Diaries Magazine

Of Ambition and Purpose

Posted on the 28 September 2020 by C. Suresh

 "You know, people never really understand the difference between ambition and purpose."

Why me, Lord? Why do people think I am not only interested in this sort of thing but will also show an intelligent interest in what they say? Me, who has never really understood the need for either ambition or purpose to lead a life. As far as I can see, saying that you have a need for an ambition or a purpose is about the same as saying you have a need to feel stressed.

As usual, that agonized look on my face is taken for incomprehension and not for pained disinterest.

"Ambitions are generally related to what you aim to GET. Purpose is all about what you want to BE."

"Be rich," I said.

I was seriously scared at how red his face went. He looked like he would swell up and burst.

"When I say 'Be' I mean what sort of person do you want to become. Not this...this frivolous nonsense. Just because you say 'Be Rich' instead of 'Get a lot of money' doesn't mean that it becomes a purpose."

One of the things about people who start on their pet topics is to allow them to run their course. You can oppose them or ridicule them if your idea of a pleasant day is to pick fights with people. Me, I am all for a quiet life.

"So, you were saying..." I said placatingly.

"Look, when you say you have an ambition, what you mean is a goal to shoot for, where you can measure your progress along the way. Which, invariably, means that it has to be in terms of acquiring things...either money or position or power or even fame."


"Purpose, though, goes to WHY you do what you do. Your motives for doing things."

I HAD motives? I mean, yeah, if I eat it is because I am hungry so I suppose THAT is a motive. And because I want to continue eating...

He snorted. "How do I explain thing to a dumb...Look, You want to be a writer, right?"

I nodded, vigorously.

"Why? Is it because you like writing so much? Or because you think it will make you famous? Or because you can do it sitting at home at your leisure and not have to handle conflicts with people which can happen when you work in organisations? Or..."

Ye Gods! This guy can keep going on and on. And, really, I mean is it not a bit of this and that and the other? Does anyone really have only ONE reason for his choices. Like, say, I only want the money but not the fame? Or I like writing so much that I do not care if I earn enough to eat or even become so poor that I lose the respect of my friends?

I said as much.

"True. But what is the deal-breaker for you? THAT is the sticking point. If the fame is what matters the most, then you should understand that for every one writer who gets fame, millions will go around saying "My book has been published" only to have even close friends saying, "Ho Hum" and switch the topic to Bollywood rumors. Will you STILL want to write?"


"Look, if your PURPOSE is fame, your ambition is to become the next Chetan Bhagat, then you need to see if an ambition to become the next Shashi Tharoor or the next Visweswarayya or some such is better. Because, WRITING itself is not your purpose only the means to an end. If your purpose is MONEY, then you may as well go to a job, as a means to THAT end writing is as good as trying to win a lottery. If..."

"I get it," I said, hastily, just to get him to stop. He seemed prepared to go on till the cows came home. "But, now YOU are saying getting money can be a purpose..."

"I really have to spell things out for you, right? If you are looking for fame or money as your primary goal, you want to be the sort of person who is looked up to in Society. If you are inclined to writing well, you want to be the sort of person who is looked up to by your peers or the sort of person who takes pride in doing a good job. So, it is got to do more with what you want to be be, than what you want to get."

Sounded like nit-picking to me but then...

"But...I mean, really, you do need some money etc etc right? As in, fine, even if I have money to live off, you cannot keep the respect of your social circles and your friends if...well, can there be anyone who will be willing to risk sacrificing all that because he wants to WRITE? Is it not..."

"A friend is supposed to be one who makes you comfortable in your own skin. Not someone who makes you feel that you ought to dress up in borrowed finery to impress him."

Hmmm...I must seriously consider whether I need THIS guy for a friend! I cannot remember the last time he made me feel comfortable in my skin.

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