This book describes the lethal effects of ego on human beings; stories of famous people are added in the book to illustrate how their egos wreaked havoc on them and grabbed their power and fame; leaving them destitute and in a state of sheer chaos. On the other hand, examples of people are added who suppressed their ego and showed humility and became prosperous and famous and seized power and ruled the world. An egomaniac believes that he is complete and there is no one above him and his attitude and thoughts destroy him before he gets conscious of his acts. The consequences of ego are illustrated along with remedies to subdue it. The book focuses on three things: ASPIRE, SUCCESS, and FAILURE.


“A few months after my own realization, I had the phrase “EGO IS THE ENEMY” tattooed on my right forearm. Where the words came from I don’t know, probably from a book I read long, long ago, but they were immediately a source of great solace and direction. On my left arm, of similarly muddled attribution, it says: “THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY.” It’s these two phrases that I look at now, every single day, and use them to guide the decisions in my life. I can’t help but see them when I swim, when I meditate, when I write, when I get out of the shower in the morning, and both prepare me—admonish me—to choose the right course in essentially any situation I might face.”

“The orator Demosthenes once said that virtue begins with understanding and is fulfilled by courage. We must begin by seeing ourselves and the world in a new way for the first time. Then we must fight to be different and fight to stay different—that’s the hard part.”

“In Aristotle’s famous Ethics, he uses the analogy of a warped piece of wood to describe human nature. In order to eliminate warping or curvature, a skilled woodworker slowly applies pressure in the opposite direction—essentially, bending it straight. Of course, a couple of thousand years later Kant snorted, “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing can be made straight.” We might not ever be straight, but we can strive for straighter.”

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.” —RICHARD FEYNMAN

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

When, as the football coach Bill Walsh explained, “self-confidence becomes arrogance, assertiveness becomes obstinacy, and self-assurance becomes reckless abandon.”

We are, as the poet Lucretius put it a few thousand years ago, the proverbial “sick man ignorant of the cause of his malady.”

The pioneering CEO Harold Geneen compared egoism to alcoholism: “The egotist does not stumble about, knocking things off his desk. He does not stammer or drool. No, instead, he becomes more and more arrogant, and some people, not knowing what is underneath such an attitude, mistake his arrogance for a sense of power and self-confidence.”

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

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


“At any given time in life, people find themselves at one of three stages. 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.”

“The aim of that structure is simple: to help you suppress ego early before bad habits take hold, to replace the temptations of ego with humility and discipline when we experience success, and to cultivate strength and fortitude so that when fate turns against you, you’re not wrecked by failure. In short, it will help us be: Humble in our aspirations. Gracious in our success. Resilient in our failures.”

As the Quaker William Penn observed, “Buildings that lie so exposed to the weather need a good foundation.”

“This book you hold in your hands is written around one optimistic assumption: Your ego is not some power you’re forced to satiate at every turn. It can be managed. It can be directed.”

“It was their sense of reality and awareness—one that the author and strategist Robert Greene once said we must take to like a spider in its web— that was at the core of their great art, great writing, great design, great business, great marketing, and great leadership.”

“Here, 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 symptoms of ego, for which humility and reality are the cure.”

“He is a bold surgeon, they say, whose hand does not tremble when he performs an operation upon his own person; and he is often equally bold who does not hesitate to pull off the mysterious veil of self-delusion, which covers from his view the deformities of his own conduct.” —ADAM SMITH

Isocrates began by informing the young man that “no adornment so becomes you as modesty, justice, and self-control; for these are the virtues by which, as all men are agreed, the character of the young is held in restraint.” “Practice self-control,” he said, warning Demonicus not to fall under the sway of “temper, pleasure, and pain.” And “abhor flatterers as you would deceivers; for both, if trusted, injure those who trust them.”

He wanted him to “Be affable in your relations with those who approach you, and never haughty; for the pride of the arrogant even slaves can hardly endure” and “Be slow in deliberation, but be prompt to carry out your resolves” and that the “best thing which we have in ourselves is good judgment.” Constantly train your intellect, he told him, “for the greatest thing in the smallest compass is a sound mind in a human body.”

“Shakespeare puts Isocrates’ words in the mouth of his character Polonius in a speech to his son, Laertes. The speech, if you happen to have heard it, wraps up with this little verse. This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell. My blessing season this in thee!”

