Ambition manifests in many ways, and is pretty ambiguous in your youth. In my case, it came in the form of a prolonged series of wayward decisions.
Scatterbrained and full of reckless abandon, I slashed my way through the world, fueling my fire, but rarely controlling it. Ever-inspired, my life changed constantly and dramatically, but one thing was always consistent – there was always fire.
Eventually, you learn to control the fire better, and as my focus shifted onto this, my attention shifted to my career. One day, I was able to define my dream career – one full of freedom, value, impact, and art. One that allowed me to work from anywhere – at any time inspiration hit, and on an original product all my own that genuinely helped people.
“The job that you want doesn’t exist”, said a person whose words I remember better than their name.
(Seriously, who said that?) The words were meant to encourage me to focus on a career that’s more realistic and pragmatic, but I saw them as an indicator of our differences. My immediate response was to laugh – “I know, I have to create it!” The thought that what I wanted didn’t already exist had never occurred to me – I’m so conditioned to creating my reality and circumstances that it’s easy to forget that most people don’t operate like that.
And so enters the first part of the dark side of being ambitious – the sense of loneliness and isolation that’s felt as a result of your (apparently) rare ambitions.
At some times, your expressive nature can be so relatable, but at other times, your true nature is exposed as others realize that you’re just a different beast. All that you can do is just hope that this realization sparks curiosity in others versus fear or loathing.
And this feeling of isolation doesn’t always happen – but surely it happens less if you’re raised in a big, powerful city surrounded by movers and shakers, where your drive is understood and developed. But many of us are not.
Many of us are raised in small-town or suburban areas, where practicality is favored over lofty aspirations. People here have certainly heard of entrepreneurship, but most end up choosing a 9-to-5, and they’re pretty happy with that decision. In fact, they’re pretty happy with a lot of things – the same locale, the same job, the same relationship, the same hobbies.
But ambitious people are never satisfied. They’re always looking for more. More meaning, more creative stimuli, more opportunity, more impact.
And a lack of satisfaction is just yet another marker on the dark side of ambition, the rest of which is pockmarked by anxiety to get it all done, depression when it’s not done, hypomania when we’re focused, and a massive amount of pressure that we put on ourselves as we realize that our goals and the work that it takes to finish them are much larger than the average person’s.
Other darker aspects of ambition are the constant growing pains that come with conquering new territories that even our loved ones can’t advise us on. (Sometimes Google can help though). In addition, humility has to be maintained (to a degree), or you just look a raging maniac, whose visions of grandiosity predispose you to tunnel vision and a lack of empathy for others.
All of these clandestine characteristics may make ambition seem less desirable, but ambition is always worth it.
We have the ability to actually change the world! (Hopefully for the better.) We just have to make sure that we don’t squander our capabilities on useless or harmful things.
So go ahead and change it! Change the world around you for the better by telling your story, working on your lofty goals (while still paying your bills), and inspiring others to do so as well – just through your actions. As far as the accompanying anxiety, depression, hypomania, lack of relatability, lack of satisfaction, and growing pains go – put them to good use too, because they just come with the territory!