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The 4 keys to finding ambition

Ambition is GOOD. Not only is ambition OK, it’s required for living a Rich Life. Read about the 4 keys to ambition, so you start meeting your goals.

Ramit Sethi

We’re told we should just be happy with what we have… but there’s a difference between being happy and being satisfied. I’m happy. But I’m still hungry.

Ambition is GOOD.

If you want to live a Rich Life, you must be ambitious. In fact, not only is ambition OK, it’s required for living a Rich Life.

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If someone hasn’t achieved success or reached their potential, others love to say that “they just don’t want it enough.” If only they truly cared, they say, they would obviously rise to the top, just like other people did.

Now, sometimes that’s true. I wrote a blog post on laziness because it really does hold people back. But often times, the issue isn’t a lack of ambition: It’s a lack of direction. We don’t know where to start to become ambitious.

Let me share how I think about ambition. This clip is from my Success Triggers course. Watch this — I think it’ll challenge your views:

VIDEO: How to Become Ambitious »

Now, let’s break down the 4 keys to ambition:

Ambition key #1: Create the environment for ambition

Are you surrounding yourself with positive people? People who not only support what you do, but who also have ambition to improve themselves?

For a lot of us, we don’t have anyone like this at all.

When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone who was interested in self-development. As I got older, I started to meet people who would read self-help books, who didn’t think it was weird to be improving their finances, career, health, or relationships.

Finding like-minded people changed everything.

Do you have those people? If not, brainstorm a list of 3 places you might find people with ambition. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • In an online forum around a topic you’re interested in
  • In an online course or community
  • At an offline class or seminar
  • At the gym
  • At an online or offline meetup in your industry

ACTION STEP: In the next 14 days, I challenge you to do two things:

1. Connect with ONE ambitious person. Join one of the communities mentioned above and connect with one ambitious person. You’ll find it’s much easier than you think.

2. Read ONE book about ambition. Pick something that will help you become more ambitious. It could be:

  • An inspirational book
  • A tactical book
  • A profile or biography of a successful person

(Not sure where to start? Pick up one of these.)

Ambition key #2: Set big, specific goals

I have hundreds of readers email me each week with their goals. They’ll say something like, “I have this web app. It has 1,000 users and by the end of the year I want to have 1,300 users.”

I’ll respond: “That’s it? Your entire goal is to go from 1,000 free users, to 1,300!?”

The fact of the matter is so many of us set these very tepid goals because we’re afraid of committing to something bigger. What if we fail?

A top performer thinks bigger.

Knowing how to set effective goals means you can actually afford to be ambitious. So instead of saying, “I’m going to run on the treadmill for 18 minutes,” trying saying, “You know what? I’m going to do it for 45.”

Succeeding isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would be successful. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean it also has to be confusing.

No matter what your goal is, someone has achieved it and laid out a step-by-step roadmap covering the major steps.

This is critical. Success can’t be an abstraction — it needs to be a PROCESS.

I sat down with my friend Noah Kagan, who is the master at setting and achieving goals.


VIDEO: Watch the counterintuitive way Noah Kagan sets his goals »

ACTION STEP: Watch the short clip above and then decide: What is your ONE goal? Write it down and add one step you can take today to achieve it.

Ambition key #3: Prepare for naysayers

Have you noticed that when you try to improve yourself, you get lots of weird reactions?

When I was in my early 20s, I wanted to dress better. One of my friends knew all about fashion, and I finally listened to her advice and went shopping with her. She was amazing — I’ve never forgotten how she taught me all these things in one trip:

  • “Don’t even look at the price tag until you know if you like it” (You only want to get a few key pieces, so focus on loving something first, then think about price)
  • “Wow, that looks AWESOME!” (I was nervous about trying on anything different, but her enthusiasm made me feel better)
  • “No, you don’t have to match your shoes with your belt” (Know the rules, but the very best break them all the time — on purpose)

Here’s the weird part: The first time I hung out with my friends wearing my new clothes, they looked at me like I was an alien. Any guy who’s ever worn something different around his friends will know the reactions I got. “Dude, where are you going?” “Are you gay?” “What is that, a cardigan?”

It took me a long time to get comfortable with that reaction — and that’s just clothes. Now I can wear a bow tie or a leather coat with crazy sneakers, and I love it.

Threw a luau BBQ today in NYC

A photo posted by Ramit Sethi (@ramit) on

I also rock a grass skirt.

Imagine trying to do something that’s even more “weird.” Starting a business. Reading different books.

In theory, all our friends and family want to support us trying new things. But when it comes down to it, how come so many people want us to be the same?

You have to remember why people argue with you when you start to become more ambitious. For most people, it reflects on them that they are not being as ambitious as you are.

ACTION STEP: Take your one goal from the previous action step. What’s the ONE area where the people around you might not be supportive? Specifically, what would they say?

For example…

  • If you change your diet: “Why are you eating like a bird? You should enjoy life”
  • If you decide to find a better job: “You should just feel lucky you have a job in this economy”
  • If you tell them you’re reading online self-development: “That sounds like a scam. Why would you read that?”

(By the way, if you’re your own worst critic, you can include yourself here!)

Then predict what the skeptics and naysayers — perhaps including yourself — will say so when they do, you know how to handle it.

Be specific. Include exactly how you could handle their skepticism.

Ambition key #4: Stay motivated over time

Motivation is always fleeting. So how can we make changes for the long term? How can we continue being ambitious when we don’t “feel like it”?

Instead of looking for a long-term fix in the form of “motivation,” you can make systematic behavior changes that you can sustain. I talk about the exact steps to take to stay motivated in my free video How to Stay Motivated Over Time.

Just enter your information below, and you’ll get instant access to this 6-minute video to learn the right and wrong way to use motivation to fuel your ambitions.

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