Dismissing the incessant praise and attention endemic to such success, he wrote as a warning to his friend Grant, “Be natural and yourself and this glittering flattery will be as the passing breeze of the sea on a warm summer day.”

Among men who rise to fame and leadership two types are recognizable— those who are born with a belief in themselves and those in whom it is a slow growth dependent on actual achievement. To the men of the last type their own success is a constant surprise, and its fruits the more delicious, yet to be tested cautiously with a haunting sense of doubt whether it is not all a dream. In that doubt lies true modesty, not the sham of insincere self-depreciation but the modesty of “moderation,” in the Greek sense. It is poise, not pose.

“One must ask: if your belief in yourself is not dependent on actual achievement, then what is it dependent on? The answer, too often when we are just setting out, is nothing. Ego. And this is why we so often see precipitous rises followed by calamitous falls.”

“Where Isocrates and Shakespeare wished us to be self-contained, self-motivated, and ruled by principle, most of us have been trained to do the opposite.”

. As Irving Berlin put it, “Talent is only the starting point.”

“One might say that the ability to evaluate one’s own ability is the most important skill of all. Without it, improvement is impossible. And certainly ego makes it difficult every step of the way. It is certainly more pleasurable to focus on our talents and strengths, but where does that get us? Arrogance and self-absorption inhibit growth. So does fantasy and “vision.””

“Detachment is a sort of natural ego antidote.”

“Facts are better than dreams, as Churchill put it.”

“Isocrates, we understand that ego is our enemy on that journey, so that when we do achieve our success, it will not sink us but make us stronger.”

“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” —LAO TZU

As Carey McWilliams later wrote about his friend’s gubernatorial bid as it went south, “Upton not only realized that he would be defeated but seemed somehow to have lost interest in the campaign. In that vivid imagination of his, he had already acted out the part of ‘I, Governor of California,’ . . . so why bother to enact it in real life?”

“It’s a temptation that exists for everyone—for talk and hype to replace action.”

“At the beginning of any path, we’re excited and nervous. So we seek to comfort ourselves externally instead of inwardly. There’s a weak side to each of us, that—like a trade union—isn’t exactly malicious but at the end of the day still wants get as much public credit and attention as it can for doing the least. That side we call ego.”

“In fact, I can’t really remember anything else I did in 2010. I tumbld, I tweeted, and I scrolled. This didn’t earn me any money but it felt like work. I justified my habits to myself in various ways. I was building my brand. Blogging was a creative act—even “curating” by reblogging someone else’s post was a creative act, if you squinted. It was also the only creative thing I was doing.”

“We seem to think that silence is a sign of weakness. That being ignored is tantamount to death (and for the ego, this is true). So we talk, talk, talk as though our life depends on it.”

Kierkegaard warned, “Mere gossip anticipates real talk, and to express what is still in thought weakens action by forestalling it.”

Sherman had a good rule he tried to observe. “Never give reasons for you what think or do until you must. Maybe, after a while, a better reason will pop into your head.”

“The baseball and football great Bo Jackson decided he had two things he wanted to accomplish as an athlete at Auburn: he would win the Heisman Trophy and be taken first in the NFL draft. Do you know who he told? Nobody but his girlfriend.”

The poet Hesiod had this in mind when he said, “A man’s best treasure is a thrifty tongue.”

“The more difficult the task, the more uncertain the outcome, the more costly talk will be and the farther we run from actual accountability. It’s sapped us of the energy desperately needed to conquer what Steven Pressfield calls the “Resistance”—the hurdle that stands between us and creative expression. Success requires a full 100 percent of our effort, and talk flitters part of that effort away before we can use it.”

“Talking—listening to ourselves talk, performing for an audience—is almost like therapy.”

“Doing great work is a struggle. It’s draining, it’s demoralizing, it’s frightening —not always, but it can feel that way when we’re deep in the middle of it. We talk to fill the void and the uncertainty.”

“Void,” Marlon Brando, a quiet actor if there ever was one, once said, “is terrifying to most people.”

“The only relationship between work and chatter is that one kills the other.”

“In this formative period, the soul is unsoiled by warfare with the world. It lies, like a block of pure, uncut Parian marble, ready to be fashioned into—what?” —ORISON SWETT MARDEN

“In fact, Boyd was simply living the exact lesson he tried to teach each promising young acolyte who came under his wing, who he sensed had the potential to be something—to be something different.”

