Why is it our ambition is so directly influenced by those with whom we associate?
- As a kid growing up, sports of all sorts captured the attention of me and all those around me. Hours were consumed practicing, dreaming about someday being a “big league” player.
- In high school I found my way into the debate club and my close associates became the school intellectuals who concerned themselves with the weighty matters of the day. My ambitions shifted from athletics to academics as I struggled to keep up with my new crowd.
- Later, when I worked for long stretches of time in Washington DC, I found myself within the “Beltway” crowd and my ambitions drew their sustenance from these associations.
- All the while, I found the subset of people within each of these constituencies who liked to drink, men and women who shared their ambitions over pints of beer and shots of whiskey.
In the throes of my ambition, it was easy to fall under the illusion that I was special, different, and uniquely gifted. The truth is that I’m not and never have been the lone wolf I understood myself to be. My feathers look an awful lot like the feathers of the other members of in my flock.
- I felt alone
- Without friends
- Isolated in my thoughts
I found the characters I’d meet an odd collection of broken and wounded men and women.
It was at this point that Gary (my sponsor) intervened hard.
He suggested that I consider listening more and speaking less, even volunteering to make coffee for my home group. He went on to suggest I pick three new people each week and ask them to share their story with me, not my story with them.
Surprise, surprise. At the end of my stint as coffee maker my relationship to my home group had changed. I discovered I was not as special as I once thought. I discovered people who
- Shared similar wounds as mine
- Were bedeviled by the same ambitions as mine
- Were broken in similar ways as I was
- Were striving for the same outcome that I wanted
But the most important thing I learned as coffee maker was the art of listening. Before my coffee maker job I thought listening was simply the dead time between two speeches of mine. Coffee making taught me that:
It was like graduate work in becoming a team player. The wounded people with whom I came to identify all had something to teach me, and If I listened closely I, too, might find a life of happiness, joy and freedom. It would all begin with listening and learning to operate with a different set of standards and ambitions.
Over time, success would come to be defined on decidedly different terms and with an entirely different focus for my ambitions.
- If I was going ever to make it, it would only happen in the company of others.
- If I was not concerned for the well being of others, I’d have no chance of guarding my own well-being.
I needed to merge my ambitions with a flock flying in an entirely different direction and to do that I needed to master the art of listening.
It’s positively amazing what one can learn from MAKING COFFEE.
Just a Thought…
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