Many entrepreneurs point to ambition as the engine of their success. It makes sense; ambition gets you going and keeps you going when times are tough. Ambition is admirable, but it’s not everything. There are many factors at play, such as class, opportunity and simply timing.
If we’re looking purely at the internal qualities that drive us to succeed, ambition would be highly ranked by leaders of our time. However, I’d like to qualify it. Many people are ambitious without it going anywhere.
So, is ambition enough? Or is it simply that we need to embrace a certain kind of ambition?
As someone who has interviewed thousands of founders and CEOs on my podcast, Making Bank, I’ve had the opportunity to hear their advice to new entrepreneurs. And over the years, I’ve found a pattern of qualities and conditions to ambition that help guide people to success. So, what are they?
The first and most important quality you must have in conjunction with ambition is self-permission. Often, people search for permission from others. For example, we want the approval of our friends, the support of our family. We hope for encouragement from mentors and wish for cheerleaders along our entire journey.
There is nothing wrong with wanting these things. However, the problem comes when we tie our ambition and our actions to others. The truth of the matter is that even if we want or feel like our friends and family will be supportive, they may not. Whether purposefully or not, we may be disappointed in the reaction of others. If we tie our ambition and action to others, then we can’t rely on it. We can’t call on that ambition when times are tough. Why should we keep going if no one believes in us?
I believe the most successful people have unlocked self-permission. In other words, they give themselves the permission to go after what they want. They encourage themselves. They allow themselves to dream beyond their current circumstances. That way, their ambition won’t falter, despite what others say and do.
In a way, self-permission is the ability to unleash yourself and unlock all your abilities. It helps you overcome self-doubt. The world is full of many people saying no—why should you also tell yourself no? So overall, allow yourself to dream big and go for big goals. You’d be surprised how far you’ll go if you give yourself permission to do so.
Next, I believe that having a vision helps guide your ambition. I’ve met many ambitious people during my time, and some go further than others—and faster. Those who attained their goals quickly and effectively always had a vision guiding them.
You may want to succeed, but what does that look like for you? And succeed in what areas? Is success a well-balanced life? Is it owning a seven-figure business? Perhaps you have ambitions for a particular field. Maybe you just want to provide your family with a good life.
You see, vision brings clarity and focus to ambition. If your ambition is an engine, then vision is your GPS. You don’t need the GPS to reach your destination, but you’ll get there a lot faster and with fewer headaches.
Lastly, I have found that ambition with purpose may be the most important factor of all. While vision offers you direction, purpose truly keeps you going. Who are you ambitious for? Yourself, family or others? What do you hope are the outcomes of your ambitions? Will it help a certain group, raise awareness on a topic or simply make customers’ lives easier?
If you can understand why you are doing what you’re doing, you will feel more inspired to do it. Being an entrepreneur comes with many ups and downs, as does life. If you can identify your purpose, you can find success and fulfillment in both.