For a long time I was not ambitious enough. Period.
I never had a problem with setting goals. But when it came to ambition, well, let's just say I didn't know it was an option.
Growing up, my relatives always supported me but no one has pulled me to aim for insane goals when I was younger. "Do what you love in life".
For the story, my younger self applied to a program for young entrepreneurs and got rejected:
"We were impressed by your energy and engineering skills, but we preferred other candidates who wanted to create really ambitious projects that would reach as many people as possible."
This is a part of the rejection email I received. I read it out loud at least 10 times, I didn't understand it, it was shocking! But now I understand why.
Later one day at a tech conference. I went to speak with one of the speakers, a guy who lived in the US for a while.
He told me "You are the next Mark Zuckerberg". I replied "No, I am not" and the guy got mad at me. "Why not the next one? Give me a good reason? There is none!". I didn't understand his reaction, but now I do!
These two events were a few months apart and made me realize that:
- We are never too young to start working on our ambitions
- Ambition defines the ultimate impact we will have in life
- If you want to be ambitious, you have to believe in yourself first
Let's dive into all of this and define what ambition is:
"A desire and a determination to achieve success".
Success varies according to people and the cultural environment you are in. So, ambition is too!
Approach ambition like a martial arts! Belt after belt!
As the old saying goes, "You can't climb a mountain without taking a few steps." The same goes for ambition.
If you want to be super ambitious, you have to actually start being more ambitious. And not just once in a while, you have to make it a habit.
Ambition is something that's learned and trained, just like martial arts. For most of us, It's not something that comes naturally, but it's something you can train yourself to do well.
Here are the top things to learn and how to progress in the ambition game:
#1. The apprenticeship of ambition
No one teaches you to be ambitious. The best way to learn ambition is to do a lifelong apprenticeship of it. 😉
It's way harder to do than saying "I'm going to be ambitious" or even "I want to be more ambitious."
The best way for me is to learn it through peers, and be inspired by them. Here are the top things that helped me a lot:
Living abroad is the cheat code
I'm not talking about the kind of "I want to do it for 6 months and then come back" kind of thing. No, I mean moving there, getting my permanent residency, and staying "forever".
When you are in this mindset. You get to meet people from all over the world who have extraordinary lives.
You learn about other cultures, and it gives you a different perspective on life.
I tied up some very cool relations with extremely ambitious people by living abroad. I would have never been able to meet such characters in my own country...
Don't be shy, reach out
I've had some great learnings with guests from podcasts/conferences whom I met after reaching out to them. It's pretty simple.
Say something like "Hey, I loved your talk on [show name]. Would love to meet up and discuss your thoughts on [topic]." Done! You'll be surprised how often this works out!
Some of the guests I reached out to after conferences/podcasts actually became my great friends.
We don’t need mentors, we need peers
Ambition is a very personal thing. We can't have someone who knows exactly what we're going through because they never have and they never will.
Something that helped me understand ambition is meeting entrepreneurs. I have probably met hundreds of them.
There is something very powerful in learning from peers who walk with us in the process. Their perspectives have constantly helped me to refine what is my ambition
#2. Build self-esteem and momentum
The more ambitious you are, the bigger the challenges you go after are!
Things will get tough.
Momentum helps you push through those moments when you feel like you're going nowhere.
To be honest most of my personal momentum comes from sports. It has played a huge role in my journey conquering ambition.
I've always been a fan of sports since I was young. But things changed when I started powerlifting and trail running.
The whole goal of this powerlifting is to lift more and more weight. It's the process of taking on a challenge and reaching a goal, even if it doesn't go exactly as planned.
I started being very serious about Powerlifting and Trail-Running 7 years ago.
Started from almost nothing. Competing with myself. Seeing myself progressing, days after days, months after months.
Lifting weights 99% of the population can't. Running distances I thought I would never be capable of...
Sports builds self-esteem and personal momentum. It helps build confidence in our ability to achieve things we never thought possible!
Momentum and self-esteem plays a huge role in the game of conquering our ambition!
On top of that when you train for hours every day (like I do). You develop an incredible sense of discipline. This is very powerful when it comes to setting goals and achieving them.
There are many ways to build self-esteem and personal momentum.
Sports have been mine. Find yours 😉
#3. Don't Stop
I've always been a passionate person. I've always been motivated to do something great in life.
But as I grew older, I realized that ambition is not just about passion.
It's not just about being motivated to do something great in life.
Let me tell you a story: In 2021, I was lucky enough to spend time with 3 founders from the top 0.1%.
These are guys who founded their respective companies and brought them to over 1 billion USD valuations. They are bloody unicorn founders!
This is a far reality for a bootstrapped founder like me.
Meeting with them showed me one thing.
No matter how much success they see in their business, no matter how many people tell them "you've made it". There's still something missing: the sense that they can do even more.
I learnt from them that ambition is an attitude towards what we call success.
Why do some entrepreneurs stop their journey? Why do they stop when they can still do amazing things?
It's because ambition is a choice, and it's one that every founder has to make every day.
We can have all the talent and skills in the world, but if we stop being ambitious, we will never be able to reach our potential.
The world does not need our passion. The world needs our ambition!
I hope this post will inspire you to be more ambitious. I personally wish I read articles like this when I was younger, I am sure it would have impacted my life by now.
By striving to do the impossible, man has always achieved what is possible. Those who have cautiously done no more than they believed possible have never taken a single step forward.” ― Mikhail Bakunin
This quote has been my leitmotiv since I was in high school. It used to give me the strength to do unconscious things with my motorcycle or my skiing. Now years have passed, I am a bit more calm. It just helps me to create the most exciting organization for makers and engineers! 😉