The recent onslaught of research on how ambition is an important character trait and predictor of positive life outcomes bothers me.
I don’t doubt that having ambition makes you happier. I don’t deny that it’s a prerequisite for success. And I don’t dismiss research that shows people with ambitious goals tend to be more satisfied than those with lower expectations.
But we do ourselves a disservice when we believe that ambition alone is enough to achieve success. It’s not. Ambition is merely the fuel.
Whyte writes in his book of consolations that ambition is frozen desire. That it takes us toward the horizon, but not over it. And if we are to emancipate ourselves into the next great pattern of existence, ambition alone won’t cut it. We must direct the beam of ambition, putting real ground under our feet, and step out into a larger gravitational field of experience.
Consider this. The word ambition literally means, eager or inordinate desire. Perhaps the real challenge is transforming ambition into activity. Hell, I’ve wanted to make a movie since I was a kid. That ambition, that fuel, was always inside of me.
But it wasn’t real until I finally sat down and started storyboarding the different scenes. I didn’t quite know what I was creating at the time, but that wasn’t the point. All that mattered was that ambition was becoming activity. Idea was becoming execution. I even took a picture to make it public, so as to reinforce my commitment through the power of social pressure.
And sure enough, six months later, the movie was release. Wilde was right when he said that ambition was the last refuge of failure. If it’s not channeled into activity, it’s just a pipe dream.
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That Guy with the Nametag
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