Ambition Eventually Wears Out…

September 16th, 2014 by Kelly Kienzle

Exhaustion“Ambition eventually wears out and probably should. But you can keep your zest until the day you die.”

John Gardner spoke these words to a roomful of McKinsey consultants over 20 years ago. He was speaking about personal renewal. He went on to say:

“Be interested. Everyone wants to be interesting, but the vitalizing thing is to be interested.”

Look at your calendar or to-do list for work. How interested are you in what you see there? Do you ever wonder how you can be busy and bored at the same time? When the ambition finally wears out, what replaces it? We are still vital and intelligent, so what will now spark us to continue growing?

Instead of focusing on the destination for your career, consider instead what interests you now. Replace ambition for the future with a zest for now. What do you want to understand better in your field now? What are the fields tangential to yours that interest you now?  What do you wish you understood better now? Devoting a portion of time each day or week or month helps you keep your zest.

But there is no time to do this, right? Our schedules are filled from the moment we wake up until the time we shut down our laptop. Well, when will that not be true? When will you have enough time to add zest to your career? When you’re 65? That’s not a great time to start enjoying your career again.

So think about what would be a small step you can take now to “be interested” in something again? Write it down.

And now what is an even smaller step you can take? (Thinking tiny is often the best way to achieve goals.) Jot it down to make your commitment real and concrete.

Still not sure this commitment is going to stick? Then answer this:

What would you gain?

What would you gain if you spent a very small portion of time being interested in something? Jot down those thoughts beneath your commitment and keep them nearby.

In closing, I’ll leave you with another quote from John Gardner’s speech:

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

If you know it all, then now is the perfect time to start learning again.

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