Many writers strike a fine balance between ego and self-deprecation. As creatives, we need to be confident in who we are while fighting off the temptation to belittle ourselves after writing a blog post, editing a scene in our book, or facing rejection for the umpteenth time. So, how do we manage ego as writers?

121: Why You Need to Let Go of Your Ego with Ryan Holiday

The life of a writer—or any creative, for that matter—is difficult. There’s this sense of pride we wrestle with, thinking that everything we write needs to be perfect. Our words will be critiqued for their accuracy and style, and for whether or not they’re any “good.”

I struggle with this. I want every email, blog post, or book I write to be both correct and brilliant. I have been known to correct my friends’ grammar over text messages.

This type of constant pressure can break anyone over time. The temptation is to settle for “good enough,” or to succumb to the pressure and walk away from your work completely.

This week on The Portfolio Life, Ryan Holiday and I talk about how to manage your ego, be aware of its presence, and still pursue great work as a writer. Ryan also lets us peer into how he prepares to write a book by conducting massive amounts of research and focusing on his writing habits.

Listen in as Ryan shares the destructive nature of ego, humbling experiences he’s learned along the way, and multiple writing and book publishing tips.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you are reading this via email or RSS, please click here.)

Show highlights

In this episode, Ryan Holiday and I discuss:

  • The good, bad, and ugly sides of ego.
  • Why you need to be crazy if you desire to change the world.
  • How ego lurks around good intentions.
  • Why dealing with ego is a constant process that never goes away.
  • An important lesson Ryan learned from interacting with different opinions.
  • Taking the time to investigate a topic before diving headfirst into it.
  • Why faking it until you make it is horrible advice.
  • Why there’s no such thing as “making it.”
  • How ego will keep you from mastering your craft.
  • The hidden benefit of being a student or mentee.
  • The secret to finding a mentor.
  • Why Ryan’s books are a feat of discipline and not inspiration.
  • The importance of writing a book that people will read and recommend.
  • Book titles and book covers.
  • Ryan’s research process, and how long it takes him to write a book.
  • What it means to be a New York Times best-seller.

Quotes and takeaways

  • Instead of faking it until you make it, you should work until you make it.
  • Ego is the most dangerous when you’re just starting out.
  • Develop a skill. This places you in a much better position to help others.


How do you look at your ego differently now? Share in the comments