Often, it’s impossible to articulate our own ambitions. The trails of our minds are treacherous; we spend our lives in the maze, fumbling around, and it takes a great leap to elevate ourselves and see what lies at its centre. Or someone else to describe it from without. A few days ago, I came across a tweet thread which performed such a function. Zack Kanter said:
“The paradox of a 4HWW/lifestyle business is that most people who successfully start one actually love to work. Instead of optimizing for free time, I realized I should have been optimizing for what I really wanted to work on hard problems with as many smart people as possible.”
When I read that—and as I began this post—I thought that Zack had described my own secret ambition: hard problems and smart people. Upon further reflection, I’m less sure. Instead, I’m beginning to think that, right now—and over the last few years—I’ve been on a quest to find a worthy ambition, a problem or possibility that takes hold of my attention.
Now, I’m under no delusion that “worthy” to me means worthy, or even useful, to everyone else. I’m not that conceited. It’s more like finding a piece of reality that fits with a piece of myself. For example, in my commons, I have a .txt file called “Publishing Pathway”. Currently, it has nine book projects listed. How do I know that each of those projects is “worthy” of the time, attention and energy required to write a book? Simple: I can’t forget about them. As I’m doing the most obscure things, my mind turns to them without direction—how I’d approach them, initial assumptions that would need testing, plans for researching and evolving the ideas or stories contained within, possible constraints I’d need to enforce, critiques I’d go looking for.
Zack has figured out that he wants to work on hard problems with smart people. I’ve figured out—in a roundabout way—that I want to work on the things I find impossible to forget. What about you?