John Sanei on The Definition of Ambition

Lindsay Judge   |   07-09-2023

“Overcoming anxiety and being overwhelmed will be our pathway to success.”


As a society, we have been taught that excellence and professionalism are the most important things we can do to add value to the world. But there is a dark side to this professionalism and excellence that means before we even start our day, we are overwhelmed with the idea that we have too much to do and don’t know how we will get through it. So we arrive at our day with anxiousness. The day flashes by in a blur, and at the end of it, we constantly remind ourselves that we haven’t done enough. We are in this perpetual cycle of needing to do more and being overwhelmed by what needs to get done next. I call this “Excellence, Integrity and Professionalism”. This is a form of self-abuse disguised as adding value and being ambitious in the corporate or business world. The problem is that no matter how successful you are in your business and how much money you make, if you arrive feeling anxious, you will continually seek more because you believe you aren’t enough. Nothing will ever be enough.


We need to realise that the result of what we think is driving us in our idea of professionalism, integrity and ambition is a fool’s game. What’s the point of having three Ferraris when you’re unhappy? Unfortunately, this has become our reality. Many of us are disappointed in our ambition, and once we achieve what we wanted to achieve, we’re still unhappy because we want more! We have misconstrued excellence with self-abuse. We’ve misconstrued ambition with greed. We get the material things we strive for, but our emotional state is in disarray.


So what do we do to solve this?


First and foremost, we must realise that we are on a treadmill taking us nowhere. And if that treadmill isn’t taking us anywhere, we must question why we’re on it. We must ask ourselves deep questions like ‘What am I actually doing here?’ ‘Am I just here to make money and still tell myself that I haven’t made enough?’ There will always be somebody richer, fitter, and faster than you, and if you’re coming to the game of ambition from a place of insecurity and lack of self-worth, jealousy is created because of these comparisons.


As we move out of the summer, many of us will feel more relaxed, more lateral thinking, and quite open to what’s coming next. But then, after just a few days back at work, we’ll be back on that treadmill, running towards a fictitious idea you’ve created for yourself.


So take a moment to stop and realise that you are on the treadmill and secondly, the secret to a successful future is a calm nervous system. When you are calm, you are able to be adaptable and creative and see opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise seen. When you’re always in a hurry and constantly anxious and frustrated, you can’t see solutions. But when you calm your heart and clear your head, opportunities will become available to you, which will actually make you more money. So you need to play the game of calming your nervous system to become more impactful in a changing world. Survival mode is not the skill you need for a changing world because it wants to control everything, and when the world is changing, nothing is controllable. Survival mode will only allow you to access a tiny percentage of your lateral and creative thinking. When you calm your nervous system, you will see your creativity increasing, your vision will change, your approach to things will become more collaborative, and you’ll become more friendly towards others. This is what the future is truly about.


I am an advanced meditator, so meditation gets me to the place where my brain becomes available and my heart becomes calm. That’s when I can start making difficult decisions. We also must heal trauma from our past. We need to understand what’s happened to us throughout our lives, re-engage with these traumas, and heal them so that we can understand that the skill of the future is emotional intelligence, not logical intelligence.


We must also realise that AI is commoditising everything around us – all services, all knowledge, all IQ – which means that the way we used to add value is no longer available to us. This makes people panic and panic because they’re addicted to certainty and stuck in a brainwave that tells them they are in survival mode. Meditation and healing trauma relax our hearts and unhook us from the past, allowing us to think about the future in new ways. If your future is predictable, it means that the familiarity of your past has not been healed. So, the trauma cycles keep happening over and over again. I am a futurist, but I’m starting to realise that there is no future because if we arrive at our future anxious and frustrated, what is the point?


To summarise, we need to redefine ambition for the months and years ahead. Ask yourself how you are evolving and elevating through the change process and how you are adding value in brand-new ways. How are you coming at your day in a state of curiosity and fascination rather than feeling overwhelmed? Then, you will become a new version of yourself, one where you add value in new ways, which means you can create new flows of success. This becomes paramount as we move towards 2024.


Words by John Sanei