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Day 10 — Ambition

I'm beginning to realize how much the mental model around yesterday's productivity essay is relevant to many other traits.

Consider ambition. In Islam, ambition is considered virtuous so long as your goals are noble: seeking knowledge, reaching paradise, etc. Seeking wealth is not inherently wrong, but that wealth must be used toward noble goals.

The Islamic mental model around ambition is the same argument I made yesterday around productivity: so long as your goals are healthy and just, you should pursue your goals to the extreme.

One of my favorite bloggers, Zat Rana, wrote in an essay:

People should absolutely be ambitious. [...] You should especially be ambitious if that’s a word that sounds dirty to you, or if you associate a negative connotation with it. Because that means you are aware of the trappings that come with ambition, and it means that you’ll think deeply about your desires...

Ambition, productivity... these aren't dirty words. But capitalism has led us to believe that to be ambitious is to pursue wealth and power above all else.

In Technology Entrepreneurship and the Disruption of Ambition, investor Matt Clifford outlines a "history of ambition." He claims that throughout history, the most ambitious people followed 4 paths: first literacy, then military command, then finance and management careers, and now technology entrepreneurship. These paths, he says, allowed for the acquisition of skills, a robust social network, and "open doors" for future pursuits in their given era of history.

I'd argue that this is a very narrow definition of ambition, falling squarely within the capitalist framework I'm advocating against. Instead, here's a simple formula:

Have noble goals, then raise your ambitions. If you believe that what you're doing is noble, then always aim higher. If you believe in what others are doing, the best thing you can do for them is to raise their ambitions.