Having ambition is great, but similar to tenacity and conviction, it can potentially become a double-edged sword if it is not balanced out with other ingredients. While having the drive to go after something you really want is incredible, if it goes unchecked, it can lead to things like anxiety, burnout, and unhappiness.
I have ridiculous ambitions for my life from VaynerX to VeeFriends and buying the New York Jets…but every ounce of ambition I have is balanced out with equal amounts of patience and humility. This not only protects me from the harmful side-effects of ambition, but it also makes the process of going after my goals way more fun.
My goal for this blog and my new book is to help change the way people think about ambition as a whole. I hope it brings you value.
What is Ambition?
A strong desire to do or achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.
Ambition is extremely important. What I want for everyone reading this is to follow their dreams — it’s YOUR fucking dream! That being said, you should also understand that big ambitions take time. The sooner you can deploy the right balance of ingredients to approach your ambitions, the more practical you’ll be and the sooner you’ll learn to enjoy the game.
Be As Patient As You Are Ambitious
I am both wildly content and equally ambitious. Why? It’s because I’m incredibly patient. While my ambitions are insanely big, I’m in no rush to achieve them by a certain time or age. That’s why I wasn’t fazed when I was still working at my dad’s liquor store until the age of 34. I knew exactly why I was there but I also knew I wouldn’t be there forever. Today, at 46 years old, I still know that I have so much time to execute. Whether I buy the Jets in a few years or when I’m in my seventies, I’ll be just as happy.
The bigger the ambition the slower you need to go 😉— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) July 26, 2018
Your goals should not come with scary deadlines that hang over your head — they should be something that gets you excited, motivated, and ready to play the long game.
Ambition is a healthy carrot
Ambition as a “healthy carrot” means that your biggest goals should be a healthy incentive, not a burden. It’s about what you’re moving towards, and not what you’re running away from in order to reach some definition of success you got from someone else.
“Life is a joy when you have good relationships with your ambitions. I wake up every morning and chase my dream, yet I’m so not in need of achieving it. It’s a beautiful blend of conviction and humility. I fully believe I’ll make it, yet I don’t need to make it. Ambition is like a healthy ‘carrot.’” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
Your ambition should push you to play the game and strive for more without losing sleep or sacrificing your well-being. It makes me sad to see so many young people who fail to balance their ambition with patience. If more of you truly understood that you really do have time, you’d realize that being patient and going at your own pace doesn’t make you any less “hungry.” It makes you smart.
Check the Motivations Behind Your Ambitions
In addition to impatience, people also struggle with the “why” behind their ambition. Do you want to do it for you…or do you want to do it for them? Are you operating from curiosity and self-awareness of what you’re actually interested in…or are you being motivated by your insecurities around what family, friends, and strangers on the internet say you “should” be doing? At the end of the day, no matter what your goals may be — to launch a successful NFT project, to start a business, to become a famous YouTube vlogger, etc. — your ultimate motivation needs to be happiness.
Happiness needs to be the ambition.— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) June 16, 2019
It’s about learning to operate from your passions instead of other people’s opinions. I’m not driven by what other people think is right or smart…if that were the case, I wouldn’t “waste my time” on things like garage-sailing or sportscards. Instead, I center my ambitions around my own interests, the things I love to do. If that means that I have ambitions around things that others don’t understand, so be it.
I know my “why” and it’s good enough for me. What’s yours?
The trap of insecurity
Unfortunately, many people fall into a trap where their “why” comes from someone or something outside of themselves. They have insecurities around being “successful enough” or getting to their goals “quickly enough,” but that only ever comes from putting too much importance on what other people think.
Be careful not to base your ambitions on other people’s goals. This is how you get so many people thinking they want to be CEOs and entrepreneurs just because it’s the “cool” thing to do right now. If you want to run a business to prove something to your parents, old school friends, or social media followers but you don’t actually enjoy it — you don’t like taking risks, you hate managing people, you don’t get a thrill from the the barrage of “no’s,” then you need to seriously rethink your priorities.
“People tend to have an unhealthy relationship with ambition partly because they use it as a cover-up for their insecurities.” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
Basing your ambitions on your insecurities sets you up for unhappiness. Live your life for you. Set your ambitions around what you actually like and what’s going to make you happy to get to work every single day. If you’re making tons of money and buying tons of stuff but you’re miserable, guess what? You’re doing it wrong.
Ambition Doesn’t Have to be Cruel
Earlier in the Road to Twelve and a Half series, I talked about how tenacity doesn’t have to equal burnout. Similarly, being ambitious doesn’t have to mean being a jerk. Sadly, too many people equate business success with a “dog eat dog” mentality. They think it’s about winning by any means necessary, even if it requires stepping on others to get to the top. I’m about the opposite.
Ambition doesn’t need to be cruel .. in fact it’s more effective with kindness … it’s not how we see it today .. but I hope it can evolve ❤️❤️❤️❤️— Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) October 26, 2021
“…leaders drunk with ambition destroy everything in their path on the way to their goals. It’s what I’m trying to change with this book. Winning at all costs has consequences.” – Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success
Just build the tallest building…
I say it all the time…I believe you build the tallest building in town by building it — not by tearing other people’s buildings down. When you master this mentality, there’s no longer a need to step on toes.
You don’t have to be mean to “make it.” In fact, kindness is a much better companion to ambition than cruelty. When you see other businesses within your industry killing it, be happy for them. Be competitive, be an executor, be tenacious, yes…but be happy for others because there is enough success to go around.
When you recognize that we live in a world of abundance, you’re not threatened by other people doing well around you. In fact, it should only inspire you to take your ambitions that much further.
Ambition is one of the most obvious key ingredients to living a successful life and career, but it’s not as straightforward as most people think. Making sure your ambition is balanced out with other traits like patience and humility will make your journey to success more enjoyable and sustainable in the long run.
Thank you for reading. We are almost at the end of our Road to Twelve and a Half series, and I’d love to know how you’ve been liking it. Shoot me your thoughts on Twitter @garyvee !