The breaking point of ambition

When you're young, the world is your oyster.

Every door is open for you to explore, every opportunity seems to be knocking at your doorstep.

And best of all - you have the power to be anything.

Because you haven't gone down any specific path, you have the freedom to explore any path that interests you.

More importantly, you're free to set your ambitions and goals and shoot for the stars - as many ambitious kids do.

This ambition is exactly what leads to incredible creation - amazing products, beautiful art, impactful research.

Clearly, it takes great ambition to opt to take the path of uncertainty, to pursue dreams like building self-landing rockets, creating the internet, or assembling the first computer.

But as you get older, that ambition often gets replaced with very different emotions - like fear, risk avoidance, and pragmatism.

These often push people away from their ambitions, toward more certain paths that may lead to less satisfaction and contentment.

But why do we stray toward certainty as we get older? What causes people to give up on their dreams and start optimizing for "practicality"?

I've noticed that when we're young, we're protected by the fact that our dreams and ambitions always lie in the future.

People are always thinking about “starting a company when they're older” or “getting rich when they're older” or “working on X problem” - and they can be content that they have this longer term direction.

But at some point, the future becomes the present, and you realize that now is the time to make your goal happen.

And that thought can be scary.

At this point, its easy to get demoralized, and it's easy to doubt your goals.

But I like to think that this doubt is unjustified, and that the future is still yours to create. There's something to be said about having irrational conviction toward a worthy goal.

Recently, I've seen many of my friends start to sway away from their ambitions toward more certain paths (as have I in the past, although I think I've been able to avoid it, at least for now).

I suspect that it may be a natural part of the coming of age process for all young people with a hint of ambition.

But every time I see someone who knows they love art or music or writing or building or anything else start recruiting for finance jobs or aiming to work at a big tech company, just because it's the path of certainty they've been told to follow, it makes me wish I could convince them to take a leap of faith.

But I don't think I can yet do this responsibly - because I don't think I know enough about how these scenarios play out to be able to tell someone that they should still pursue their dreams (maybe I'm wrong, and the path of pragmatism is actually better in most cases).

As much as I can't bring myself to naively convince others to take the leap of faith, I plan to stick to the uncertain path that I've set for myself, and see what I learn.

Maybe one day, we'll be able to build environments where young people feel more free to pursue their ambitions, without the strong tides of society pulling them toward the path of certainty.