Centering An Ambitious Mind

In October, I married my sweet, beautiful wife Beth. It was the best decision I’ve ever made, and I don’t say that lightly. The past four months have been a wonderfully rich season of life punctuated by moments of tearful joy as well as tearful breakdowns. While we have shared some unforgettably happy and light-hearted moments together, the most fulfilling and lasting joy has often been the result of working out our own differences and weaknesses, forgiving and being forgiven, understanding and being understood. Marriage is an amazing covenant that celebrates love and friendship while also challenging its participants to grow through compassion, forgiveness, selflessness, and commitment.

At a personal level, my marriage has ignited new determination within me to make the most of my life, to be a good steward of my time, possessions, and energy here on earth. As an achiever who can easily get distracted by dreams of building the next great product or starting a business that will bring financial independence, I have to remember to reign in my raw ambition and determine if my pursuits really line up with what is important in my life. I try to ask myself a few questions to gauge whether a new pursuit is really in line with my priorities:

  • Does it distract me from what is fundamentally most important: my relationships with God, my wife, and my (future) family?
  • Does it distract me from existing responsibilities as a husband, future father, homeowner, and employee?
  • Is this pursuit contributing to a healthy, long-lasting foundation for my life? Am I buying into a fad or underdeveloped idea, or is this something that will lead to meaningful growth?
  • Are my motives pure? If I am motivated by selfish desires such as praise, admiration, or immediate gratification, judgment is very likely to be impaired now or in the very-near future (even if I can momentarily provide passable answers to my other questions).
  • Is it the right time? Do I currently have the time, resources, and energy I need, or do I need to be patient, write it down for later, and allow time for growth and better opportunity? If I feel I simply can’t wait, I need to check my motives again.
  • If it started as a hobby, should it remain a hobby? I tend to quickly turn new hobbies into something way more than they need to be: competitive demonstrations of expertise, alternative cash flow, even a basis for a whole new identity. Hobbies can be wonderful and relaxing, an avenue of rest and joy. Don’t needlessly destroy that rest and joy by turning it into more than it should be.

While time and possessions are easy to measure out, energy can often be overlooked — particularly mental energy. Drain my energy, and I have difficulty being present and effective even if I manage to make time for the important aspects of life. Presence is key in the enjoyment of my relationships, fruits of my labor, and the beauty surrounding me. What greater tragedy is there than spending life pursuing a better future while missing the gifts God has already given us?

Through the lens of marriage and thoughts of a future family, I have been able to clearly see that I need to sharpen this skill of prioritization as I build a foundation for the years to come. I’ll definitely continue to develop new ideas and explore new opportunities, but my goal is to quickly discern what is worth the cost, what is a true investment, and what is simply a drain or distraction.