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The Real Problem With Your Ambition (And How To Avoid It)

The Real Problem With Your Ambition (And How To Avoid It)

4 min read
Seth Williams

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As real estate investors, I think we all have something in common.

We’re all extremely ambitious people.

Let’s be honest – if a person hopes to accomplish anything great in this world, they must have some kind of personal drive, hunger or zeal. If you’re serious about the real estate investing gig, ambition just has to be part of the equation…  there’s no way around it. It’s what pushes us to find that next great deal, take our business to the next level and make a ton of money.

This is what drives most people into real estate investing – call it ambition, desire, passion, aspiration or initiative – I don’t know anyone who would disagree that these are all very admirable qualities. The people who posses these traits usually end up doing a lot of great things in life. They’re the ones responsible for the greatest achievements, innovations and improvements that have come to fruition throughout the course of human history.

The Problem With Ambition

Like most people, I’ve always thought that ambition was a wonderful thing, but I think there’s another side to the coin that most people completely fail to see.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen many instances where things like “dreams” and “success” have caused a lot of unintentional damage to people. The real tragedy of it was, most of the victims didn’t even recognize the problem until years after the damage was done.

You see – ambition has a subtle way of whispering things in your ear…

“Your best days are ahead (i.e. – You can do better than this).”

“Your greatest victories have yet to be accomplished (i.e. – Keep pushing harder, you’re not quite there yet).”

“Your current situation isn’t good enough yet, keep your nose to the grindstone or else (i.e. – Get back to work!!!).”

For many of us, there is a lot of truth and helpful motivation that can come from these statements – but as with anything, we need to have balance. When we’re constantly focusing on what’s next, I think there’s something very important that gets left in the dust of our business pursuits. It’s called the present.

ApollinaireWhen was the last time you recognized that that today is a gift? Did you know that this moment is one you will never get back? What kinds of wonderful things are happening in your life, right now, that you’re too busy to appreciate?

The truth is, we all have a lot of great things going for us right now (regardless of how much time we spend thinking about it). When was the last time you sat back and just appreciated your life for what it was?

I’ve know of many people (and you probably do too) who are flat-out addicted to ambition, as if it’s a drug they can’t walk away from. The unfortunate truth is – it’s very easy for ambitious people become workaholics and to be proud of it.

Why? Because things like hunger, drive and aspiration are all supposed to be GOOD things – right?

Yes…   to a point.

Ambition can be one of the most convenient and justifiable excuses to ignore your family, friends and other relationships – all of which matter far more than your work does. The problem is, when you have something like “ambition”, “success” and “drive” to blame your behavior on, who can argue with that? You won’t hear many of those motivational speakers telling you otherwise…   after all, you’re just trying to create a better life for yourself and those who depend on you – who cares if it hijacks and consumes the best years of your life in the end?

The Fruits of Too Much Labor

If you spend a lot of time in the real estate investing space, it’s very easy to get caught up in the excitement of the profession (because it is really exciting), but I think it’s important for us to take a breather every now and then and reflect on what we already have, where we are, where we’ve been, and lastly – where we’re going next.

Think about the importance of your next big deal (or the one you’re currently working on)…   how important is it, really? Is it worth the sacrifices you’ll have to make to get the job done?

Oftentimes, the answer will be a resounding “YES” – but at the same time, I think we also need to allow room for the possibility the that answer may occasionally be “No“.

It’s important to keep in mind that some day – decades after you and I are gone from this world, the actions that are going to make the longest-lasting impression usually aren’t real estate deals. Don’t forget that real estate investing (like any profession) is a means to an end, and unless you really intend for it to consume your life (and I doubt that you do), it’s probably in your best interests to make sure you’re balancing things out appropriately.

Keeping Balance

Believe me – I know better than anyone how easy it is to allow the wrong things to end up in the wrong places on my priority list. I have to constantly check myself to make sure I’ve got things straight (because the moment I stop paying attention, things tend to get out-of-whack almost immediately).

If you’re struggling to keep your priorities straight, here’s a suggestion for you…   rather than allowing your family, friends, health and spirit to get whatever is left of your time and attention – think about giving these things the first share of what you have to give (not the leftovers). How can you do this? Try to put an actual appointment in your calendar (with alerts, reminders, the whole nine yards) to be present with your family and friends and to take care of yourself both spiritually and mentally. At a bare minimum, you should treat these things with the same level of importance as your business activities – carve out the time and energy required to serve these areas first and you may be surprised at what this can do for your psychological health, stress levels and overall satisfaction with life.

Thoughts?