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Monday, November 14, 2016

Ambition As A Tool

So earlier today I started listening to a new podcast called the "The Tim Ferriss Show". It's one of the more popular podcasts in the world and I got on the train rather late for a person who calls himself a fan of podcasts. It's a show that "deconstructs world-class performers from all different trades and specialties", which means Mr Ferriss (who is himself a best-selling author of multiple books) interviewing other super successful people to find out what makes them tick.

The first episode I listened to was an episode from last year, episode 118 with Alain de Botton, a philosopher who has written several books and has a Youtube channel called The School of Life, which – among other things – tries to tackle the big questions of life such as "The Meaning of Life", "The Secrets of Happiness" and "Higher Consciousness".

I started with this episode because a friend of mine recommended it on instagram, and upon hearing Mr de Botton's voice, I instantly recognised it from the School Of Life videos which I have watched several of in the past year or so, not knowing it was Mr de Botton's voice all the while. I highly recommend The School of Life to whoever wants to start dabbling (or at least listen to) philosophical questions and explorations.

Back to the podcast episode, I was definitely absorbed in the conversation that Mr Ferriss and Mr de Botton was having. They tackled issues as to how philosophy can be useful to everyone in everyday life, how modern day universities have made philosophy out of the mainstream's reach as well as how to be happy in life. And there was this one thing that Mr Ferriss said that forced me to pause the episode and be mind-blown by for a bit, which was "ambition is a good tool, but a terrible master".

This quote might have been around for a while, and Mr Ferriss might have just plucked it from a cat poster somewhere in his office, but it definitely was new to me and shed a totally different light on ambition from how I've been viewing it all this while throughout my life.

I've always viewed ambition as a goal, as something to strive for, an end product. I want to "achieve" an ambition, and thus live life, for lack of a better term, "berkiblatkan" these ambitions that I have. Everything I did was to service these ambitions of mine and I'd always thought that that was the "correct" way of looking at it.

But Mr Ferriss said that it was possible to use ambition as a tool, as a means to an end. And what I imagine that end to be is happiness (however you want to define happiness is up to you). Because what's the point of having lofty ambitions if all they do is make you miserable? And I have to admit that I'm definitely guilty of that. I allow myself to kick myself in the head so much because I haven't reached my ambitions yet.

All it takes is a change of perspective, from seeing ambition as an end to seeing ambition as a tool to make me feel a lot less crappy about myself. And in my mind, that makes sense. I shouldn't let my ambition use me, I should use my ambition. Use it as a fire that drives me forward toward a goal, while at the same time being mindful of being kind to others and myself and count my blessings and give myself the permission to be happy as often as I can.

As it is, I'm still struggling with this paradigm shift, as you could probably read. I'm still figuring it out and I have a lot to learn still. It would probably take me a couple more listens to the podcast episode as well as more time thinking about it (not to mention the reading material I'll have to go through) before I am fully able to grasp the concept. But here's to paradigm shifts and learning new things in order to allow ourselves to enjoy our time on Earth better, yes?

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