A World Of Possibilities: Ramblings On Ambition And Contentment

If any of my readers know me personally or have ever read my blog, they know, with certainty, I love my job. I feel like a fish in water or a pig in slop. My job is just so, well, meeeee.

When anyone asks me how to find out what they would like to do for a living – and I do get that question quite a bit- I respond with another question; “Who has a job/career that are you jealous of?” By jealous, I do not mean the horrid relational and destructive type of jealousy; rather I mean who has a job you would really like to have -a job you covet. When you answer that question -provided the job is at all realistic and not respond with stating you want to play center for the Lakers as an overweight, 5′ 2″ 36 year-old, well, then, you have the answer. (On second thought, have you seen the Lakers record this season? I may have to rethink my unrealistic job example).

Since the age of 18 I have envied Communication Studies (then Speech Communication) professors. When I sat in their classes, I would think to myself  ‘they are teaching the stuff I absolutely love and center my life around while GETTING PAID.’ Bastards, I thought -easy money for hanging with me. Yet make no mistake…they were teaching me loads in the process.

Then, years later, after wading through the waters of “other” endeavors, I became one. A verified and certified true Speech Teach.

This was a dream come true as I always thought I was not qualified.  I had to pinch my new speech ass to make sure I was living in reality.  I never lacked self-esteem though I did lack self-confidence. I suppose I loved and believed in myself yet somehow always seemed to set my goals and expectations far too low, never believing I actually possessed the skill set for such a position.

Damn was I wrong. I do. I really do.

So I have enjoyed the position of a full-time, tenured Assistant Professor for about 10 years now. I have heard it said that the occupation of professor has one of the highest job satisfaction rates. Duh.

On a personal level, we, essentially, have an empty nest as well.  I now have time in my life I have NEVER had. No more kids to run to games, coaching, parent-teacher conferences, etc…the list goes on. So now I find myself in a bit of a dilemma, tension as it were.

Do I now just lay in my deep tub of professorial contentedness and wallow in the waters of safety, comfort, and security? Or, should I extricate myself from the lovely tub and begin striving for bigger and better things, even within academia? I have blogged on similar topics before, yet this time I am specifically referring to the seemingly contradictory state of contentedness versus the process of creating some ambitious goals and objectives for life.

I am a firm believer that those who accomplish some of the greatest feats of humankind are those that possess an intense drive and hunger to succeed. They have internal motivational motors that dwarf the normal person. They are never satisfied with what they have and continue to strive and drive for more.

I am not that guy. Not even close. Never will be. I love being in the moment far too much.

Yet now I find myself asking the question as to whether or not I should take take one foot out of that aforementioned warm tub of contentedness and begin creating some more ambitious goals for myself.  Can one be both completely content in the moment and simultaneously ambitious and eager to strive for bigger and better things? Let’s face a hardcore truth about human beings: The more comfort and security one has in life, the more difficult it is to set ambitious goals that risk upsetting the contentment cart. Why eat when your not hungry? Why run when you are happy walking? Why wake when you can sleep?

I have heard countless stories (I guess ’cause I was not counting) of people who tragically lost their jobs…and it was the best thing that ever happened to them. Why? Cause it got them off their ass to begin the process of finding comfort and security once again, and they usually end up in a better place.

Now, hear me out. The last thing in the world I would want to happen to me is to lose my job -a job I love. Yet can I, can WE, have the gumption and fortitude to strive and drive while being so comfortable? I suppose every individual has to answer that question for his or her self.

In his excellent article on the same subject, blogger Brian Kim suggests that when we find ourselves in a state of personal contentment, a state I currently enjoy, it is time to take it to the next level and begin the process of striving to help others in need. He observes and asks the rhetorical question, “What if Ghandi strove for a million dollar paycheck and a beach house in Hawaii?”

Point taken. I guess we would have one less movie (I’ll be here all week!). It is time to be ambitious in a quest to make the planet a better place.

I like that.

I will now begin my journey to discover what ambitious role I can play in healing the planet. I realize I am only one small man in a vast universe and perhaps my role may be considerably small -even if it is just continuing to train others how to use their voice. Who knows?

