Not enough ambition, not enough humility

Seems like a tricky balance between ambition and humility.
Now, what’s the advantage of either side? Go to ambition: then you are really shooting for the top, really shooting to do something great, that’s inspiring, that can lead to doing wonderful things.
It can make work fun, because you’re actually working towards something that seems to be important.
And wow, yeah, as soon as saying the word “important”, you can immediately think meaning this is connected to meaning if I’m doing something that’s important enough, somehow that makes it feel meaningful.
And it seems like the bigger you make it, then the easier it is to make that meaning.
So if- well, we can raise the bar to the very top and say “My ambition is to save the world.” Whatever that means.
Whatever it means for you.
Let’s make world peace.
End world suffering.
Maybe I want to rule the world as the emperor.
However you want to take it, this kind of global ambition.
Of course, you can always step it up: “rule the galaxy”.
There’s no end to the ambition that can be imagined.
But whatever is important for you.
Let’s say “save the world”.
So say you make your ambition “I want to save the world.” OK, that seems to take care of your need for meaning, because that’s meaningful somehow.
I mean, you could be putting the same amount of effort into saving the galaxy or reordering numbers that will never be looked at again, and this could be absolutely the same amount of serious effort for a lifetime.
But it’s just so hard to actually care about doing something that seems so small.
So this is where I think it’s easy to go into this kind of ambition spiral, this pushing to make everything bigger, this grandiosity, because it satisfies that desire to do something important.
We want to make whatever we do to be big, so that we can then be doing something important and meaningful.
And I think there’s a way to do this without taking it to an unnecessary ambition spiral of saving the galaxy.
“My work is saving the galaxy”: You don’t need to go to that level.
It seems like if we take the ambition too far, and set the goal too high, it starts to leave reality.
And that’s where humility comes in.
It seems like humility is a connection with our basic limits as beings, a connection with the way that we are as human beings.
In some sense, I believe we are unlimited, because we really have so much ability to do anything, and yet we still live within these certain parameters that are part of being what we are.
So this is where I think we can join the ambition and the humility together, and that’s by being part of something big, but also recognizing that we are only a small part of it.
So, we can have a grand ambition.
We can- now, “save the galaxy”: I kind of say that as a joke, that we’ll save the galaxy, but in some sense improve the world, make people have a better experience of the world, improve the lives of people.
That is a big ambition that is the kind of ambition that I could wake up and be fired up about and feel that that is a meaningful use of my time and energy.
And yet, if I sort of see this as by myself, this is my goal, this is what I’m doing, it starts to leave reality and becomes this kind of imaginary fantasy where I’m the universal superhero saving the universe.
It starts to leave reality.
But what if I’m part of that? What if I’m just part of that, a very small part of that? We can be part of a big mission, a big project, while still ourselves being small.
I don’t think it’s necessary to go too far on the humility of, you know, emphasizing how small and tiny every human is, because I believe each of us can be great.
But there’s something good about being able to relax into playing a small role in something big, rather than having to always have, like, “My work is important”, and have to have this feeling of “I always have to be important, because if I’m not big and important, then there’s something wrong with me.” That’s really the advantage that humility can give us, is just to be able to relax into a small role, and be part of something bigger.
And through doing this, I believe ultimately we can become something bigger than what we would be if we were insisting on always being important all the time.
So this balance is something that I’m going to work on now, in this year, and this idea of I want to do something very big and important, but I want it to be real, and not just some imaginary scenario where I’m a superhero.
But I believe each of us, in a way, can be superheroes, by being part of a grand heroic project.
We are small pieces of something big.
But by doing this, we can still wake up every day and feel like it is time to do some meaningful work.

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