What Makes You Ambitious?
There’s a common belief that genes and upbringing have a huge influence on whether someone is ambitious or not. Yet, it isn’t that simple. Children of billionaires can either follow their parents’ tracks and build another successful billion-dollar company, or the cozy life can turn them into vain and unproductive people. Children born in poor families can “inherit” learned helplessness and stay poor just like their parents. Or their hunger for success will drive them to improve their situation. If there’s one thing we can say about upbringing and ambitions, it’s that there’s no clear correlation between your background and what you’re going to achieve in life. Some anthropologists suggest that members of the
upper middle class are most driven to achievement. Unlike the poor, they’re not struggling to get by. And unlike the rich, they still feel hunger to achieve more. However, it still doesn’t explain why many wealthy people still strive for more and why some people coming from a poor background overcome their unfavorable circumstances. There are several reasons we’ll investigate in this chapter. Since we can’t change our background and upbringing, we’ll focus only on the causes we can directly control.
Examples around You Let’s start with the most obvious cause – social modeling. According to the social learning theory, learning takes place in a social context. You can adapt new behaviors
purely through observation. If you have ever changed one of your behaviors because you observed it in your friends (say, you started wearing collared shirts on a daily basis because that’s how your friends dress), it’s social modeling at work. Everything that surrounds you on a daily basis has an influence on you. Rolf Dobelli, bestselling author of The Art of Thinking Clearly, wrote an essay about the influence of news on your life. He writes that news triggers your limbic system, almost as if you were constantly on the lookout for threats. This heightened state of awareness leads to chronic stress, a deregulated immune system, fear, and aggression. And that’s just the result of watching or reading news. People who surround you have a much stronger impact
on your behavior, including whether you’re ambitious or avoid any challenges. Fortunately, we can choose what examples we allow in our lives. The first and most easily accessible source of the right examples is books. Many successful people (Peter Diamandis, Tony Robbins, and Tim Ferriss, to name a few) credit books as the number one reason for their success in life. One simple change – replacing news and mass media with books – can produce dramatic changes in your life. No matter what your ambition in life is, you can find books that will inspire you to work on your goals. Direct, in-person influence of successful people is another source that can fire you up to achieve big things
in your life. However, meeting successful people is not as easy as buying a book. Unless you live in the Silicon Val- ley or any other place populated with successful people you want to emulate, it takes much more work to find them. Thankfully, the Internet makes it extremely easy to interact with such individuals. Although meeting these people in person will have a much more powerful impact on you, talking with them online is still a viable way to light the fire inside you. Studies show⁵ that observing people you view as similar to you improves your self-efficacy (the strength of the belief in your abilities, which I discussed in my book Confidence: How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs and Achieve Your Goals) more than watching people with
whom you don’t share as much. In other words, you’ll get more fired up by watching people similar to you succeed than by watching people who are much more skilled than you (please note it doesn’t mean you’ll learn more from them – it’s best to emulate the most successful people). I’m a huge fan of online communities like forums, membership sites and groups on social media sites. Since they are populated by people at all levels of competence, you can easily find people just a little better than you who will motivate you to raise your standards. It’s easier to relate to and get motivated by an entrepreneur who has gone from $1000 per month to $5000 per month in a span of six months than from a billionaire who has launched yet another million-dollar business.
"Watching a person who successfully loses fifty pounds and changes her life is more inspirational"
than listening to a fitness coach with a perfect body. Surrounding yourself with empowering books and people on a daily basis will put you into a positive state that will inspire you to raise your standards. Please keep in mind it’s a process of conditioning, and it’s never-ending.