Ambition and Love

“We often go from love to ambition, but we never return from ambition to love.” de la Rochefoucauld

One of my problems is that I start to turn everything into a routine. I go from love to ambition and then I can’t come back. I take the passion that I had for something and I ossify it into a rigid, set activity that ultimately ends of defeating the logic that led me to undertake it in the first place. It’s been a while since I ran well–since I really, really liked it. It’s so much more about “did I hit my quota? did I get all the days in I said I would?” I sort of become enslaved to it instead of employing it to my benefit. To me, this is a perversion of sticking to your word and the demands you set for yourself. It really easy to get locked in–sort of the banal evil of mediocrity, of doing what you’re supposed to do instead of what you want to do. It’s looking at life as a series of check marks instead of continued expression of whatever principles you’ve decided on.

It might be confusing since I posted about writing down what you want and then sticking to it and ratcheting it up. And then making sure other people hold you accountable. But It can’t be about micromanaging yourself, it’s need is to think of results. Because without an understanding of the vision, you get too caught up in the present. The Exec turned me on to Mission Creep, which is very much the opposite of Commander’s Intent. It’s where you start with a clear goal and then as you approach it, slowly load details onto it until it collapses as an utter failure (like a bill through Congress). Because what if you wake up one day and you’re a little closer to becoming that thing you didn’t ever want to become? What if you can feel the system start to break and twist your logic, and the sand start to suck you in? The day someone calls you out on your own bullshit…

It kills me inside. In Hollywood you see a lot of dead people. They can’t feel anything; if they had any self-awareness they’d be doing this all day–screaming and grinding their teeth in loathing, rattling the “chains that bind us.” But they’re not stupid or bad people or really any different than you or I, they just made a choice. Cognitive Dissonance tells us that when we face two clashing facts–my job makes me miserable and it’s my hope and dreams that compounds it–it’s a lot easier to go numb than change jobs. It’s the temptation to add just a little more here and there until the creep ties your identity in so deep that you can never change. And all that makes you is a tool.

What is the difference between a tool and a douchebag? A douchebag is that person with a delusional sense of self-worth, a lack of self-awareness, tact–an idiot. They are clueless but assertive; an asshole without justification or value. A tool is all that, but at someone else’s bidding. Which makes it so, so much worse. The world is filled with douchebags, but Hollywood, I think, is mainly tools.

The unifying theme is this

Play the game but don’t believe in it–that part you owe yourself. Even if it lands you in a straight jacket or a padded cell. Play the game, but play it your own way-part of the time at least. Play the game, but raise the ante, my boy.” Invisible Man

It’s very hard to stop believing in the game. Especially after you lost a bunch of money playing in it. That is the horrible trap of Cognitive Dissonance: Why would I have wasted all this time for no reason? Might as well try to make the best of it. Me, I’m trying hard not to believe in it all, even though that’s what the whole system is designed to do. Because no one wants to wake up one day creeped into being a tool.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.