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Ego is the Enemy: 8 Habits that Might be Hurting your Progress

Me writing an article about ego-elimination is like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and the Keebler Elves teaming up to write about the dangers of sugar. It doesn’t really make sense, but we’ll see what happens. So before getting too deep, it is important to make something clear: I am still a student. I battle with my ego every single day, usually losing.


In the book ‘Ego is the Enemy’, author Ryan Holiday talks about the unwarranted glory that we ascribe to successful people with egos. Furthermore, he skilfully breaks down the idea that ego actually stands in the way of many would-be-greats, including ourselves. Ego prevents an individual’s ability to reach their full potential both professionally and personally. Take Josh Bridges, a ferocious athlete with a powerful will to win, but also a humble, down to earth guy. He has achieved a great balance of ego, athleticism and being a good human within his own mentality.

crossfit games photographs josh bridges murph ego is the enemySource: CrossFit Inc
Pride and Glory: Ex-Navy Seal Josh Bridges wins Hero WOD Murph

When I read this, I immediately started thinking about major success stories where ego seemed to fuel their meteoric rise to fame: Steve Jobs, Kanye West, Tiger Woods, etc. To be honest, I actually got pretty mad and wanted to stop reading the book. “How can you do great things if you don’t have an ego and you don’t have passion!?

Holiday argues that these are actually exceptions to the rule. What we don’t see are the thousands of would-be-superstars that have been gobbled up by their own ambitions. To add insult to injury, many of these ego-driven success stories usually have a sad ending, or a life that really isn’t that happy. Happiness is kind of the point, right?


So, as I read this book (which was like being punched in the face repeatedly…in some weird, kind of enlightening way) I started identifying times that I tend to stroke my own ego, particularly in the Box. I don’t expect everyone to share the same ego-driven paranoia, but if you don’t mind, let’s address some common tendencies in our Crossfit “sport of fitness” world:

Source: personal experience.

1. Showing up for a workout only because it’s “in your wheelhouse”.

Ego says:Yes, can’t wait to put this score on the whiteboard. Wait til they see this…

2. Checking someone’s Open scores for no apparent reason.

Ego says:Yeah, totally crushed them on 16.4. Nice job, self.

3. Posting PRs to social media (exclusively).

Ego says:OMG everyone come and tell me how awesome this is!

crossfit games photographs d ball cleans
Max effort, pure intensity

4. Posting non-PRs to social media because you think it looks cool.

Ego says:Hey world! Just wanted to show you how easily I can throw 225 around. It’s okay if you’re jealous because that is actually my intention.

5. That kind-of-happy feeling you get when you see your workout partner fail the same weight you just hit.

What you say: “Oh bummer, you were so close! Next time, buddy!”

Ego says:That’s right, I’m still the boss. I win.

6. Stalking other athletes who are “on your level” so you can make sure they aren’t out-squatting you.

7. Not doing ____ because you forgot ____.

Ego says:Can’t squat, forgot OLYs. I won’t perform to my awesomeness potential.”

8. Being a ‘Me-Monster’

Ego says: “Yeah that WOD was hard for me because I really suck at ____ but I really like ____. I really can’t wait when I get better at ____ because then I will probably PR my ____ and really prove myself.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, hopefully it rings a bell for a few people. Unfortunately, I am guilty of every single one. It’s pretty sad to admit this. Finding worth in yourself is very important, and should not be undervalued. However, finding worth in yourself “because you are so freaking awesome” has a slightly different tune.

So if Ego is the enemy, what’s next? Should you become a monk? Should you shut down every single social media channel and curl up into a ball? Probably not.

Instead of feeling upset about how awful you are (which is probably just as bad as having a big ego), the key is to slowly become aware of your actions. What are your true intentions underneath it all? Awareness is the catalyst for change.

“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Hope this helps!

For more coaching info, advice or tips on technique and training, Check out WODprep.

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