“Money isn’t everything.” How many times have you heard or said that statement?
Or, how about this one? “There’s more to life than success.”
We have a weird relationship with ambition. Deep down, we all want to be more ambitious, achieve huge goals, and yes, have material success and status.
How do I know this? Because you’re an evolved human being. You could argue that almost everything we do is related to more status, more resources, or more sex, which drives the chase for the first two.
So you have this deep-seated drive to build. But then you’re being influenced to believe something counterproductive.
You’re being influenced to believe there’s something wrong with being ambitious. You’ve been taught that trying to achieve your goals is selfish. Don’t succeed. Play your role. Be humble. Be happy. Find peace and contentment.
How’s that going for you?
Does constantly having to worry about your resources make you happy? Do you feel content spending a bunch of time doing stuff you want to do? Can you pay your mortgage and vacations with humility? How does it feel to have a bunch of ideas, dreams, and goals that you don’t pursue? Does it feel good?
Do you feel good?
Look, your desire can get out of control. But if you’re reading this, you’re not there yet. Get more successful then have your moral dilemma.
If you want to be smarter, start to understand that two seemingly contradictory things can be true at the same time.
While money, status, and other forms of material success don’t define you as a person, or really mean anything, they’re still useful metrics to determine how productive you are in the marketplace.
You can pretend your success in the marketplace doesn’t matter, but that doesn’t change the fact that your level of ambition has a direct impact on your circumstances.
You’ve seen the statistics. People can’t pay their bills. They have no savings for retirement. Living check to check your whole life doing something that doesn’t fulfill you is a surefire recipe to cause genuine medical harm to your body due to stress.
Being more ambitious isn’t just an idealistic path. It can save your life. You can save your life. It’s possible. Maybe upward mobility isn’t as easy a path for each different individual, but the idea that it’s closed off to you just isn’t true. Not with the internet.
I’ve seen enough examples to know that you can improve your situation regardless of where it begins — at least if you live in the West. But you’ll never do that until you discard the notion that it’s both wrong and impossible to level up in life.
Rather, you wouldn’t want to live in a world where the incentives to be extremely ambitious didn’t exist.
Look, does Jeff Bezos need 150 billion dollars? Absolutely not. But to act like he somehow doesn’t deserve credit for building Amazon is insane and you know it. Be honest with yourself.
Would you rather have Bezos lose all his money and have Amazon shut down? Or do you like getting your packages delivered faster than a blink of an eye? Thought so.
I saw some people commenting about deleting Facebook because Mark Zuckerberg is evil. But they also said they were going to keep their Instagram because “it’s not so bad.” People are so see-through.
I’m no billionaire worshipper and I do think late-stage capitalism and huge corporations do present huge problems and get too many favors, but I also accept that the asymmetrical distribution of resources makes this all possible.
You can’t have all the convenient, amazing, life-changing products you consume on a daily basis without ambitious people who reap large rewards. It’s impossible. Every time we try it millions of people die. Even if you don’t agree with it emotionally, it’s the truth.
Also, for every Bezos or Zuckerberg, there are thousands of ambitious and successful people who work very hard to earn what they have without gaming the system — marketing agency owners, dry cleaning companies, and all the other “Millionaires Next Door.”
Not only do they deserve it, but you want to be one of those people. Trust me. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, providing the world something it wants, and getting rewarded for it. You’ve just been brainwashed to believe there is.
The simplest way to start becoming more ambitious is to…quit worrying about yourself so much.
Increase your ambition to help other people. Your family is a great place to start. I’m not so “humble” that I don’t want to give my daughter the best possible chance to succeed in life. Fuck humility. Humility does not supersede my seed.
Grant Cardone has a saying, “Most parents will go broke for their kid. Few will get rich for them.” I love that. People hide behind their kids all the time. They lie and say they’re not out there trying to provide more for their kids because they want to spend more time with them.
But when you’re stressed out from simply existing, by the time you get home from that shitty job, you’re not being fully present and aware of your kids. You can be a distant parent while sitting right next to your child. It happens all the time.
And it often happens to people who let their lack of ambition keep them stuck in a poor to mediocre situation. Again, I’m not making a moral judgment here. I speak from a pragmatic place here. It’s more useful and beneficial to have ambition.
