Why do we do the things we do?
So many people these days are busy. They are always busy and more often than not it is with work. In the big cities, a 12 hour work day is almost the norm. Everyone is pushing, pushing for that next promotion, that next job or that next pay raise.
I watched a movie once, where the male lead character says;
Ambition is such bullshit.
Seriously, it’s just chasing vapour.
Like, whatever it is that you think that you need, that job or that gold star, a blue ribbon, fancy desk, nice office, like once you get that, you’re gonna be confused because you’re not gonna be as happy as you thought you were gonna be.
Then you’re gonna be sitting there being, like “why aren’t I happy? I have this. I got the desk.”
Because, man, there’s another desk.
There’s always gonna be something more that your ambition is telling you that you need.
So it’s the next thing, then when you get that, there’s another thing.
It’s an endless cycle.
This struck a chord with me, because I could only relate to half of it. I couldn’t relate to everything he was talking about. I could however, relate to some of it. This was a tad odd to me.
I could relate to wanting a job or a gold star and a nice office. I could also relate to realising that there will always be a bigger desk, an office with a better view and so on. I could not relate to not being happy. While things like these are subjective, sue me but I am going to say the character didn’t fully understand the whole situation.
The more I think about it, the more it seems that the screen writers intentionally wanted the situation to be something people have to think about. I guess it worked since I am writing about it after all.
In my humble opinion, which if you are still reading at this point I assume you are interested to know, is that while I totally agree that people these days are in a mad scramble for the next promotion and the next office, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that is a bad thing.
See if he had started the topic by saying something along the lines of
“Most people don’t know what they are really after with ambition.” Or
“Ambition these days has so lost its meaning.”
I would have supported the statement in its entirety. The problem for me lies in him throwing the blame on ambition. I believe ambition is the great flame of progress. Although there is no factual basis behind this that I know off, I also believe that the instinct of survival that we all have as humans is the basis of ambition.
At our core, we want to survive, once we are sure we can survive, we want to thrive. I believe that the want and need to thrive is ambition. Without ambition, there wouldn’t be a computer for me to type this on or an internet connected device for you to read it on. Electricity would be something we feared as it came crashing down around us lighting up the nearby trees as we watched from our caves. The flight that I am about to get on in minutes wouldn’t exist.
It was Orville’s and Wilbur’s dream and ambition that pushed them to achieve what they did. It was the dream of the founders of Starbucks to sell premium coffee to the world.
That is ambition. The reason I say that the character did not fully understand what he was talking about is because I do not believe ambition is to blame. I believe the thing to blame, if anything for what he was talking about is what we have come to think is our ambition.
A lot of people these days tend to accept what society tells them to do. They say go to school, go to college, get a degree find a good job. The question is, what job? What degree? I think the problem the character is talking about is the fact that most people these days do not know what they truly want. A lot of people, (again, this is not statistical, just based on the people I have come across in my own company) do not actually work a job because of the passion they have for that job. They work it because they did a degree in it and they need the money.
This is where I feel that the characters message comes into play. A person works long and hard, sacrificing many leisure activities, a few friendships and probably even family along the way, just to get that bigger pay packet. Then at the end of the day, they have money, they have accolades in certain fields and they have some amount of success, but then, they go home and they are miserable.
If I were to go with the characters statement I would say they are unhappy because there is always something more, which I agree with, but would go on to add that another reason could be due to the things they had to give up to get something that did not satisfy them the way they thought it would. Whatever the reasons for their unhappiness may be, I believe that they stem from one cause. That is that they are not doing what makes them happy.
Are you working a job that you are passionate about? Are you working a job that excites you to get out of bed in the morning? Do you believe in the cause that you are fighting for? If you do, then are you unhappy when you get promoted? When you get recognised for the work you have done? And if you don’t, has there come a point where the money doesn’t really matter anymore? That you are so bored of your job that you would do anything else, even if it paid less?
So that was my two cents worth, I think it is important for us to know what makes each of us happy in all aspects of our lives, but for the sake of this post, in our careers. The importance of finding happiness and having the courage to go after it however is another topic entirely. For now at least I leave you with a quote I hold dear to me.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life,
and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.
And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
P.S. the movie was Two Night Stand starring Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton.
Image from, website