how to tame your ego

how to tame your ego
Photo by Dollar Gill / Unsplash
“Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities. It’s a magnet for enemies and errors. It is Scylla and Charybdis.” ― Ryan Holiday, Ego Is the Enemy

Epictetus remarked that it is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows. If we think that we are experts in our craft or our field of interest, we become susceptible to getting influenced by our egos. Instead of considering ourselves as a know-it-all, it’s much better to humble ourselves. We should always consider ourselves as a learner someone who’s improving every day in his or her craft. In that way, we are always striving for growth and feeding our grit. Even if you are incredibly good at something, you can tame down your ego by accepting that there is someone in this world who is even better than you.

As the popular story goes, a man once went to a wise Zen Master to seek wisdom and learn about attaining enlightenment. The Master welcomed him and offered to discuss this over tea. As the tea was served, the Zen Master kept pouring tea even after the cup was filled. As the tea kept overflowing, the visitor could not restrain him any longer and asked him to stop pouring as there was no room for more tea. The Master smiled and offered his gem of wisdom: “Like this cup of tea, you are full of your own opinions and speculations as well. How can I teach you unless you empty your cup?” This story is a great reminder for us that in order to learn something new, we need to unlearn all the previous knowledge with regard to that subject first. We need to start with a fresh pair of eyes and a beginner’s mind. There’s a wise quote byShunryuSuzuki-roshi: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.”

When we work with other immensely talented people, our ego remains in check. We should always be open to learning new things and improving our craft. Something that stops us from improving our work and feeds our ego is pride. Pride and ego are great friends, but our worst enemies. The shortcomings of pride are that we stop learning and challenging and pushing our limits; we become overly sensitive to criticism. To become a perennial performer, we need to let go of our pride and ego and not let them affect our success.

For more useful insights on Stoicism, philosophy, and the art of living, please check out my book “Daily Stoicism” here: