Derek Tillotson


The people I envy the most are those who have no ambition and are happy with it. I'm the type of person who becomes emotionally attached to the things I do.

At work, I feel attached to the place, the company, and the position. When things don't go well, I take it personally. When things are great, I want to make them greater. I seek out more to do and I'm heartbroken when doors are shut on me.

With personal projects, I aim high. I try to be as good as I can. I had a podcast and I put everything I could into recording it (with a few exceptions). I wrote a ton of fiction during January--tens of thousands of words--and I had a vision for what I wanted to do with it.

Ambition can be great fuel, but there are many reasons why I envy those without.

  1. Ambition is draining. Especially emotionally. When things don't go well, it's hard to not take it personally. When gatekeepers beat you down, it's overwhelming.
  2. Ambition causes worrying. When ambitious people lose a battle, it becomes easier to think about losing scenarios in the future. That plows a path to worry and anxiety.
  3. Ambition is distracting. When you constantly aim high, it becomes easy to lose track of what's happening right now. Thoughts of "I wish I were ______" or "I could do ______ better" provide no value in any realistic situation.
  4. Ambition and gratitude don't mix well. They're not oil and water--these two things do mix--but when ambition clouds judgment, opportunities for negative emotions increase. The strongest way to fight negativity is with gratitude, but when negativity gets a head start, it's an uphill battle.

Ambition isn't bad. It can be a driving force that catapults people to a level others can only dream of (if they themselves are ambitious). What separates the ambitious from the ambitious and successful is that the successful have learned how to control ambition in the face of failure and distress. It's a difficult practice and possibly one that may never be perfected.

Written February 14, 2020

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