To Have Ambition
“My ambition is to have ambition”. I chuckled with recognition when I first saw that bit of bumper sticker wit years ago. I could definitely relate. I’d always viewed the idea of zooming up the ladder of success with the jaundiced eye of an avowed acrophobe. After all, wasn’t I the less-than-galvanized college student who floated from major to major and never followed through with earning a degree? Wasn’t I the Navy vet who left the service as the same lowly seaman who’d entered four years earlier? (“Lower than whale shit”, in Navy slang).
Wherever I looked, whether it was what I jokingly refer to as my “career” in the music biz, or my adamant disinterest in parenthood or family building of any kind, a singular lack of ambition has set the stage for a decades-long series of non-breakthroughs, non-promotions, non-awards, and non-fortunes.
But here’s the thing. I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m more than okay with it—I embrace it. It’s not that I necessarily aspire to slackerhood. I don’t aspire…we’ve already established that. It’s that, I’m a guy who tends to be content with his lot. To my way of thinking, ambition presupposes a certain inherent dissatisfaction with the status quo: “I’ll finally be happy when I’m CEO”… “I’ll be happy when I write my magnum opus”… “I’ll be happy when I have a million Twitter followers”…
Unburdened by such caveats, I’m blissfully free to enjoy the many blessings my life has to offer: a strong, loving marriage; warm, stimulating friends; a clean bill of health; a couple of stellar hounds… I could go on, but at some point it just sounds like gloating.
So, here’s my thesis: “Contentment is the enemy of Ambition”. Now, I’m making an assumption or two here. One is that happiness is the Grail. Regardless of how you define it, everyone wants to be happy. Another is that ‘contentment’ is a synonym for ‘happiness’.
One of my favorite definitions of happiness--and there are quite a few out there--is “wanting what you have”. Sounds a lot like contentment to me. I’m not tarnishing the definition with any whiff of “settling”, by the way. I harbor no regrets over unscaled heights, unachieved fame, or unearned riches. I’m happy, content, and grateful in equal measure.
I don’t at all miss the deferred happiness the ambition gene demands. So don’t look for that “My ambition is to have ambition” bumper sticker on the back of my old Honda Civic. But how about this for a substitute: “Ambition Free Since ’73!”