Ambition vs. Blind Ambition

Note: Day 14 of the #Trust30 initiative.

10, 5, or even 2 years ago, I had a pretty linear view of my life’s path. I was gunning for promotions, and hurt and dismayed when I felt I was passed over for them. I was blindly ambitious.

I generally viewed my career as a project in itself, to be built, brick by brick, until I’d finally reached the income and status that would finally satisfy me (as if such a thing were attainable).

After suffering some serious pain, I entered the most wonderful growth period of my life so far, and it’s allowed me to (mostly) disconnect from this warped view of reality.

That’s the difference between ambition and blind ambition: ambition is about improving and changing things in the world, where blind ambition is only about improving things for yourself. As I have begun this journey, it’s been comforting to run across and befriend many others who were unhappy, trapped in the hamster wheel of blind ambition, and are now taking control of their lives.

For the past year or so, I’ve let go of my own vision for my future, while I start to rebuild it based on what makes me truly happy, rather than some arbitrary financial goal.

In a job interview, I was asked what career path I was on, and I told the truth: that trying to pick a path hadn’t worked out for me as well as letting go and focusing on building and improving things. I know exactly what I want right now, but I can’t say what’s a year or two down the road for me.

What opportunities am I not seizing? What paths am I not taking? The answer, at least for me, at this moment in time, is work. Instead of letting the list of things in front of me paralyze me, the answer is to pick one and get to work.

I have to be willing to let my work suck, and focus on improving it. I think that as I discover my capability for tackling larger and larger problems, my appetite and ambition will grow, and I have a real shot at making a dent in the world.

I love the distinction between ambition and blind ambition. It is not beneficial to be a social or economic climber whose only goal is to attain personal success at any cost.But that doesn’t mean you have to eschew all trappings of ambition.

Some of the least selfish people I know are wildly ambitious. I’ve already made it a point to seek them out, now my job is to learn from and emulate them.

  • Tim Tyrrell

    Well said. :)

  • Jake Mallory ♓

    Amen brother. Those who say they aren’t driven by ambition are lying, either to themselves or others. I’ve learned to embrace the ambitions I have but make an effort to manage them. I personally think ambition is one of those complex topics like faith and your use of the word “blind” is fitting. I would submit that they both be labeled: blind vs managed but hey, it’s your blog 😉

    • Brandon Hays

      I love the additional clarification of blind vs. managed. The ability to understand, harness, and retain the parts of ambition/faith/etc. that are helpful, while letting go of the parts that aren’t useful, seems to be part of the process of growing up.

      There’s definitely something there worth exploring.

  • yo momma

    ya? how far has that gotten you. Probably a 35 yr old man working behind a check out desk at TJ Maxx, wondering when your next day off is. 10.50$ an Hr? sorry, I’ll stick with blind ambition and just focus on making it to the top if thats ok.

    • Brandon Hays

      I wrote this three years ago. I am 34. I help run a software development agency. I do indeed wonder when my next day off is.

      Whatever you choose to do is OK.

      Thanks for reading!

    • bowlescompling

      there is no top…

      • bowlescompling

        there is no spoon…

  • Anthony Steiner

    I win! lmao.

    I’m not at the top by a long-shot but my ambition (which ever flavor it may be) has helped me get here. I’m not even out of my 20s yet and I run a small web hosting/development firm, am the chairmen of my own Computer Science-based think-tank and a Senior .NET Programmer at a small successful start-up. And yes, I am a true Senior Programmer, I have 10 years of experience to prove it.

    I view success like a video game, I have to wait for another DLC before my level cap increases, so while I’m at the top of what I personally think I’m capable of, I’ll spend my time improving myself for the next round of climbing in a few years.

    28, with 10 years .NET programming experience, 15 years PHP and Web experience and no degree… OH look at that, just found something to improve on!

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