“Tiger, one day you will come to a fork in the road,” Boyd said to him. “And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.” Using his hands to illustrate, Boyd marked off these two directions. “If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.” Then Boyd paused, to make the alternative clear. “Or,” he said, “you can go that way and you can do something—something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference. To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision.”

“Appearances are deceiving. Having authority is not the same as being an authority. Having the right and being right are not the same either. Being promoted doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing good work and it doesn’t mean you are worthy of promotion (they call it failing upward in such bureaucracies). Impressing people is utterly different from being truly impressive.”

“Boyd had another exercise. Visiting with or speaking to groups of Air Force officers, he’d write on the chalkboard in big letters the words: DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY. Then he would cross those words out and replace them with three others: PRIDE, POWER, GREED.”

“There’s a quip from the historian Will Durant, that a nation is born stoic and dies epicurean.”

“Chase your fame, your salary, your title, and enjoy them as they come.”

“A man is worked upon by what he works on,” Frederick Douglass once said.

“Think about this the next time you face that choice: Do I need this? Or is it really about ego? Are you ready to make the right decision? Or do the prizes still glitter off in the distance? To be or to do—life is a constant roll call.”

“Let No Man’s Ghost Come Back to Say My Training Let Me Down.” —SIGN IN THE NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT TRAINING ACADEMY

“That was the point—Kirk wanted to learn what he didn’t know, to firm up his understanding of the fundamentals so that he might continue exploring this new genre of music he now had a chance to pursue.”

“The main thing with Kirk . . . was he was a really good guitar player when he walked in the door. He was already playing lead guitar . . . he was already shredding. He had a great right hand, he knew most of his chords, he just didn’t learn how to play in an environment where he learned all the names and how to connect everything together.”

“The power of being a student is not just that it is an extended period of instruction, it also places the ego and ambition in someone else’s hands. There is a sort of ego ceiling imposed—one knows that he is not better than the “master” he apprentices under.”

“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.”

“The purpose of Shamrock’s formula is simple: to get real and continuous feedback about what they know and what they don’t know from every angle. It purges out the ego that puffs us up, the fear that makes us doubt ourselves, and any laziness that might make us want to coast.”

As Shamrock observed, “False ideas about yourself destroy you. For me, I always stay a student. That’s what martial arts are about, and you have to use that humility as a tool. You put yourself beneath someone you trust.”

“A true student is like a sponge. Absorbing what goes on around him, filtering it, latching on to what he can hold.”

“Take fighting as an example again, where self-awareness is particularly crucial because opponents are constantly looking to match strength against weakness.”

“It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows,” Epictetus says.

“The art of taking feedback is such a crucial skill in life, particularly harsh and critical feedback.”

“Ego doesn’t allow for proper incubation either. To become what we ultimately hope to become often takes long periods of obscurity, of sitting and wrestling with some topic or paradox.”

“Ego rushes to the end, rationalizes that patience is for losers (wrongly seeing it as a weakness), and assumes that we’re good enough to give our talents a go in the world.”

It’s why the old proverb says, “When student is ready, the teacher appears.”

“You seem to want that vivida vis animi which spurs and excites most young men to please, to shine, to excel. Without the desire and the pains necessary to be considerable, depend upon it, you never can be so.” —LORD CHESTERFIELD

“Here’s what those same people haven’t told you: your passion may be the very thing holding you back from power or influence or accomplishment. Because just as often, we fail with—no, because of—passion.”

“To be clear, I’m not talking about caring. I’m talking about passion of a different sort—unbridled 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. It is that burning, unquenchable desire to start or to achieve some vague, ambitious, and distant goal. This seemingly innocuous motivation is so far from the right track it hurts.”

“He saw those extra emotions as a burden. Instead, his philosophy was about being in control and doing your job and never being “passion’s slave.” The player who learned that lesson from Wooden would later change his name to one you remember better: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.”

“In our endeavors, we will face complex problems, often in situations we’ve never faced before. Opportunities are not usually deep, virgin pools that require courage and boldness to dive into, but instead are obscured, dusted over, blocked by various forms of resistance. What is really called for in these circumstances is clarity, deliberateness, and methodological determination.”

“The reality: We hear what we want to hear. We do what we feel like doing, and despite being incredibly busy and working very hard, we accomplish very little. Or worse, find ourselves in a mess we never anticipated.”

“We don’t conceive of the consequences until we look at their trajectory.”

