He Got That Ambition, Baby...
He got that ambition, baby, look at his eyes This week he moppin' floors, next week it's the fries
I may be the only person to lead with Kanye West lyrics, and follow it with a peaceful picture of footprints in the sand. Ever.
You may or may not remember this song, titled, "Gold Digger," by Kanye West. This line is a description of a young man's upward climb in his professional (and presumably, personal) life. You know, ha ha, he was moping floors and now he's on the fries, boy he's really going places. But he is going places. He's going from the floor to the fries, and that's something.
There are a lot of books, websites, videos, and just about any other type of content you could consume that put a heavy emphasis on "the grind", "doing the work", and "hustling". Essentially, the need for grand and unending ambition that never sleeps. This is not where I'm headed, so stick with me. On some level, those things can be inspiring and motivating to help people pursue their dreams. But people can also over do it with these calls for endless and relentless ambition. That doesn't work for everyone, and you have to be sure you are pursuing something worth pursuing. The biggest thing, is to simply have some ambition.
Some people have none, and this is a gigantic problem. Or the "ambition" is to get to some place which allows them to do nothing other than sit on a beach and sip a fruity drink with an umbrella in it. Generally, there is no contribution attached to this "ambition", which means it's no real ambition at all.
Other people, like me, have to be careful not to consume themselves with ambition, to the point that they are constantly driving, pushing, and ambitioning their way through life. There are some great things about this approach, but it can easily lead to burnout, when you aren't moving forward fast enough to satisfy your ambitious hunger. Or frustration, when you can't seem to achieve whatever it is you are pursuing. You might find yourself isolated and damage relationships, as you neglect the people you love (including yourself) while you hard drive your way towards whatever it is you are after. Sometimes, you aren't even sure what that is, you just know that you should be grinding, because that is what ambitious people do.
Perhaps there is a third group of people, who have some ambition, or want to have some ambition, but they aren't sure what it is, how to get it, or how to pursue it. They aren't lazying around waiting to win the lottery, hoping their rich uncle dies in time for them to still enjoy the inheritance, or not so secretly looking for a sugar daddy to come along and finance their dream life. They also aren't consuming themselves with an unhealthy drive towards an ideal they don't actually understand but feel certain is necessary. But they want, something...
I think all of us fall into this group at some point. Those that have the fruity drink beach dreams, and those that become consumed with their ambition, all get to a point where they want to do, be, or get something that matters. One group may suppress it and fill it with cocktails and dreams and the other mutate it into a monstrous pursuit, but there is ambition there, somewhere.
Research supports that one of the most important factors of success is ambition. Albert-László Barabási, a professor at Northwestern, and the author of The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success, states:
“The single determinant of long-term success was derived from the best college a kid merely applied to, even if she didn’t get in. Meaning that if she applied to Harvard, got rejected, and went to Northeastern, her success was on a par with that of Harvard graduates who matched her SATs and high school grades.”
What does this matter? The student had some belief that that they could get in to Harvard, even if it was just a might or a maybe. They believed there was a chance. And then... they tried.
It wasn't enough for them to simply believe that it could happen, that there was a possibility. That was an important first step, but it wasn't the only one. In addition to this belief (even if it was a tiny one), they attached some effort.
First comes some belief, hope, or some maybe just maybe, surrounding our ambition, and then we get to work on it. And, this is really, really important: Your ambition doesn't have to be "BIG." Don't be fooled by all the experts out there, or even your own inner voice, who tell you that you need to be doing something that is big in the eyes of the world. Those aren't bad ambitions, and maybe later, you can have big, challenging ambitions. But for now, just have some ambition. Pick something, grab a hold of a little bit of thisjustmightwork, and then get going on it.
This next story may fall incredibly flat, but that's a risk I take every time that I write so, I'm going to go for it again here. I worked for a very short period of time at an Italian restaurant called Venucci's in LaGrange, while I was in college. I don't remember being especially good at the job, but I made enough of an effort that they let me stick around. But I vividly remember one thing the owner said. He may have only said it once, but the way he said it, and the way I heard it, makes me feel like it was something that was said often.
If he walked through the restaurant, particularly during opening or closing time, and someone wasn't actively working, he would holler out, "Come on Bryan, doooooooo something!" What he meant was, there was always something that I could be working on. Silverware could be polished and rolled, windows could be cleaned, floors could be swept, items could be restocked, and on and on and on. He was quick to remind me to not be caught standing still. For some reason, it's one of those memories that has stuck with me.
We need that ambition, baby...We need to doooooooo something. That something might be a small step on the way to something huge. Or it might just be learning to play the ukulele. This is not movement for the sake of moving. This is finding something worth doing, and then doing it. At the very least, it's thinking about something worth doing, and planning it out. Action is a necessity, but maybe you aren't on that phase right now. My encouragement is that we always have something that we are ambitioning towards or about (I'm well aware that ambitioning is not a word).
My man moved from the floor to the fries. That's something! Don't get caught standing still. Have just a little bit of hope towards something that moves you, inspires you, or makes you curious. Then attach some effort to it. Maybe it won't work. But you'll learn something from it, and then you can pick something else and keep ambitioning your way forward, one small step at a time.
I'm pulling for you.