes that I found most interesting.

  1. What is rare is not raw talent, skill or even confidence but humility, diligence, and self-awareness.
  2. Clear the paths of the people above you, and you will eventually create a path for yourself.
  3. Become a student: this way you act like you don’t know it all, listen to feedback from your teacher objectively and get better.
  4. The danger of early pride. Receive feedback, maintain hunger and chart a proper course in life. If you can’t swallow your pride, you can’t lead.
  5. 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.”
  6. We flirt with arrogance and deceit, and in the process grossly overstate the importance of winning at all costs. Everyone is juicing, the ego says to us you should too.
  7. 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.
  8. Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room — until you change that with results.
  9. Those who have subdued their ego understand that it doesn’t degrade you when others treat you poorly; it degrades them.
  10. You’re not as good as you think. You don’t have it all figured out. Stay focused. Do better.

If you like the above quotes, buy the book here.