In Defense Of The Unambitious
I had a distinct lack of ambition when I was a teenager.
Apart from playing football, I had no stand-out desire that I can remember.
There was no “I want to be this” occupying my mind. I was just doing whatever came to me and wasn't getting too hung up on results.
Like all kids, I had talent in particular areas, but nothing felt missing so much that I was driven to pursue it.
I didn't feel an emotional vacuum that needed to be filled (however, that would change).
I say vacuum because, if we were truthful, we'd admit we form our ambition through the idea that something is missing or that we need to gain approval.
Or perhaps in our inability to see it, we are therefore not in a position to admit it.
Maybe in admitting it, there is the fear we'll lose our drive to succeed and in that we cease to exist.
This powerful state of mind can set us up for many difficulties given that we put ourselves in a place of less than what we should be from the start.
A place out of which no medal, trophy spouse, bank account or a round of applause can ever take us.
What Drives Ambition?
I enjoyed playing ball as a teenager.
Training, going to school, having a smoke, buying three bars of chocolate in one go and daydreaming about girls was the only concern I ever had.
So far as I can remember, I had no real driving force in me to be anything in particular.
In retrospect, I see that lack of focus left the door open for others to influence my path. I wanted to stay in school, but my parents had other ideas.
A job came up, an apprenticeship, and my folks told me I was taking it.
I remember resenting that they didn't take my wish to stay in school seriously. But I did what they told me and accepted the job anyway.
As I reflect now, that move was hugely beneficial. To be honest, it brought me to where I am and to what I have come to know about the nature of myself.
Although there were other possibilities, to ponder and lament now what could have been, is a waste of energy.
Through that work I eventually started a business and subsequently became very ambitious, always pushing forward to get bigger and better.
Today that ambition to succeed no longer exists. It appears I'm back where I started albeit a little wiser.
I must say with absolute certainty though, these days I have no ambition. At least none of a material kind.
Yeah sure I make money from my work, and I have things that I want to buy with that, but those things are results of doing what I want to do.
They are not the cause.
Fulfilling The Ambition
In many ways, I am already fulfilling my ambition.
I don't believe there's a better version of me waiting in a future that will never come. I don't design my activity to fill an emotional hole with the expectation I'll fill it through that activity.
I've already been down that path and to be honest, although I'm grateful for the experience, it's not somewhere I want to return.
But in all of that pondering ambition or lack thereof, I am left with a question occupying my mind…
If some vacancy in our self-concept is the driver of ambition, what happens to achievement in the eventual filling of that vacancy?
In other words, if I believe I am not loved, and all I strive for is in pursuit of that love, then realising I was loved already, what happens to my ambition and possible subsequent achievement?
If we managed somehow to fill the gap in our sense of self would the world as we know it ceases to exist?
Maybe it would.
So assuming I'm right, the meaning of life then is to close the gap. It is to catch up you might say, with what the more significant part of us already knows.
We have perhaps, nothing to prove. Maybe we have only to remember that we have everything we need already and in that, there is freedom.
This life then is a process of remembering and that remembering is going to hurt.
Once Bitten Twice Shy Perhaps
The fear of failure can keep us from doing what we want and love. And although we can confuse fear with what I am attempting to explain here, fear is another ball game altogether.
Fear is the irrational anticipation of something undesirable coming into our experience based on our observations and existing beliefs.
Fear is the destructive side of creativity. It takes down, deconstructs the inner creative framework.
Maybe what I'm trying to explain could be seen as once bitten twice shy. Perhaps I've been there, gained the wounds to my ego, and I am unwilling to stick my neck out again.
But that's not it either.
If you've not felt this shift from ambition to non-ambition that I am talking about then, perhaps there's little I can do to explain it adequately.
What I could suggest is that you read The Artist's Manifesto.
The Artist's Manifesto is a canopy philosophy that may explain this state of mind better than a 1000 word article can do on its own.
It suggests that there is only now, and in that ever-present now there is no ambition.
When we are completely engaged in our work nothing is missing, there is no ambition, there is nothing to achieve.
All that exists is the creative process and our gradual revealing of the thing we are making.
Writer's block or any other form of blockage to our creative energy is merely a focus on the result, a fear, negative anticipation that we will not realise our ambition.
Ambition, therefore, is a lack of focus on the work.
Ambition In Linear Time
To be ambitious is to be caught up in a linear concept of time and the surface level reality.
In this linear time, we believe that a better version of us exists at some future date and we must work ceaselessly towards it.
If you believe this to be true, then you'll likely pursue it until you find out the accomplishment didn't fill the space after all.
Or maybe you won't.
The mistake in all of this is believing that you, I and our environment are binary and as I pointed out in episode 125 of The Daily Larb, the universe is not a binary system.
We can indeed take apart this life examining it with logic and linear analysis.
We can say that that caused this.
I dropped the egg, it hit the hard floor, and it smashed. Therefore I was the cause. But this doesn't take into account the endless factors that exist in that occurrence.
A linear analysis may have merit at a particular level of mind. However, when we get into it, we find these means of interpreting human existence lacking.
Newton was a bright man for his time but his ideas don't fit the network based, everything implies everything else reality that we know to “underpin” all existence.
Everything is in an exchange with everything else.
It is a happening, a playing out through fractals in a vast network. I affect the environment, and the environment affects me, and it all goes on now.
In our eventual realisation of this, material pursuit becomes pointless. And yet, simultaneously it may serve us.
I am not suggesting that you drop your pursuit of success.
Nor am I suggesting that ambition is necessarily a bad thing.
What I am suggesting is that eventually the pursuit will end and when it does, we will feel the freedom to simply do things for the sake of it.