“We imagine Napoleon was brimming with passion as he contemplated the invasion of Russia and only finally became free of it as he limped home with a fraction of the men he’d so confidently left with. In many more examples we see the same mistakes: overinvesting, underinvesting, acting before someone is really ready, breaking things that required delicacy—not so much malice as the drunkenness of passion.”

“Passion is seen in those who can tell you in great detail who they intend to become and what their success will be like—they might even be able to tell you specifically when they intend to achieve it or describe to you legitimate and sincere worries they have about the burdens of such accomplishments. They can tell you all the things they’re going to do, or have even begun, but they cannot show you their progress. Because there rarely is any.”

“Dogs, god bless them, are passionate. As numerous squirrels, birds, boxes, blankets, and toys can tell you, they do not accomplish most of what they set out to do. A dog has an advantage in all this: a graciously short short-term memory that keeps at bay the creeping sense of futility and impotence. Reality for us humans, on the other hand, has no reason to be sensitive to the illusions we operate under. Eventually it will intrude.”

“When we are young, or when our cause is young, we feel so intensely— passion like our hormones runs strongest in youth—that it seems wrong to take it slow. This is just our impatience. This is our inability to see that burning ourselves out or blowing ourselves up isn’t going to hurry the journey along.”

“Great passions are maladies without hope,” as Goethe once said.

“The critical work that you want to do will require your deliberation and consideration. Not passion. Not naïveté.”

“Great men have almost always shown themselves as ready to obey as they afterwards proved able to command.” —LORD MAHON

“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.”

“Obeisance is the way forward.”

“That’s the other effect of this attitude: it reduces your ego at a critical time in your career, letting you absorb everything you can without the obstructions that block others’ vision and progress.”

“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.”

There is an old saying, “Say little, do much.”

That’s what the canvas strategy is about—helping yourself by helping others.

“I have observed that those who have accomplished the greatest results are those who “keep under the body”; are those who never grow excited or lose self-control, but are always calm, self-possessed, patient, and polite.” —BOOKER T. WASHINGTON

“When you want to do something—something big and important and meaningful—you will be subjected to treatment ranging from indifference to outright sabotage. Count on it.”

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

“A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts, so he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions.” —ALAN WATTS

A historian who fought under McClellan at Antietam later summed it up: “His egotism is simply colossal—there is no other word for it.”

“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.”

“He’s not that different from the rest of us. We’re all full of anxieties, doubts, impotence, pains, and sometimes a little tinge of crazy. We’re like teenagers in this regard.”

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

“Living clearly and presently takes courage. Don’t live in the haze of the abstract, live with the tangible and real, even if—especially if—it’s uncomfortable.”

“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.” —C. S. LEWIS

“Christians believe that pride is a sin because it is a lie—it convinces people that they are better than they are, that they are better than God made them. Pride leads to arrogance and then away from humility and connection with their fellow man.”

Theognis wrote to his friend, “The first thing, Kurnos, which gods bestow on one they would annihilate, is pride.”

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Don’t cook the sauce before catching the fish.”

The childlike little prince in Saint-Exupéry’s famous story makes the same observation, lamenting that “vain men never hear anything but praise.”

As the famous conqueror and warrior Genghis Khan groomed his sons and generals to succeed him later in life, he repeatedly warned them, “If you can’t swallow your pride, you can’t lead.”

He would say, “Even the tallest mountains have animals that, when they stand on it, are higher than the mountain.”

“What we don’t protect ourselves against are people and things that make us feel good—or rather, too good.”

“The first product of self-knowledge is humility,” Flannery O’Connor once said.

“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.”

“The best plan is only good intentions unless it degenerates into work.” —PETER DRUCKER

There is one famous conversation that might explain why. One day, Degas complained to his friend, the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, about his trouble writing. “I can’t manage to say what I want, and yet I’m full of ideas.” Mallarmé’s response cuts to the bone. “It’s not with ideas, my dear Degas, that one makes verse. It’s with words.”

As the philosopher and writer Paul Valéry explained in 1938, “A poet’s function . . . is not to experience the poetic state: that is a private affair. His function is to create it in others.”

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.”

The Bible says something similar in its own way: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.”

“’Tis a common proof, That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder.” —SHAKESPEARE

“All of us who do creative work . . . we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good . . . It’s really not that great.”

“Here we are at the top of a mountain we worked 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 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.”

