Reality is the opposite of ambition

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There’s so many things I want to make and create, but the frustrating thing is trying to actually do the thing and then feeling stuck. It’s that feeling of being stuck that’s painful, and that painful feeling that just makes you want to switch a tab, pull out your phone, or just do something else.

Historically I’ve considered myself somewhat ambitious. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. Ambition feels like you’re living in the future—taking the dividends of some imagined success, and just bringing them forward and trying to experience them now. Ambition is almost like a drug. It’s as if you don’t need to do the thing to get the reward, you can just imagine the success that comes with the lofty goal and live off that good feeling.

To me, that’s not a useful thing. It’s as if by working towards the goal itself you might prove that it’s not accomplishable. And if it’s not accomplishable, then there’s no hope of success. And if there’s no hope, you can’t imagine the future of the complete success happening. By trying you prove you can fail. And it’s that failure that grounds you in reality.

I guess in some sense, reality is the opposite of ambition. At least for this definition of ambition that I’m working with. But even so, I think it’s important that you don’t fall into the trap of thinking that means that you need to be real or face reality or other similar tropes. Reality is acceptance. Not saying that failure is inevitable, but as I write that—maybe it is? Failure is an inevitable part of getting what you want.

I guess the trap is thinking that failure is inevitable, and that failure is the end. But really, failure is part of the process. Part of any healthy process. I mean would it be too contrarian to say that you should seek failure (though this is starting to sound a bit hustle bro-y). I think the balance is not necessarily to seek it, but to not not-seek it.

Failure also has magnitude. You should definitely avoid failure that leads to you not surviving, but the hard part in finding that balance is that so much of the small failures feel like big failures (at least in your imagination). I guess this is why exposure therapy works?

I guess the main problem here is that ambition sometimes stops me from trying (or just making concrete progress), because by trying I almost reify that I’m not as good as my imagined self ever could be. And that’s a scary thought. But the reality is that it is the trying itself that you learn from, and the failures and success from continual trying that actually gets you to where you want to go. You are forged through the fire and you (and by you I mean I) always, always, always, learn the most by actually doing—not thinking.

It’s so hard to let go of that idea that I may not be as good as I imagine I could be. To let go of the idea that I may not live to my (or someone else’s) imagined potential for myself. But to move myself forward I need to ground myself in the reality of action, not just my imagined ambitions of what I could be.

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