Ambition: Are You Hungry?

ambition, n.: an earnest desire for some type of achievement and the willingness to strive for its attainment

Thinking about ambition reminds me of Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford. The words “stay hungry” have followed me ever since reading his address in a magazine soon after it took place.

It also reminds me of my first years in business and of my first venture that was a real success: my web design business, which has since taken a back seat to other ventures, but still has the power to motivate me when I think of it.

In the first full twelve months of starting the business, I had earned what was for me at the time quite a bit of money, but I didn’t really pay attention to that fact in the beginning. I just did the work. Now, though, I can appreciate that accomplishment and how I achieved it by myself, and for me, that’s what ambition is all about.

Take away spouses and parents, mentors, physical possessions. Take away everything, and you’re left with yourself; knowing that, no matter what, you can create something from nothing, and you can survive. Knowing that makes you think anything is possible.

It’s not about being on your own or not having anyone to help you, quite the opposite. The greater that inner source of power, the more you have to offer those around you and the more you appreciate the true strength that can result from coming together around a shared passion.

However, it is important to know that we can build something with our own hands, that we have that ability within us. When challenges find us, and they will, we need to know that we are resourceful and that, as before, we will find a way through them or around them, whichever comes first.

That’s so very powerful, but wanting something and being willing to do whatever it takes to get it are two very different things, and lately, I’m coming to appreciate how you need both the wanting and the willingness in order to achieve.

I’m starting to apply that distinction to my own decision-making when it comes to where I spend my energy. I’m coming to accept that if I don’t want something bad enough, I’m never going to do the work it will take to reach it. My time and energy would be better spent on something I actually want to achieve and for which I’m willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish: those things that make me want to get up early and stay up late, where sleep becomes unnecessary and something I have to force myself to do, because I simply can’t wait to do whatever is next on the list to move the vision forward. It truly is a hunger.

Over the last year, I’ve found it especially difficult to build a team of people who take pride in their work and are ambitious when it comes to their own success or sense of accomplishment. I’m not sure what the ultimate solution to that problem will be, but when I think about adding someone to my team, I know that it’s important for that person to have dreams and goals of his or her own.

I’m OK with the fact that he or she might see my business as a stepping stone, a means to an end, because that means that while that person is with me, he or she will be striving, reaching for something. He or she will be ambitious, and I need, we all need, people like that around us in order to make each of our dreams a reality.

Do you let ambition drive your business and the decisions you make around it?

Photo by Flickr user familymwr, licensed under CC 2.0

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub. req.):