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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Pursuers

Today, Coffee Lovers, I would like to talk about a topic that is very near and dear to me. That topic is ambition.

We all have it. Ambition is the drive to succeed. It is, in essence, everything - EVERYTHING - that the United States believes in. "...that among these are the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." That's our country in a nutshell - the pursuers. That's what we do. We pursue.

Now whether or not we are pursuing happiness or not is debatable. Americans - humans, for that matter - pursue because that is part of our nature. We were not made to sit around and wait for success to come to us. For every person huddling in a cave around a fire (circa 6,000 B.C.) there were two others out gathering more firewood. And so the legacy of - not only America - but the world was begun: with firewood.

And, oh, how we've built up that legacy! Firewood has been replaced with silicon chips and skyscrapers. We don't trade furs anymore (well, some of the Canadians still do). Now, we buy and sell entire companies, complete with thousands of human employees. We are the ultimate consumers and also the ultimate pursuers. We, the modern Human Race, pursue success to the breaking point. We grab it up and hold it so tightly that there is no chance for it to escape.

And there is nothing wrong with that. By succeeding you are doing precisely what nature intended you to do. I'm not saying that you should abandon ethics or morality in favor of success. But you should not abandon success because it feels wrong to do well.

There's another side to ambition that we don't give very much credit to. Every person who has ever gone out into the proverbial wilderness to burn their proverbial firewood has gotten weary from the trek. There are plenty who question the wisdom of setting out into the dark woods at all. They are right to question. The dark woods are not a guarantee. They are dangerous. The cave is guaranteed safety, blissful mediocrity, a risk-free lifestyle. But I promise you that you did not grow up thinking: "Goodness me! I hope I never do anything worth remembering when I get older!" And that - that doubt or that weariness - is why there is a second part to ambition. The second part to ambition is the person who looks at you and says: "Yes."

When I was in fourth grade, I sat my dad down in the family office and laid out a very simple storyline. And then I said: "I'm going to write a book, Dad."

And my father answered: "Okay."

That was all I needed. I've run on that four letter word for years now, as I wrote, scrapped, edited, tore my hair out, quite, restarted, started something new, tried a new style, and came to the edge of really giving up. I have come to that point where I'm ready to just stop writing many times.

But then I remember that my father looked at a ten year old with an idea (that has, by the way, been put on serious hold) and told him, without hesitation, "Okay." And he meant it, too. That's what's really important to me. My father didn't just want to encourage me. He believed in me.

My cousin, Alexandra, invented something this year. She and I sat down a few weeks ago and were discussing this very thing: ambition. And she told me something that rang very true with all of my memories of my home-life: "We were raised in an environment where we were told that we could do anything. And they meant it when they said it."

Boy, they sure did.

So go out and be ambitious this week, Coffee Lovers. That tool could be manufactured in China sooner than you think; that novel is only an opening sentence away from existing.

Your dreams are not up in the stars you're shooting for. They're all around you in the form of opportunities. And you can just say "Okay" at any time. And - for goodness sake! - support someone with a good idea. They may get tired along the way.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.


  1. Great post Michael and I have no doubt that novel will be written along with many, many poems, stories, and plays :)

  2. Loved your post Michael--that just brightened my day!