Ego Will Silently Take Away Everything You Want in Life: Here are 4 Ways to Kill It

Ego Will Silently Take Away Everything You Want in Life: Here are 4 Ways to Kill It

The hare was fast, but ended up last. The tortoise was slow, but was the most victorious of all.

You know this story.

That inevitable race between the lighting fast hare and the inch by inch moving tortoise.

Starting off strong, the hare later makes a fatal mistake that will make him lose the race: he assumes that the race is all about speed.

Arrogant, he takes long breaks, certain that no matter how far the tortoise moves, he would be able to catch up in seconds.

Painfully aware of his weakness, his speed, the tortoise makes no assumptions. Instead, he overcompensates his lack in speed with powerful persistence.

He never stops, only keeps going.

While the tortoise progresses, the hare is asleep. At one point, the tortoise passes the hare. The tortoise continues moving forward as the hare snoozes away.

When the hare wakes up, the race is over. The tortoise wins by being persistent.

* * *

This is a simple story even a child can understand. But we like revisiting it because the lessons it teaches are evergreen: persistence will give you results. Rome was not built in a day.

But persistence is not the only lesson here. The second, more critical lesson is this: pride comes before fall.

Though the hare could have easily won the race, his ego made him want to shame the tortoise. So he not only wanted to win the race, he wanted to do so while slowing himself down ten times.

His mindset was, ‘I’m so good that even if I reduced my greatness by ten times you would not match me. You are that bad.’

Clouded with arrogance, the hare failed to see that he was taking unnecessary risks.

His ego led the way and he lost an easy race.

Do you act like the tortoise or the hare?

Imagine you are in a room full of people just as good as you. There are ten of you, competing for just three spots in an elite team.

What would you do to float yourself to the top three?

For the hares of the world, they would tell themselves that they are already best in the world. ‘I don’t have to work as hard as those guys. I am already 10X better.’

Attached to their past victories, they want to be treated like a pro and refuse to learn what they believe are lessons fit for a ‘lower’ person.

They skip practice they think is for ‘beginners’.  ‘I am not a beginner,’ they think, ‘I only do advanced things.’

The tortoises of the world, on the other hand, work hard no matter what. They know that though they are good now, they will gain more by stretching themselves beyond their past victories.

By being proud, the hares put themselves in a position of stagnation, never achieving more than their last success.

And so, while the tortoises learn new moves and strategies, advancing themselves beyond their initial skills, the hares stay the way they were with no advancements.

There is no being still. You either move forward or go backwards.

In a competition, the tortoises’ new skills and manoeuvres surprise the hares, making it easy for the tortoises to win.

The lesson here: to win, you must learn new skills to outsmart your enemies.

To learn, you must admit there is still something to learn

If you think you already know everything, you will learn nothing new.

No one can add more to a glass that is already full.

The danger is that while you think your glass is full of knowledge and skills when it is in fact full of only one thing: ego.

So even when two people start off the same, the proud one grows more slowly than the one who is willing to let go of her ego to learn.

Over time, the gap between them widens.

This gap can become so wide that the proud one will one day find it impossible to catch up with.

Unable to repeat their previous success or catch up with their friends’ success, the proud are left to be inwardly jealous and outwardly critical.

They sit in the arm chair and talk about other people’s successes as bing due to luck. Though they know it isn’t luck, it makes them feel better to think it is.

They won’t accept the fact that they were the reason they failed. So they find external sources to blame on. ‘If only the government didn’t have those policies, I would have succeeded’, ‘If only my friend had not been selfish, I would have succeeded’…

On and on, they blame everything else, except themselves. So even after ten years, they rarely learn anything new.

You and I, we know people like this and we know we don’t want to end up this way.

Nobody wants to end up this way, looking at success through another person’s life, not being able to experience your own.

No matter what your definition of success, you want to succeed.

But to succeed, you must first kill the ego that will ruin your life.

Ryan Holiday, author of Ego is the Enemy, recommended 25 ways to kill the toxic ego that ruins your life.

In this post, I have picked four for you to start with:

[1] adopt the mindset of a beginner

It is easy to become proud about how far you have come.

Because I was a #1 student for my entire high school life, my big ego led me to believe I would still be #1 in my pre-University college.

I dropped to #27.

