Ambition is fine. But never let it blind you, consume you.
In a reflective conversation with Vaani over coffee this morning, I discussed the pointlessness of trying to overachieve in order to be successful in Life. The papers have been full of news of jazz pianist Madhav Chari’s untimely passing. Here was a man who gave up a PhD in Mathematics at the University of Illinois to make music in Chennai. I never knew him. But to me, his obituary, much like the perfectionist that I believe he was, reads perfect: he followed his bliss and went away, perhaps too soon, having lived a full Life. Osho, the Master, made imminent sense when he said that between a choiceless birth and a certain death, this Life is nothing but drama, often a comedy too. What he meant really was why do we take Life so seriously, why are we trying to acquire, amass and struggle to cling on to material stuff – stuff that we can’t take away with us? I think Madhav Chari’s Life is a good Life to live. Do what you love doing and leave when you must.
Honestly, I was never this way – simple, spiritual or sensitive!
As I confessed to a young journalist the other day, and as I have shared in my Book (‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’; Westland, August 2014), I once had this kolaveri, this murderous rage, brazen, belligerence to earn money, to be successful, to be famous. But over the years, I have slowed down. I realize the value of faith (in oneself, more than in an external reference point) and patience. I understand that it is more important to take in the scenery than only worry about getting to a destination. And, of course, I believe that while you have a right to be ambitious, don’t ever let that ambition possess you to the extent that you can’t enjoy the process of getting what you want.
Ambition is good as long as it nurtures your sense of purpose, gives you a direction to move in and helps set the pace. But ambition must not ruin your sleep. It cannot make you jealous, restless, angry, belligerent and obsessed. Being competitive is fine. But learn to compete with a champion’s attitude – wanting to do better than your last effort. Don’t let the pettiness of winning at the cost of someone else consume you!
Let me clarify that ambition and belligerence need not pertain only to for-profit endeavors. Even if you are leading social change, if you are engaged in a purposeful endeavor to make the world better, don’t let your do-gooder ego drive you nuts. The same principle of following your bliss and moving onward with grace applies here too.
A lifetime that has been lived fully, every moment of it, by touching lives, is far more inspiring and relevant than working overtime, to create an awe-inspiring resume that no one has the time to read, or worse, remember. In the end, you will have two ways to review your Life – with gratitude for a time well-spent here, or with regret for having had this murderous rage, this kolaveri, to overtake, overachieve and win. Make sure, you never have to ask yourself this: “Why this kolaveri, kolaveri…?”