Am I ambitious? I’d like to think so.
But when I talk to many young people, especially entrepreneur types, I often think to myself, “Whoa, these people are way more ambitious than me.” I’ve come to learn, however, that these people are not exactly more ambitious than me, they simply craft and articulate their ambitions in a different way.
See, I’ve never said to myself, “I want to be the president” or “I want to be a Fortune 100 CEO” or “I want to make a million dollars by age X” or whatever. My parents have never said to me, “Ben, you can do or be anything you want, shoot for the sky!”
Rather, I’ve just lived year by year, slowly but surely ratcheting up my activities. I never said, “I want to be a CEO one day!” I just started building a company. I never said, “I want to publish a book by the time I’m 18!” I simply started writing a book and, sure enough, one day it got signed by a publisher.
It seems I often skip the “dreaming” phase. Maybe this is a good thing? One of the most brilliant business quotes of all-time is the Southwest Airlines Chairman Herb Kelleher: “We have a ‘strategic plan’. It’s called doing things.” I could adapt it: “I have a life plan and strategy. It’s called doing things.” The nice thing about not having too long-term a plan or living your life in pursuit of “a dream” is that it provides enormous flexibility for taking advantage of whatever life throws at you.
Although I do have some kind of larger vision — mostly around impacting on the world — in general I take life day by day, week by week, month by month. The only thing for certain is that tomorrow I have six hours of meetings, Thursday I have a coffee, two lunches, and a call, etc. Each day life pulls you in various directions and, like it or not, we’re often reacting. We have to do our best to make the most of the circumstances and try to do stuff doing that time instead of simply talking about what we’d like to do.
As much as I believe in “goal setting,” aiming high, and being open about your ambitions for sucking the marrow out of life, for me, the path of “wandering where opportunity tugs without a map” works splendidly, too.