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

Why Your Work Matters

You work hard.

You’ve been working hard for a long time now —
but sometimes it might not feel like all of your effort has paid off.

Struggle, pain, frustration, time, up-hill battles, treading water, incremental improvements, grit, resistance..

Here’s the thing —

If your effort impacts even one person for the better,
you’ve done your job well +

Each time I hear from someone who was moved by my writing, I know my time has been well spent. This helps keep me persisting, and improving. 

One person impacted — big or small — makes it all worth it +

One person changed reframes the struggle we go through.

Remember that.
Work towards that if you’re not.

Put some Elbow Grease on it +
— Josh Waggoner

related wisdom

“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.” — Les Brown

Perfection Killed The Cat

Don’t let perfection keep you from starting..

or staying consistent..

or finishing!

Wanting to refine your work is great and admirable —

to a point.

But it’s no good to you or anyone else if you don’t release it.

We want your ideas — they may inspire our own ideas, or perhaps impact our lives, but they’re not going to do anything if there stuck in your notebook, or in your head.

Here are Three Truths I believe about Ideas

  • Ideas have an expiration date.

If we don’t act on an idea, the magic of it will fade away — meaning, either we aren’t the same person we were when they had it, so it loses it’s meaning to us,

or we forget what the idea was even about!

Get started with an idea you want to do as soon as you can (Now if possible!)

Small actions on your idea, can add up to huge momentum. 


The same Ideas seem to pop up in other people’s minds as well. (Are you reading my mind!? Did you steal that while I was sleeping!? 

If you don’t act on it, someone else probably will.

  • In my experience, the longer you wait on an idea, the harder it is to act on it.

The longer I sit on an idea, the heavier it gets. An idea that I really want to do starts weighing on me heavily. Like the many headed Hydra of greek mythology, Excuses rear their ugly heads, and regenerate every time I chop one down — “I just haven’t had time to..” “things are tough right now..” “I’ll do it when my life slows down a bit..”

If you’ve been sitting on an idea for long time — or feel called to do one — take action on it immediately.

Start today on your ideas — You’ll feel a weight come off your shoulders; You’ll breathe a sigh of relief.


  • Work expands within the frame you give it.

Things will never seem complete unless you set an end state in mind.  Work gets done within the time you given it.

“Our films don’t get finished, they just get released.”  — John Lasseter, Pixar

To make an idea happen, we must define our own structure and time frame for it.

A time bound idea is one that will be achieved.

And If your goal is a lifelong mission and never ends (such as, ‘I want to be a Renaissance Man;) then continue to set milestones and feedback  — so that you know you’re making progress.

Put some Elbow Grease on it’ — Josh Waggoner




“Without action, thought can never ripen into truth.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Soon is not as good as now.” — Seth Godin

Introducing Elbow Grease — Put a Little Elbow Grease on it

I love having a great idea (arrogant much josh?)—

or the thrill of goal setting, visioneering, and dreaming.. but —

An idea is only as good as its execution.

Having an idea is not enough, we must also act on creating it.

Head in the clouds feet on the ground.


Elbow Grease is a new RenaissanceLife series focused on

The Art of Grit — the blood, sweat, and tears needed to making things happen.

To take a dream and make it reality.

From something we say, to something we do.

And the hard work and grit it takes to do so. (For Grit is necessary if you want to build an empire.)


How do we make an idea more than just an idea?

How do we make our dreams reality?

How do we follow through on what we say?

How do we thrive in failure?

How do we be resilient in our work and relentless in our pursuits?

There’s only one way to figure out.

Let’s get to work.



“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” — Theodore Roosevelt


Josh Waggoner