The starting point of all achievement is desire. — Napoleon Hill
When did “ambition” become a dirty word? Um… never. To be ambitious, at least to me, means to want to excel at one’s chosen field of expertise. However, how one goes about achieving one’s ambition is what defines character.
I recently read an article about one museum curator, in Russia, who chose to spend his COVID self-quarantine alone in the museum. He did it partially to protect the museum from thieves, and partially so he could paint. He set up a kitchen in the back, along with a cot, and began drawing and painting, wing by wing of the museum. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that article again.)
This kind of dedication speaks volumes about ambition — except there’s more to it than that. It actually speaks volumes of love. And dedication. And passion. And desire. All of those are aspects of ambition in your chosen field, probably central aspects of success.
I think of ambition as a perfectly cut diamond. Watch how this diamond glitters, even in low-light (my mother always told me that a diamond doesn’t need a lot of light to shine). It is all the different facets that make this gem shine — the precise polish and luster of each cut that create a gorgeous, brilliant shine. Each side combines with other sides to complete perfection when it all comes together. That is the very best of ambition, that perfect combination of love, desire and passion.
The total sum of ambition means paying attention. When you love, you study the subject of your love carefully, watching for variation, memorizing each difference, enjoying parts as they become the whole. When the subject of that love is a person, of course you become interested in what that person is doing, thinking, enjoying and worrying about. When the subject of that love is a craft, like playing the violin or painting or writing, naturally you want to spend as much time as possible immersed in that activity.
Perhaps you love the law, medicine, or the art of crochet. Perhaps you care about travel, food, exercise. Do that which you love. Practice that. Immerse yourself in that.
But maybe you’re scared of going too far. Becoming obsessed over anything can become unhealthy, to the exclusion of normalcy. After all, how can you tell the difference between missing a meal because you’re obsessed or because you were in the state of flow? The truth is, I don’t know the difference. I don’t know where that line is, between obsession and healthy love. Sorry. That is entirely up to you to decide.
Lately, I find myself disturbed by the amount of time I spend NOT writing. After professing so much love for the art and craft of writing, and having so much time to do it, have I simply not had enough ambition? Do I have enough love for it after all? If fear is still stopping me, does that mean that my dedication is not profound enough?
So, my mind keeps coming back to the museum curator who chose to paint alone — to paint and paint for as long as he wants to paint — as long as he can take it. You know, I do think my favorite library nearby is closed as well. Don’t tell on me, please.