“Two different characters are presented to our emulation; the one, of proud ambition and ostentatious avidity. The other, of humble modesty and equitable justice. Two different models, two different pictures, are held out to us, according to which we may fashion our own character and behaviour; the one more gaudy and glittering in its colouring; the other more correct and more exquisitely beautiful in its outline.” —ADAM SMITH

Without virtue and training, Aristotle observed, “it is hard to bear the results of good fortune suitably.”

“The worst disease which can afflict business executives in their work is not, as popularly supposed, alcoholism; it’s egotism,” Geneen famously said.

“Man is pushed by drives,” Viktor Frankl observed. “But he is pulled by values.”

“Success is intoxicating, yet to sustain it requires sobriety.”

“Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.” —RALPH WALDO EMERSON

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.”

“It’s remembering Socrates’ wisdom lay in the fact that he knew that he knew next to nothing.”

The nine-time Grammy– and Pulitzer Prize–winning jazz musician Wynton Marsalis once advised a promising young musician on the mind-set required in the lifelong study of music: “Humility engenders learning because it beats back the arrogance that puts blinders on. It leaves you open for truths to reveal themselves. You don’t stand in your own way. . . . Do you know how you can tell when someone is truly humble? I believe there’s one simple test: because they consistently observe and listen, the humble improve. They don’t assume, ‘I know the way.’”

“It is not enough only to be a student at the beginning. It is a position that one has to assume for life. Learn from everyone and everything. From the people you beat, and the people who beat you, from the people you dislike, even from your supposed enemies.”

Shamrock said, “Always stay a student.” As in, it never ends.

“Myth becomes myth not in the living but in the retelling.” —DAVID MARANISS

As the author Tobias Wolff writes in his novel Old School, these explanations and stories get “cobbled together later, more or less sincerely, and after the stories have been repeated they put on the badge of memory and block all other routes of exploration.”

“Here’s the other part: once you win, everyone is gunning for you. It’s during your moment at the top that you can afford ego the least—because the stakes are so much higher, the margins for error are so much smaller. If anything, your ability to listen, to hear feedback, to improve and grow matter more now than ever before.”

“The way to do really big things seems to be to start with deceptively small things.”

“Napoleon had the words “To Destiny!” engraved on the wedding ring he gave his wife. Destiny was what he’d always believed in, it was how he justified his boldest, most ambitious ideas. It was also why he overreached time and time again, until his real destiny was divorce, exile, defeat, and infamy. A great destiny, Seneca reminds us, is great slavery.”

“To know what you like is the beginning of wisdom and of old age.” —ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

“That’s how it seems to go: we’re never happy with what we have, we want what others have too. We want to have more than everyone else. We start out knowing what is important to us, but once we’ve achieved it, we lose sight of our priorities. Ego sways us, and can ruin us.”

“Not that he is unique in this regard. All of us regularly say yes unthinkingly, or out of vague attraction, or out of greed or vanity. Because we can’t say no— because we might miss out on something if we did. We think “yes” will let us accomplish more, when in reality it prevents exactly what we seek. All of us waste precious life doing things we don’t like, to prove ourselves to people we don’t respect, and to get things we don’t want.”

“Ego leads to envy and it rots the bones of people big and small. Ego undermines greatness by deluding its holder.”

“According to Seneca, the Greek word euthymia is one we should think of often: it is the sense of our own path and how to stay on it without getting distracted by all the others that intersect it.”

“Ego tells you to cheat, though you love your spouse. Because you want what you have and what you don’t have. Ego says that sure, even though you’re just starting to get the hang of one thing, why not jump right in the middle of another? Eventually, you say yes to too much, to something too far beyond the pale.”

“One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.” —BERTRAND RUSSELL

A critic of Napoleon nailed it when remarking: “He despises the nation whose applause he seeks.”

“He who indulges empty fears earns himself real fears,” wrote Seneca

“It is not enough to have great qualities; we should also have the management of them.” —LA ROCHEFOUCAULD

“DeLorean couldn’t manage himself, and so he had trouble managing others. And so he managed to fail, both himself and the dream.”

“Yes, it would be more fun to be constantly involved in every tiny matter, and might make us feel important to be the person called to put out fires. The little things are endlessly engaging and often flattering, while the big picture can be hard to discern. It’s not always fun, but it is the job. If you don’t think big picture —because you’re too busy playing “boss man”—who will?”

“A fish stinks from the head, is the saying. Well, you’re the head now.”

