Ambition vs. Discipline

Ambition pushes you to reach higher while discipline keeps you on the ground. I constantly struggle with balancing these two, mostly lacking discipline. It’s easy to be ambitious but lose discipline - after all talk is cheap. So here’s what has helped me to stay on earth while being ambitious.

Don’t start with ambition. Start with discipline.

Bottom up approach. Don’t start with a high and lofty goal - look inwards and figure out how much you are willing to work, and I mean serious work, to make something happen. A hobby, a side-project, a trip, an event… try with the smallest thing and put all you have into it. Does it make you happy to devote your entire energy to make something happen? There’s no monetary return to make this thing happen - just simply the fact you’ve made it happen and you are proud of it should be enough motivation. If you don’t like it, chances are you need to work on your discipline.

Gradually push yourself to be more ambitious.

This may not be a problem for many, but I interacted with some folks who were super disciplined but didn’t push themselves hard enough, or simply didn’t know how much they could be pushed to. They are typically the perfectionist type - too much discipline to never let go of any error. When you try to reach higher surely at some point you have to jump! Discipline will try to glue you on the ground, but sometimes you need to let go of the weight to reach to another height. Gravity is great to keep you centered, but you aren’t going to achieve much if you get locked on the ground all the time and never train your jump.

Don’t float. Jump and come back to earth.

Going back to the balance between ambition and discipline. Jump is an action while staying on the ground is a state. You should aim to jump from time to time, but don’t float, that’d be an awful state to be in. If you float, you cannot jump, since there’s no ground to jump from. The more you float the less you are likely to reach your ambition. You can only jump higher next time if you return to your ground, and train with discipline to prepare your next jump.

Start with discipline, jump and come back for the next jump.


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