“He who stands on tiptoe
doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can’t know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can’t empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.
If you want to accord with the Universe,
just do your job, then let go.”
– Lao Tzu
As I watch the National tragedy play out in Washington. A President and those close to him only focused on their own benefit, both in terms of power and plunder, I have to ask: as the days and weeks and eventually years go by, what effect does it all have on us deep inside? What effect does the barrage of reckless and unreasonable blind ambition have on each of us and our businesses? On our families?
Is it becoming normal to try to crush those around us who simply have another view? Is it really just all about being a winner or a loser? Are we becoming numb to the idea of grabbing what we can and selling it to the highest bidder? Does watching lack of loyalty to the whole in the name of expediency and self aggrandizement encourage us to follow suit?
We have to be careful to not steamroll others with our own view of how things should run. For within our ideas lie our own ambition and within our ambition lies our personal agenda which is only human to have, but not usually helpful. If we don’t listen to those around us very carefully our ambition can quickly become blind. When we do that, it may seem as if we are getting ahead, and we may very well be in the short term. But, in pursuit of our personal goals we may just destroy everything around us in the process.
I recently read “Powerhouse – The Untold Story of CAA.” Fascinating and in many ways inspiring. But, it’s easy to forget that at it’s core, it’s a cautionary tale. In the end, although extremely successful and wealthy, Ovitz and company managed to destroy friendships, long time working relationships and each other. At a certain point, they forgot why they started the company in the first place and were no longer working together. Instead, they were working against each other and the greater good of the group that was so tight in the beginning. All for blind ambition, power and greed.
Ambition is good when it’s purpose is for something beyond ourselves. It’s good when we’re making a difference not just in the day to day of helping our clients, our co-workers and our families, but in making the world a better, more gentle and honest place. That is accomplished by examining the how and why of the way we as individuals and as a group are doing things.
Ambition should feel great. It should feel like you’re at the best beach party you can imagine, laughing with your friends and together feeding a warm bonfire. That is the joy of feeling successful together. But be careful. If you see the bonfire going down, don’t run back to the house by yourself and comeback with the furniture and doors. You’ll eventually throw the whole house on the fire. Instead, to bring that bonfire back up, scour the beach together for more wood.
I make it sound easy, it’s not. It takes putting your agenda aside. It takes listening respectfully, being calm, having empathy, giving honest feedback and aligning towards a common cause. Not aligning against each other, individually or in groups.
If Ambition feels anything but great, don’t bother looking at others as the reason why it doesn’t. Look to yourself and do a careful examination to make sure your purpose is truly beneficial to those around you. If it’s not, you may be going blind.