Can You Be Too Ambitious? (Ambition Part 2)

“Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretch her fingers to touch the heavens.”

Lao Tzu

Ambition is the inner spark that drives us to pursue our dreams, despite how crazy and uncertain they may be, and to live life with the courage that most others avoid.

But can there be such a thing as too much ambition? Yes, like most things in life, Ambition needs balance. Too much ambition can wreak you.

The classic example of this is the story of Icarus. The Greek myth of Icarus is the tale of complacency and ego. Daedalus and his son Icarus were locked in a tower by King Minos. Daedalus was an architect, you see, and he had built a labyrinth for the king, but was rewarded by being imprisoned because he and his son were the only ones who knew how to navigate the maze. After much time and plotting, Daedalus finally came to the idea of crafting wings out of bird feathers and wax so that they could escape. Daedalus was worried about his boy, however. He “forbade Icarus to fly too close to the sun for that would melt the wax, or to fly to close to the sea for that would dampen the feathers.” But of course, in the moment of flight Icarus forgot “with the exhilaration of flying, he flew too high and too close to the sun. The intense heat melted the wax on the wings, the feathers came loose.” And he was swallowed by the sea.

Not being ambitious enough and complacency will dampen your feathers…

Be too ambitious and the sun might melt the wax holding your wings together…

A modern expression of this is a line you’re probably familiar with, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Unfortunately (perhaps fortunately?) I’ve experienced this personally. I’m a person who has lots of ideas and genuinely loves creating and learning new things. Many people see that spark and want it for themselves. Let me rephrase, they’ve lost their spark and haven’t learned to rekindle their flame, so they want me to apply my spark to their own dreams. And in the past, I have trusted the wrong people to carry my torch. Lessons learned.

Most of the time giving and being generous is good. As Adam Grant has written about, sometimes you need to give before you can take. “From a motivation perspective, helping others enriches the meaning and purpose of our own lives, showing us that our contributions matter and energizing us to work harder, longer, and smarter.” But not completely. Not forever.

Building someone else’s dreams and ignoring/abandoning your own, or doing work you find unfulfilling, will eventually burn you out.

Burnout is caused by being overworked and stressed out. This isn’t the only cause of burnout, but I’d bet my horse on its a large percentage. Put another way, it’s not the lazy and complacent people who will burnout out but the overly ambitious.

It doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail—overworked is overworked.

Ironically, being ambitious burnout makes you the opposite of ambitious—complacent, stuck, tired, jaded, etc.

If you’re burnout, don’t lose hope. There’s always a road back, but it won’t be easy. You’ll need to put an enormous amount of time to doing things that energize and fulfill you. You’ll need to refocus on the fundamentals—healthy food, good sleep, fun, nature, exercise, financial stability. And slowly but surely your drive will come back. You will come back.

All that being said, don’t be scared of being ambitious. Just be cautious. Keep an eye out for how high or low you are flying. And remember to continuously ask yourself: Am I doing this for the right reasons?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1035

Join the Renaissance:

NewslettersConsiderations | Practices |  Bookaholics

SubscribeRenaissance Life on Apple Podcast | Renaissance Life on Spotify

Leave a Reply