Balancing Satisfaction, Patience, and Ambition

Oct 24, 2020

Ambition looks like the opposite of satisfaction on first glance. We're supposed to be happy with what we have right now. And we know that we'll return to a satisfaction baseline upon gaining new achievements or things. So isn't ambition — the desire for more than I have now — a fool's game?

How do I balance the feeling of satisfaction now, with the ambition of wanting more for the future, and the patience required to get there?

It's nothing revolutionary, but figure it's a useful thing to articulate.

I'm satisfied with my current situation at 24. I'm able to make a good living from my two software businesses and see meaningful upside if all continues to go well. Right now, making a salary-equivalent while being able to work on my own terms is my dream come true.

However, my living expenses are going to balloon once I have a family and I'm going to want some more flexibility around how much I need to work. My current earnings and work style are not going to cut it when that time comes. I think I'll want ownership of a few businesses that are operationalized enough to enable me to spend a lot of time with family and work on interesting problems, while having enough cash flow to not worry about money.

This is a simple example of my current situation being fantastic while the same scenario not being good in a future state. The difference between my desired state in the future and right now is ambition. Satisfaction in the present state is heavily influenced and determined by my feeling of time-relative progress towards a goal — how far along I am towards that goal compared to how far along I probably needed to be by now. This is a feeling of keeping pace.

I know it's going to take many years at minimum to be in the position I want to arrive at re: business ownership and life dynamics. There's nothing I can really do to rush that and achieve it right now. But I feel like I'm on pace towards achieving it in the rough timeline of say the next 8 years.

If I'm on pace towards where I eventually want to go, it makes it easier to feel great about current state, even when it's far from the goal. Feeling on pace is mostly intuition for me so far, as it's not straightforward to quantify.

I don't need that future state right now, and that creates patience. If I'm happy with my situation now, feel that I'm on pace to achieve my future desired state, and know that it will take years to arrive there, that's the balance of satisfaction (all good right now), patience (acceptance of time gap until future), and ambition (needs/desires for future).