“Man stagnates if he has no ambition, no desire to be more than he is.”
-William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk
This one really hits me too because we place so much stock in who we are. Granted, who we are is important and I acknowledge that; however, it’s not as important as who we could be. There is a compulsion to grow and be better; however, that compulsion that we all possess needs room to grow and evolve into something different. It’s at the root of who we are and will define who we are to become moving forward.
The toughest thing, at least for me was, discerning what place everything had. I had my demons and I had my saving graces. I had my hopes and dreams. I had my fears and nightmares. I still do. That’s okay. It is okay to admit that there are things that make you reach out and that there are things that make you wish you hadn’t been born.
I can admit that I’ve been a person that couldn’t conceive amounting to anything more than the next person. The next person wanted all the same things I did. Maybe those things took a different shape and those things came at an opportune time for them but it didn’t set me apart from them. It didn’t make me feel any different. I didn’t understand what it really meant to have ambition… to want things… not necessarily to be better or worse because those two terms are so subjective… but I wanted things to be different. I thought that if I was different, I could be more and more is something that we aspire to.
So, I thought once I learned how to be different and do more, everything would fall into place. Boy, I was wrong!
The first, and the most painful lesson was that more isn’t always better and being different just means that comparison will quantify your success. I was used to being compared and criticized for things. We all were and we all will be for the rest of our days. It is part of the game and it’s an unspoken rule that we all abide in. Personally, I don’t think it’s fair. Oh, well what about those who say life isn’t fair? They’re full of shit.
People use that word “fair” to justify failure. We use “fair” to justify an absence of talent or skills. If a true measure of who we are is determined by “unfair” comparison, we will never grow and for a long time, I thought I couldn’t. I’m reminded of something Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” That resonated with me. Not on an intellectual level or on a level that tested my ability, but the question itself is a farce. It isn’t who we are as Humans to be compared. However, it is woven in us to take every challenge and respond in accordance with the gifts we were given. But, what is our “tree” and what does it mean to climb it?
As a result, I had to be willing to learn what ambition really is. Ambition isn’t necessarily climbing the metaphorical tree. If success isn’t the ultimate goal, then what purpose does ambition really serve? Well, I’ll tell you. I had to really search around and seek an answer to this question. To be honest, I feel like it is an accurate accounting. To me, being ambitious is hold something in esteem or in a state of honor. I’ve found that having ambition is to honor who we are, not just as individuals, but as a people. I’ve also learned that having ambition is meaningless as long as it isn’t made to honor everything, and I do mean everything, that your essence projects. There is nothing in this world that is worth having at the betrayal of self. Even the slightest intrusion upon that just means that you don’t honor yourself enough to be content with what you have; because getting what you wanted was worth more than being different. THAT is what selfishness is. As humans, there is no higher offering than our own uniqueness and I’m guilty… I’m damn guilty… of selling myself out or selling myself just to say that I have something that someone else doesn’t as if those things made me better than them. Those things didn’t make me better than them. Having a brand new car didn’t make me better than them. Having disposable income didn’t make me better than them. It made me worse. It made me worse because I was selfish. I wanted these things. I wanted to be different and in that effort to be different, my ambition served nobody other than myself. In that moment, I understood on a heart level what it really meant to be empty. I was devoid of success. It wasn’t the money or the possessions that I had because of it. It was because of what I did to get those things was a betrayal of who I wanted to be and that those things served no one other than myself.
As a result, I have tried my hardest to eliminate the word “compare” from my daily use. Sure, it will still have relevance because we use comparison as a learning tool and I’m okay with using it. It still serves a purpose. But, that purpose isn’t in determining the validity of our own identity in accordance with how other people value us. When we draw a comparison, we settle. Settling just means that we are in a place that allows us to be comfortable. We settle for Dr. Pepper because Pepsi isn’t available or they don’t have Coke. We settle on positions in our professional realm because present opportunities only coincide with where we are. We settle on being options because we’re not given any. Being compared takes away our ambition to be different because, in that comparison, we are being held accountable to a set of standards that don’t place esteem on who we are. Those standards give esteem to the person we’re being compared against. As someone who was constantly having them made on me, I found it to be dehumanizing and it took away my will to be different. I wanted to satisfy my detractors instead of staying true to the characteristics that define my individuality.
Being content is an issue I face daily. I found it difficult, not so much now, to examine my situation and be at peace with it because I’m having to choose between things or situations and weigh their impact. I’ve found that if I’m having to choose, I’m having to settle. However, I found that contentment comes from the consequences of those choices. If my ambitions extended beyond my person and were honorable, I can be content even if my options were limited. I also like to think I have many opportunities to just be content and that my opportunities aren’t of my own choosing. As a result, my measure of success in recognizing these opportunities and achieving the objectives they may present wouldn’t be compared objectively. I would hope that my success is determined in a much more absolute way. I’d hope that my success isn’t predicated on living a long and healthy life. I’d rather hope that my life is recognized long after it is over.
However, in spite of all these things, there is still much to learn and growing to do. Instead of having a focus on leaving a legacy, I have come to know that it is better to just spend some time learning and let the message tell the story. The journey is relevant and every marker that graces the spaces between are all important. This challenge has been a journey, for sure. It’s had many stops and perhaps this is one of them; but, I have learned to recognize that there will be stops and time spent at each one. These experiences are the ones that have allowed me to take a hard, long look at who I am now and examine where I’ve been so when I am content to move forward, I do so in a manner that is healthy towards my character and illustrates that essence.
Whatever those things are or what they represent… you, much like myself, must have the courage and conviction to discover them.