Ambition (and success)

What is ambition?

It is an eager or strong desire to achieve something. In other words, hunger.

No doubt it is one of the factors if we want to succeed in life.

But it is never the only factor.

Ambition is what gets us started and moving forward.

Keeps us going in the face of difficulty. Helps us to bounce back from a failure.

When, as a young person, you don’t know what you should do with your life (and few young people know) ambition is actually the only engine available to you.

Without it you will never really want to try anything in your life. You will do stuff, sure, but only when somebody or the circumstances will demand that from you. And since you’ll never want to try anything on your own initiative, there is little chance that you’ll find something you’ll like.

Then you’ll conclude that you’re just this lazy hopeless person, and give up on everything. Your life will suck and you’ll have this belief that there is nothing you can do about it.

Ambition is very important, especially when we’re starting out in this world.

I think that we all have the potential to be ambitious. We are all born curious. We all want our lives to matter. We all know what it feels like to be proud. We all feel a great pleasure when we can offer someone a gift.

It’s that we often lack the right role models.

Some of us grow up among people who have given up on themselves long ago, who think that there is nothing they can do about their unfavorable circumstances and who always hope that somebody else will make their lives better. Those people gradually annihilate ambition in those around them and when those young people have nobody else to look up to, they’re doomed.

But ambition alone, despite all the benefits it offers, will never bring success.

Success is having the outcome you wished for and being satisfied with that outcome.

In other words, be careful what you wish for.

If you achieved the goal you set for yourself and now you find out it is not what you want (it doesn’t matter what you wanted, it matters whether or not you want the outcome when you actually achieved this goal) is it a success?

In a sense, yes, it is a success. You’ve succeeded in achieving what you wanted, but now you realize that you don’t like what you have. If you have to live with something you don’t really like, or with something you hate, is it a success?

Ambition will help you achieve your goals. It will be the driving force behind your actions. And if you have a goal and are willing to work hard toward this goal you have the best odds at succeeding. But again, is this goal what you really want?

What is missing from this equation? What other thing can guarantee that your ambition will actually lead you toward a favorable outcome in your life.

Self-awareness.

Self-awareness will inform you whether the goal you set for yourself, and which you actually achieved through years of hard work and many sacrifices, is something you should or shouldn’t accept.

In law school, we were all very ambitious young people. People who made their parents proud. People who were already huge successes — in their own eyes, as well in the eyes of their peers, friends and family members.

One thing I can tell for sure about each law school — it is a gigantic ego booster.

Another thing I can tell you is this. Had I only this huge ambition (this drive) and a good health which is a prerequisite to hard work, I would have probably never realized that the goal I achieved (being a lawyer) was not something I wanted. I would probably still be a lawyer and consider it my success (because that’s what they tell you — you got your law school diploma, you are somebody).

I would still believe this crap people say about being successful, instead of asking myself

Am I really happy with this choice?

Is there something else I would rather be doing in my life?

What would I really like to spend my days on?

Is it really the best use of my time?

Is there something in me (some untapped talent/ potential)? Something I might have overlooked?

That’s what self-awareness is all about.

If we lack self-awareness we will use our ambition (or rather our ambition will use us) to pursue ends that others wished on us, or ends that we have chosen for ourselves for all the wrong reasons, and that later end up screwing up our lives.


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Writing is my oxygen. I write every day. About parenting, career life and the challenges of being a young adult.

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