“If I am not for myself who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I?” —HILLEL

“It doesn’t make you a bad person to want to be remembered. To want to make it to the top. To provide for yourself and your family. After all, that’s all part of the allure.”

“A monk is a man who is separated from all and who is in harmony with all.” —EVAGRIUS PONTICUS

“When we lack a connection to anything larger or bigger than us, it’s like a piece of our soul is gone. Like we’ve detached ourselves from the traditions we hail from, whatever that happens to be (a craft, a sport, a brotherhood or sisterhood, a family). Ego blocks us from the beauty and history in the world. It stands in the way.”

“In those moments, we have a sense of the immensity of the world. Ego is impossible, because we realize, if only fleetingly, what Emerson meant when he said that “Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.” They are part of us, we are part of a tradition. Embrace the power of this position and learn from it. It is an exhilarating feeling to grasp this, like the one that Muir felt in Alaska. Yes, we are small. We are also a piece of this great universe and a process.”

“It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am,” Muhammad Ali once said.

There’s the famous Blake poem that opens with “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.”

“The height of cultivation runs to simplicity.” —BRUCE LEE

“There’s an old line about how if you want to live happy, live hidden.”

“The evidence is in, and you are the verdict.” —ANNE LAMOTT

There is a line from Napoleon, who, like Alexander, died miserably. He said, “Men of great ambition have sought happiness . . . and have found fame.”

“We do not have to follow in those footsteps. We know what decisions we must make to avoid that ignominious, even pathetic end: protecting our sobriety, eschewing greed and paranoia, staying humble, retaining our sense of purpose, connecting to the larger world around us.”

“Who knows—maybe a downturn is exactly what’s coming next. Worse, maybe you caused it. Just because you did something once, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it successfully forever.”

“Here we are 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 pity—our own or anyone else’s—we need purpose, poise, and patience.”

“It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow, that we make parade of our riches, and conceal our poverty. Nothing is so mortifying as to be obliged to expose our distress to the view of the public, and to feel, that though our situation is open to the eyes of all mankind, no mortal conceives for us the half of what we suffer.” —ADAM SMITH

“He will face a battle he knows not, he will ride a road he knows not.”

Bill Walsh says, “Almost always, your road to victory goes through a place called ‘failure.’”

As Goethe once observed, the great failing is “to see yourself as more than you are and to value yourself at less than your true worth.”

“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. Every moment of failure, every moment or situation that we did not deliberately choose or control, presents this choice: Alive time. Dead time.”

“What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him.” —GOETHE

“It’s far better when doing good work is sufficient. In other words, the less attached we are to outcomes the better. When fulfilling our own standards is what fills us with pride and self-respect. When the effort—not the results, good or bad—is enough.”

How do you carry on then? How do you take pride in yourself and your work? John Wooden’s advice to his players says it: Change the definition of success. “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.”

“If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.” —EMILE ZOLA

“The notion everyone experiences jarring, perspective-altering moments is almost a cliché. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

“In the novel Fight Club, the character Jack’s apartment is blown up. All of his possessions—“every stick of furniture,” which he pathetically loved—were lost. Later it turns out that Jack blew it up himself. He had multiple personalities, and “Tyler Durden” orchestrated the explosion to shock Jack from the sad stupor he was afraid to do anything about. The result was a journey into an entirely different and rather dark part of his life.”

“Hard things are broken by hard things.”

The Reverend William A. Sutton observed some 120 years ago that “we cannot be humble except by enduring humiliations.”

A Farewell to Arms. He wrote, “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills.”

Vince Lombardi said this once: “A team, like men, must be brought to its knees before it can rise again.”

“It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character.” —MARCUS AURELIUS

“Ego asks: Why is this happening to me? How do I save this and prove to everyone I’m as great as they think? It’s the animal fear of even the slightest sign of weakness.”

‘“He who fears death will never do anything worthy of a living man,” Seneca once said.

“I never look back, except to find out about mistakes . . . I only see danger in thinking back about things you are proud of.” —ELISABETH NOELLE-NEUMANN

Remember, “Vain men never hear anything but praise.”

“And why should we feel anger at the world? As if the world would notice!” —EURIPIDES

“I don’t like work—no man does—but I like what is in the work—the chance to find yourself.” —JOSEPH CONRAD

“There is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul. And there is this continual struggle within the very structure of every individual life.” —MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

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