It's a funny thing, ambition, grit, and drive. It allows for a hum for those who feed off of it, for those who need it as much as others need air/food. But it is also debilitating and at times, robbing of actual joy. It is also an exceptionally negative force and creates one more reason to feel lonely.
All week, I have been hooked on stories that follow people through the good/bad/ugly/gorgeous of their careers and the drive they had and have and the lessons they learned along the way, the lessons they are still learning, the lessons they know inside and out but cannot stop themselves, the reason why they feel so trapped in a box, why they love it, why they hate it, why they need it, why it is ruining important things in their life, and why it is their life. I have heard their side, I have heard those that worked with them, for them, speak up about how "interesting" it is to work alongside someone that has this drive. I have heard words like micromanage, all in, crazy, relentless and I have heard questions like are you successful because of or despite of? All week, I have related to, cried with, screamed at, felt sick for, been addicted to, and have felt ever so validated by all of their stories. Their determination has made them successful, leaders in their trade, trailblazers in their industry, the actual standard of how to do this and do it well. But rarely does anyone do this for success. It is the drive that is propelling and in charge. It is the grit and the never settling for anything other than greatness from yourself and those around you that makes them feel alive. And I find myself desperately searching for my own set of rules, a handbook of sorts to get through this.
There are what some call simple rules for doing and running and succeeding like never be afraid to fail (yeah right!). Take a chance, just leap, jump at opportunities. All of the words that make my heart go up and down, my stomach ache. But the rules for drive, those are much more complicated, much more in the gray, and very very personal. The problem is, the rules that we create, also become the chains that hold us down. And although personal, they do follow this weird little path that looks and feels and smells so familiar. It starts with pouring your heart, your you, into something and all you can think about, all you can dream about is the thing. You can't sleep so why bother? Go to work instead and just do what you are laying there thinking about doing. That hum keeps you alive and keeps your attention and keeps you going and in love. You get to a place of bone tired and you start to remember that you have others around you to turn too, others that can do some of the things right? But damn, letting go of that thing is hard because you know the thing, you took care of the thing, you nurtured the thing, you know so well how to do the thing, and you wonder, will they take good care of it as I have? And just when you think you can start to come up for air, you allow something else to fill that space and you are right back to where you started. And sometimes, the things that you gave up start to unravel and you double down. And the hum is harder to hear so you double down even more. And the anger starts to build and the person you are most angry with is yourself. Why are you here again? How has it been decades and you haven't moved the needle for yourself? You've moved the thing, but you are where you started, obsessing over the thing.
Drive is such a funny and exhausting but very much alive emotion. It fills us full and depletes us completely. And for those that feed off of it, we need to remember our balance. We need to remember how much we lean into work and how much it means to us. But for those that lean so heavily into work, we also have to remember that we can still get knocked off of our balance. Because the answer is not doubling down, the answer is not just doing more. We have to remember that when things get depleted, we have nothing to give those we actually love. Those we actually love, not just the thing we love. Those we actually want to nurture, not just the thing we have nurtured. We have to remember why we started, what our vision was, how important it is to us, how much we love it, how much we need it (more than it needs us) and why we also need to walk away from it to recoup.
Drive and ambition...for some they are food, water, air, life. In order to keep them alive in us though, we need to find calm within it. Maybe that means some of the rules have to change. Maybe that means celebrating success. Because although success isn't the goal, it is important to recognize the successes along the way. Maybe that means, looking for a line. Because although the finish line is never ever the goal, it is important to recognize milestones. Maybe that means stopping, looking hard at yourself and asking, for what and how do you want to be remembered?