Why ambition is bad

Most of us think that being ambitious and driven is a good thing. I remember after spending christmas eve with my family after I’d just moved from the US back to Denmark in 2001 how I was furious at the lack of ambition among the members of my family, and I wrote a passionate essay - mostly to myself - about how wrong that was, and mostly about wronged I felt for being ambitious. I guess it’s a two-way street.

But I have come to learn that ambition is not helpful. At all. Ambition is 100% bad.


Because being ambitious is focused on the future, on what you want to achieve. It implies that something’s wrong with what’s here right now.

I’m not saying that ambition isn’t instrumental in actually bringing about the change you set out to make. It is. Hard work and determination and a clear destination. Absolutely. It’s likely to get you there.

What I am saying is that ambition is not helpful in the bigger game of life.

It closes your heart, it keeps you away from the present moment, and that’s not helpful.

All that really matters is love. To be love and to share love. To heal ourselves and help others heal. That’s what life is all about.

And ambition takes our focus away from that.

I was at Gary Vaynerchuk’s book signing tonight in San Francisco, and I particularly took note of this gem which he shared towards the end:

I don’t feel pressure. The only pressure I have is the health of my family, and I can’t control that. Everything else is easy.

The way I heard it, and the way I see Gary, he’s seeing business as a game that he plays. It’s fun. Like pencil fighting. And he’s good at it. He makes friends. He’s being himself.

He’s not out to prove himself. He’s not driven because he needs to build a legacy in the form of a big company. Sure, he wants to buy the Jets, but that’s also just for fun. If he never succeeds in doing that, who cares, he’s not going to lie on his grave regretting not buying the Jets.


Work Cited | Macbeths Blog

[…] “Why Ambition Is Bad.” Calvin Conaway RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2013. <http://calvinconaway.com/2011/04/06/why-ambition-is-bad/.> […]
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William Murray

Guan Yu, about a thousand years ago (like 208 ad). Said, when looking at the commanders of the dong zhuo invasion force " a pack of hyenas, steeped in pride and ambition. It wouldnt even work if I went up and spoke to them, how pointless." Not exactly, because his quote was longer. But few generals ever acknowledge that. Cao cao says in response (from sitting next to him) "mediocre people can at best strive only for mediocre goals. Isnt that the irony of life".
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