In the meantime, it is a blessing to bathe in the warm tub of professorial contentedness as I begin to seek out a world of possibilities. My suggestion box is open.




  1. As the yoga sutras put it, once you’re fully absorbed and content in the presence of the moment, your worldly desires cease. Yet everything your heart desires, the needs of your non-material self, comes directly to you at that stage. So it’s indeed possible to have ambition because if that’s where your calling is then you’ll continue acting towards it and not think twice about it. The trick is to remember that society indoctrinates ego, brainwashes us into thinking we want something that’s really just a product of the mind and not of the heart/soul.

    • On what authority to the yoga sutras speak? Must you adhere to a Hindu type theology to assign credibility to their message? How do we know they are not full of shit? Explain grasshoppa. Love you.

  2. I think there’s a wide swath of difference between enjoying some time in the tub of (insert career here) contentedness, and wallowing in it. You’ve aced your parental duties (according to you, bwahaha)….that’s a freakin’ lotta years to be at some small people’s beck and call. You put many of your own wants and desires aside in order to shape the tiny human you brought in to this world. Don’t get me wrong, we do it because we want to, we love our kids. We’re proud of our kids. Don’t you think you DESERVE some time in the aforementioned tub??? Being able to relax and breathe will clear the mind and let new ideas in. One of those new ideas just might a new goal or ambition to point your life towards. Wallowing sounds more like stagnating to me. Not very appealing. And stagnate tub water?, even less appealing. Eventually the tub water will get cold and dirty, and things will get wrinkly. You’ll know when it’s time to get out.

  3. You are absolutely correct. Drawing on the imagery of the tub, knowing when to get out is the hard part. It is almost like a warm, cozy, comfortable bed on a cold winter morning…you know it is in your best interest to get out of bed and get your day going but it is some DAMN comfortable. Right now I am going through a transition where I have been staying in the tub/bed too long and starting to feel a bit “angsty.” Knowing when enough is enough is often times easier said then done as our spirit may be willing yet the body is weak.

  4. Correct me if I am mistaken, Jimmy, but I believe it was YOU who told us, your public speaking class, the story of an 85 year-old man who claimed that who he is as a person now, was not the same man that he was 5 years ago. Obviously the class was extremely baffled at the thought of an 85 year-old man still continually reinventing his thoughts and actions, but I believe this same concept applies here quite well. I believe comfort is something most people are constantly striving for in nearly all aspects of life, but once we reach a point of satisfaction and comfort, should that be it? Kick up your feet and call it a day? Once again that comes down to personal preference, but how are we to know we are the MOST comfortable we could possibly be? How do we know that we have truly found what brings us serenity in life? We cant, and we wont ever know a definite answer. I propose that we continually search for what brings us comfort and happiness, and that’s where the ambition should kick in. Now just because we want to search for something that may bring us greater comfort or happiness doesn’t mean we must stop what we are already doing. We can constantly search for something outside our normal routines or comfort zones while maintaining our lifestyles. Now I can see in a few situations where this wouldn’t work for some people, for example in a romantic relationship. But in reference to hobbies or occupation, why stop searching? I know a man who works as an optometrist and fell in love with his job right away. He explained when he first moved into his line of work that he couldn’t see himself being any more comfortable or happy than he is at his current job. Many years passed and the excitement of going to work every day still continued, he loved everything about it. The only difference was that he said he recognized how comfortable he was and that in order to grow as a person, he must search for new ventures. You might be wondering “did he quit his job?”, Helllllll no he didn’t! why would he? He had explained several times how at peace he was, but on the side he is now doing real estate, not because he needs more money, but because he recognized he wanted to know if there was anything else, anything better. So much like the old man in the beginning of my post, I believe we should continually search for more comfort (not obsessively, more like a hobby), and more happiness. So maybe the question should not be “can WE, have the gumption and fortitude to strive and drive while being so comfortable?” but rather, why not try something new, despite our comfort levels, despite our ambition?

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