Diaries Magazine


Posted on the 05 October 2020 by C. Suresh

 "So, what did you understand from what I said the other day about ambition and purpose?"

Huh! So, now I have to pass an exam on what I thought was an idle conversation? With an external examiner, no less, what with another friend looking on with that usual sneer on his face, expecting me to make a fool of myself like always.

"Um...that I should not be aiming to write if I want to eat."

"What did I tell you?" said the chap, indignantly, to the other guy. "If I use an analogy, the most I can hope is that this idiot will assume it is only about the analogy and will not even try to understand the underlying idea. Though, I did not expect he would make a hash of understanding even the analogy."

You know, it is dratted irritating when people talk about you in your presence as though you do not exist. Especially because it is invariably uncomplimentary to you.

"What the hell else did you mean then?" I asked.

"If I stick only to the analogy, I meant that there is a difference between wanting to be a successful writer and wanting to be a success and choosing to write as the means to that end."

There was a difference? Really?

My face must be very eloquent, indeed, considering that he seemed to get my doubt. Far more eloquent than my words had ever been.

"Oh, yes, it IS different. If you want to be a successful writer, then your purpose IS to write. You get satisfaction out of writing. Of course, you want to be good at what you are doing, get better at it and, so, you want to be successful AS a writer."

"So what's with the other thing?"

"There you have defined success for yourself - in terms of money, fame, whatever. Your purpose is to get THAT and you think that writing will get you want you want. If you want to be a successful writer, you keep plugging at it even when you do not get this money etc. If you only want to be a success, you try to write so you get what you really want OR you abandon writing for something else. YOU, of course, would only keep moaning about it."

The other chap interrupted and said, "In general, you were saying that his purpose may be either to be a writer OR to be a success. His ambition, in either case, would be a bestselling author, say, but his purpose would be different. To be a successful author OR to be rich and famous."

"Yes! And the same applies whether he wants to be a corporate hotshot or an entrepreneur or whatever. Plus, of course, the definition of success itself may vary. One may see the respect of his friends as success, another may see it as wealth, for example. And BOTH may choose to chase wealth because the former sees wealth as the means to the respect of his friends. So, for that guy, his PURPOSE is social respect but his AMBITION is wealth; for the latter both his purpose and ambition are wealth though, yes, progress in what he chooses to DO to get that wealth will seem like his ambition to him."

My head was swimming. I mean, I just sat at my laptop and went pitter-patter on the keyboard. These guys...I mean, come on, if I started splitting hairs on all these things, I'd never get anything else done. Not I anyway got anything done...it is the principle of the thing.

"Why didn't you say it like this the other day?" I asked. Not that I understood things any better but...

"My fault! I overestimated your intelligence."

I like that! Overestimate MY intelligence! THIS, coming from the guy who thinks my brain is so small that he actually tries to hear it rattling in my skull every time I shake my head!

The other chap - the external examiner - now intervened.

"You are underestimating the role of milestones here. See, most of these PURPOSES are such that you cannot handily measure progress. Social respect for example. How do you measure it...as in how many people wished you a good morning today and how many more did it tomorrow?"

Aha! The external examiner was now targeting the lecturer. Now was my chance.

"Or happiness, for that matter. On the basis of how many times you laughed yesterday and how many more times you laughed today?"

"Yes! So, naturally, you decide on some measurable means to achieve your purpose. Ambitions provide you with milestones that help assess your progress, a feedback system to know whether you are progressing in achieving your purpose."

"Quite," said the other guy calmly. "That, indeed, IS the purpose of ambitions. The point is that, unless you are clear about your purpose, you end up picking the wrong ambitions. OR, even, mix up your purposes and ambitions and chase ambitions even when it takes you away from your purpose. Like the man, who slaves day and night to make money for his family, only to have his spouse divorce him and take his children away because he hardly spends time with them! Which is what I was trying to tell this idiot the other day."

They both laughed. 

"You know, I don't know WHY you were telling him. If your purpose was only to expound your idea, fine. But this ambition of making this guy UNDERSTAND it...THAT is where you made your mistake."

The duo literally fell off their chairs laughing.

I really did not see what was SO funny about that!

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