💪 Letter 134: My Letter to Ambition
How Sleep, Exercise, and Friends fuel and enable me on this ambitious & joyous journey called life
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Aloha fellow learn-it-all 👋
Greetings from Honolulu, Hawai'i 🌺
What a beautiful world we live in with faint rainbows like this one. Sending (virtual) hugs to you all, for this holiday and every day, because why not ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I’ve felt a lot of pressure to perform lately allowing stress to get the best of me. On the road, biking and running preparing for my triathlon. In my job trying to learn how to engage middle schoolers. To be able to cook meals without screwing up for potlucks with friends. To coordinate enough plans with a friend visiting.
I’ve felt a snowball effect of feeling like I might drop all the balls if I drop one. It felt very cathartic to write this week’s letter to you all. It surfaced some spots that I’m going to give myself permission to focus on without worrying that I’m failing somehow. I hope you find it even partially as valuable as it was for me to write it.
Now, let’s dive into letter 134 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!
❓ Question to think about
If my Ambition were sitting across the table from me, what would I say to them?
Let’s let the ships out of the harbor.
I can’t keep this bottle on the shelf any longer. I feel like I haven't been clear with you and what I expect – although you know me and how much I value personal development, growth, and keeping an open mind. You can be stressful. I want to figure out how we can partner together without tapping into the Anxiety, Ego — or nights without Sleep. I don't want to worry you, but I've got to get this off my chest.
I am doing enough!
Shut up already.
You’re needlessly shaking my life like a soda can about to explode, and sometimes I can’t take the pressure.
It’s the end of the year, and your whispering voice is everpresent in my ears. It’s distracting and overwhelming and quite frankly feels unfair. I feel like I will never make you happy enough. I can never live up to your standards of greatness and the story of the untapped potential within me.
I know a few years ago I was naively following your lead, striving to climb the corporate ladder of management consulting. You’ve always wanted to drive me down the road to success, but you can’t guide me there alone.
Since my layoff, this road has been rocky and meandering. I feel like you see this lack of a clear distinct path as a failure. In actuality, it means there is more freedom for us to define our own unique path.
Yes, this feels daunting, risky, and in some ways plain out reckless. That’s why I'm asking for your help to make this feel less anxiety-inducing and worrisome. We live in a utilitarian world where many humans define each other’s worth by work and money, but I want to venture off with you and find some other way to define what life can look like.
You are different from Prestige and Ego. These are pressures for a glamorous reputation or fulfilling a societal expectation full of the hideous word should. I don’t want to be focusing purely on accomplishment all of the time just because you tell me I should.
You are my motivation, where I get the energy to do things I never imagined, like becoming self-employed or moving my life to a rock in the middle of an ocean and restarting my whole social circle from the ground up.
I used to see you in my life as a part of me craving to fit into this world for outward appearances. I now see how you are actually the vehicle that allows me to dare to live a unique and fulfilled life.
But to drive this vehicle, we need to think about the long term — and what's worth committing to now.
That is no easy feat, I realize. You're not alone. I can support, and feed you, but I also need Sleep, Exercise, and Friendship. These may seem counterintuitive to you, but I promise you’re not getting left behind. I still welcome you to sit in the car next to me — but Sleep, Exercise, and Friends need seats too. I ask that we reset boundaries on how we can drive together. We are all wanting to drive down the same path toward a life well lived.
I want you to understand how rest is important. You can't leave Sleep behind at the bus stop. Without my dear friend Sleep, I cannot be my best version. I won't be able to persist for very long. If I can’t sleep well now, my body and brain won’t fully be recharged to achieve what you’ve set me out to do tomorrow.
We can’t forget about Exercise. It’s just as critical. If you’re firing away all day at my brain — disconnected from my body — then my body will be restless come night-time as frustration and insomnia creep in. My arms and legs cannot be neglected with my glutes glued to a seat, like a cheetah trapped in a cage. My body needs your attention just as much as my brain.
Friends are important too. I’m not getting behind in my career when I spend time with people I care about. Friend time is rejuvenating. Sometimes I can learn more about myself and the wider world by making progress without forcing progress. I am a social and creative being, not a cog on a production line. As the African Proverb goes, “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”.
Sleep, Exercise, and Friends are not counterproductive to you, Ambition. They fuel you and enable me to accomplish all that we’ve set out to do together while making the journey joyous.
Let’s get after it,
(still ambitious) Jen
I've been staring at a road
Too scared to follow up
Even as the sunset descends on me
I stay unmoved to change the view
Of where it leads
This is one of my favorite songs to run to. It’s calming yet channels my ambition to keep on going. Lane 8 is the stage name for Daniel Goldstein. He is an American musician, electronic music producer, and DJ currently residing in Denver, Colorado. He is prolific in his music creation and puts out an album every other year. Wow!
🔎 Word to define
Ambition: An eager, and sometimes an inordinate, desire for preferment, honor, superiority, power, or the attainment of something.
A strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.
mid-14c., ambicioun, "eager or inordinate desire for honor or preferment," from Old French ambicion (13c.), or directly from Latin ambitionem (nominative ambitio) "a going around," especially to solicit votes, hence "a striving for favor, courting, flattery; a desire for honor, thirst for popularity,".
Rarely used in English or Latin in the literal sense. In early use in English always pejorative, of inordinate or overreaching desire; ambition was grouped with pride and vainglory, and sometimes meant little more than "arrogance." The neutral or positive senses are modern. The meaning "object of strong desire" is from c. 1600.
🌟 Quote to inspire
"It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement." -Isocrates
📷 Photo of the Week
I’m competing in my first triathlon race in less than 48 hours. I’ve never done something like this before. I’m scared. I don’t feel ready. But then again I don’t feel like I’ll ever actually feel ready.
My wise brother told me on a call yesterday to instead frame it as a triathlon experience rather than a race. I can go in with the mindset of it being something that is fun rather than some serious competition that I need to worry about.
To Ben Schneider for flying over to Hawaii to spend Thanksgiving with me (for the second year in a row) and reading each word of this newsletter out loud with me multiple times. I appreciate your friendship and editing skills!
To Michelle Varghoose for her structural feedback on this letter. Check out her Substack on moving from Corporate to Creative.
To Paul Millerd for chatting with me about ambition and shaping my outlook on it.
To Russel Smith and Chris Angelis for contributing to many polishing edits to this letter.
I appreciate you reading this!
If ideas resonated, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet. If you forgot who I am, I welcome you to my online home.
Never stop learning 😁
PS - if you missed last week, I wrote about how Derek Sivers taught me how to live
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I love the letter to your Ambition!
“These may seem counterintuitive to you, but I promise you’re not getting left behind. I still welcome you to sit in the car next to me — but Sleep, Exercise, and Friends need seats too.”
You did such a great job articulating a struggle I feel often which is can I be ambitious, and get rest and pursue something a bit unconventional? You’re right, they don’t have to be at odds :)