Inspired by Etienne’s piece on this topic
Ambition when you’re young is easy. It’s a common and celebrated trait for the youth. Just ask any kid what they want to be when they grow up and they may give grand ambitions of being a president or a rock star. It’s endearing to hear the dreams of the young but if someone older says they want to be the president or a rock star they might be called crazy. When you’re young, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. You still have time to make something of yourself. Along with ambition, two other traits associated with the youth are naivete and ego: young people want to change the world and believe they can do it.
But as you grows older, reality hits and many become jaded. Maybe you realize that changing the world is much more difficult than you thought. Maybe you become disenchanted with the idea of ambition as you realize it’s a source of unhappiness and depression. Maybe you just become comfortable and stuck.
Losing ambition is not always a sign of complacency but also a sign of maturity. Overcoming the ego and realizing that it’s okay to be average and to find fulfilment in the simple things.
Yet, ambition is required in order to do great things and become your best self. But it gets more and more difficult to maintain as you age. So how does one remain ambitious?
The easiest way is to surround yourself with other ambitious people. Through mimetic desire, that ambition will rub off on you too. But what if you’re older and don’t have that community? Surround yourself with younger folks. One way is through mentorship. There’s nothing more energizing then mentoring a young person with great ambition. Even more accessible is surrounding yourself with heroes. Read their books, listen to their podcast interviews, they’ll be your inspiration moving forward.
Finally, having a healthy, sustainable relationship with ambition is crucial. At first, I was ambitious from a place of insecurity and envy. It became exhausting and it was a source of angst. Eventually, my ambition changed to self actualization, which is a much more fulfilling and sustainable form of ambition.