The truth was starring at me from day 1: all the #1 students around Brunei were in that college. If I used the same methods in high school, I would not beat them.

So I dropped my ego and started from scratch again, learning even the basics that I thought I already knew. It felt embarrassing, but I knew I had to do it.

One year later, I regained my #1 position.

Whenever I become too proud because of an achievement, I remind myself of this incident. I ask myself, ‘Do you want to repeat the same mistake?’

There is a saying in Chinese, 天外有天,一山还比一山高 (tian wai you tian, yi shan hai you yi shan gao), ‘There are skies above skies, and mountains beyond mountains.’


It tells us to look beyond our current successes and be humble: there is still a lot to learn. You think you have arrived only because your view is limited. Look beyond and you will see that your accomplishment is far beyond the best out there.

The best way to adopt a beginner’s mindset is to pick up a new skill. As a hobby, you could start playing the guitar, baking, cycling – anything that you have never done before and know you will be very bad at!

If you are brave enough you could even shift careers, changing from a field you are confident in to one you have no fundamentals in.

Lim Kok Hin, founder of iPay88, did this when he switched from being a civil engineer to starting his own IT company. Now, iPay88 is one of the fastest growing payment gateways in Southeast Asia.

Can you imagine what would have happened if he had not taken that leap into something he didn’t know?

[2] Do more than you talk

Talking is easy, but useless.

Have you ever come across people who tell you of their big ambitions but one year later, they are still the same, not having progressed at all in their ambitions?

In fact, this year, they may be talking about new ambitions. If you ask them, ‘What about the project you were talking to me about last year?’

They would brush it off and make up some excuse as to why it didn’t work out. Most often, they would blame it on external circumstances, not themselves.

I have fallen into this trap many times. So now whenever I have a big ambition that I have not yet made much progress on, I don’t talk about it.

Instead, I would quietly work on it until I have created some amount of traction and real value out of it.

Talking about what you want is comforting, but dangerous: it can make you less, not more, motivated to go through with it. I’m not making this up. Scientists have gone as far as to prove it with research.

So instead of talking about your big ambitions everywhere, silently work on it everyday.

Real work will bring you real results. Talk is cheap.

[3] Don’t rely on your past reputation

Our past achievements can become our crutch when trying to achieve something new.

Many people ask me why I did not go for my PhD. ‘Lu Wee,’ they say, ‘you are the top engineering student with first class honours. It would be easy for you to get any Australian PhD scholarship.’

They are right. But they made a wrong assumption: they assumed that I wanted to be an academic.

True, it would have been the path of least resistance.

Any first class honours graduate from an Australian university would qualify for the many PhD scholarships available. There would be a RM2.5k stipend every month on top of free tuition.

However, when I imagined my entire life marking papers and preparing samples in a lab, I refused. I wanted a more dynamic career.

So I let go of every single achievement in college and started again from scratch.

Hanging on to your past reputation can be comforting, but also dangerous. You would become tempted to go on a path of the lowest learning, sticking to old ways of doing things.

While your peers exceed you by 100X, you stay stagnant with an achievement 10 years outdated.

Clean your slate and start over every now and then. It will feel scary, but your growth will be exponential.

[4] Learn from the unfamiliar

Every now and then, you must venture outside of your comfort zone.

If you normally like meeting with people to discuss literature, talk to people who are interested in pop culture too.


The fusion of ideas between vastly different topics can give you fresh views on old problems. Talking to a child can give you a new way to think about your own life problems.

In other worlds, meet and talk to people who are not like you.

When you only hang out with people who think, act and live like you, your ideas grow stagnant and your group biases go unchecked.

Many times my entire view on a topic was changed from just one conversation with a person who was far different from me.

Exposing yourself to people with dissimilar opinions as you will make you feel uncomfortable. But it will help make your own opinions bullet-proof in the long run.


Letting our egos go unchecked can make it easy for us to fail. Often, we don’t realise that we, our egos, are the reason why we failed. Instead, we push the blame outwards, blaming our parents, our bosses or the government.

It is in your control to make changes in your life to kill the ego that may ruin it. Adopt the mindset of a beginner, learn from the unfamiliar and let go of your past reputation.

By thinking in a new way, you would be able to avoid the pitfalls of letting ego control your life.

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