If not for your family, do it for the world at large. What if Jeff Bezos was “humble” like people wanted him to be? What if he just settled and remained a lawyer instead of trying to start a company? What about Oprah? Steve Jobs? Sarah Blakely? Barack Obama?
I started writing because I liked to do it and I was curious about self-improvement. Now? I still have many selfish reasons to succeed, but I also understand that I seem to have some sort of gift — at least people tell me I do.
I write a Monday Motivation email, for free, to my list every week. Honestly? I rarely want to do it anymore. But I feel like it’s my duty. So many people have reached out telling me that it keeps them going — like it’s a safe space to start their week. So I serve myself and others at the same time.
So understand that you’ll never be successful without helping people anyway. If you’re so pious, get rich and give all the money away. That is an option you know. Give away all your spare weekends to charity and sacrifice all your time to bigger causes Mr or Mrs. Humble pie.
I see right through you. You can feel me peering into your soul, right now. Just admit you want more and serve others at the same time. Everyone wins.
I love this simple fact about life.
No matter what you project to the outside world, you still have to wrestle with your own thoughts, blindspots, rationalizations.
I see people say things like “Money doesn’t matter.” Not only do I know they’re lying, but I know their lack of wealth eats at them. They hate it because they don’t think they can get it. But they can. The problem is they won’t until they admit they want it.
In a world where many people claim to hate status-seeking, there’s a hell of a lot of status-seeking going on. You’re not sharing that post about that cause because you care. You’re signaling. A lot of people chase moral status, which has no material benefits. If you’re going to chase status, at least get something tangible from it.
Do you think I would work so hard on my writing if I thought no one would read it? I work hard to provide nuanced, thoughtful, and carefully reasoned arguments in my writing, but I still want recognition for it.
Because I’m a human being.
I see other writers who claim they don’t want more eyeballs on their writing. And out of all of the statements I’ve named, writers not wanting readers might be number one on the list of bullshit lies.
I’ve made peace with my ambition. I don’t want to be a billionaire. But I most certainly want to be a millionaire and publish books that sell hundreds of thousands of copies and build a media company and be seen as an authority and give talks and everything in between.
Partially for selfish reasons — money and status — but also because I know that material success can be a decent metric for the productivity and quality of my work. Yes, I know this isn’t always the case, but I hope people who constantly nitpick and look for exceptions understand what that’s doing to their subconscious. I don’t think they do.
You can have the best of both worlds. I want to use ambition to create quality work. The idea of making a living selling bullshit makes me sick. You can have integrity and success at the same time. They’re not mutually exclusive.
If you think there are too many charlatans out there, you go out there and be the one with integrity and helps people who would otherwise get swindled. You go be the example. You go be the leader. Stop hiding.
Ok, let’s say you’re finally ready to admit you want to be more ambitious. How do you actually pull any of this off?
The funny thing? You can be ambitious and lazy at the same time.
This is how I used to be. I was always the “idea guy.” Maybe this is you. You have ideas, but you can’t execute them. You know you want more for your life and you find yourself getting really excited about new projects, but they always fizzle out.
I’ve done it all — sold knives, joined pyramid scheme companies, bought bitcoin, applied to be a salesperson for vacuums to textbooks. I always quit early or didn’t follow through, to begin with.
So how did I change? How can you change?
I can only speak from experience.
For me? It was these two things:
For the ‘finding your strengths’ part, here’s your medicine:
For the next part? Focus on what is being done to you. You’re being brainwashed to believe you’re helpless while the societal overlords laugh all the way to the bank.
The societal overlords love your modesty and humility. Where do you think those narratives you parrot come from?
Your overlords don’t like you, care about you, or want anything good for you. They despise you. They think you’re dumb. And if you listen to them and let them lull you into complacency, you are.
Snap out of it. Stop collecting humility points, the equivalent of monopoly money. Get some real money. Take care of yourself, your family, your tribe, and the world by becoming the best possible version of yourself.
I can smell the twisted fake-humble yet deeply envious energy from a mile away. You’re jealous of successful people? Good. Use it. That’s what I did. Instead of letting my envy go to waste, I asked myself, “How the hell are they doing this?” And I started to reverse engineer the strategies of people I looked up to. It worked.
Do the same.
Don’t fall for the lies.
This is your life. And you owe it to yourself to be successful.