A Balance of Ambition and Happiness

April 05, 2020

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

I love this quote by Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes, which I found through James Clear’s newsletter:

“…having an enviable career is one thing, and being a happy person is another. Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth. You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them. To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

Source: Some Thoughts on the Real World from One Who Glimpsed it and Fled

In the years leading up to writing Big Enough, this perspective became more real to me. I have always been ambitious and I continue to be. What has changed is the focus or desired outcome of that ambition. I came to see that I could be happy and satisfied by defining my own measures of success and pursuing what made me happy. For me, it meant thinking smaller and more home-based. It meant becoming more satisfiable.

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