Passion vs. Ambition

passion |ˈpa sh ən|
noun• an intense desire or enthusiasm for something : the English have a passion for gardens.

ambition |amˈbi sh ən|
noun• a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work : her ambition was to become a model | he achieved his ambition of making a fortune.

My equation of the above: (Passion) Pleasure in an experience versus (Ambition) Course of action to achieve desired results/satisfaction.

I used to think of ambition as a brilliant human survival contrivance. Its what pushes us to the leaps of imagination – a natural progression of life. When achieved, it can bring respect, praise, financial enjoyment, luxurious privileges and even power .

On the other hand, passion is self-satisfactory. It describes a sense of feeling, a sensation, an enthusiasm. Ambition describes a determination, a commitment – almost a disciplinary course of action.

Meaning to say, if you are passionate about art, you will enjoy the sense of pleasure derived from the experience. If you are passionate about money, you will enjoy spending it but you might not necessarily enjoy making it (89% of the work force hate their jobs). That is where ambition comes in. Ambition is that innate force that helps feed your passion. In other words, you need passion to achieve your ambitions but you don’t need ambition to foster passion. Ergo, passion over ambition.


When I was much younger, I imagined enjoying the kind of outlandish success that only a child can. “I’ll be on billboards!” I’d brag to my friends. “Everyone will be wearing my name on their t-shirts!” TMKL. Tercia Marie Kuala Lumpur in reference to the established ‘it’ fashion brand of (at that point of time) Donna Karen New York. I was convinced I was made for bigger things. That I’d take over the world. I’d have private jets, sleep on soft shredded notes as a mattress and eat as much Skittles as I wanted.

Of course, slowly as I grew out of that naive ToysR’Us meets Smurfs-are-real stage, I developed a more realistic approach to life in a I-might-not-be-famous-but-I’ll-make-my-dad-proud kind of way. Which then progressed to a dad-might-not-approve-this-lifestyle-but-at-least-im-a-good-person kind of way.

Now I can safely say that my dad is somewhat proud of me and I am a good person (for the lack of better judgment) but I have lost that innate need to conquer all the same. In fact, I have left my ambitions behind in pursuit of happiness. I have always wondered since, where did my ambitions go? How will I ever achieve happiness without ambitions? I’ll just be stifled by a monotonous life, drink regularly, marry an accountant, have kids and die. Eeeeks. How morbid!

For the past 2 years I tried nurturing some sort of ambition. Have a 5 year plan. Earn more to gain more in order to live more. I was such a delusional wreck. Its only recently that upon stumbling on some new found passion that I realized I could do without the ambitious hoopla and still live a fulfilling life. Rather hippy-esque ainnit? But honestly I can’t visualize myself wanting things that others want and measuring my success to theirs. I’m pretty much just me and I’m fine with that.

I’m fine having 10 bucks in my bank if I can travel regularly on my pay cheques. I can have a shitty car as long as it brings me places and I don’t need to have crabs every weekend (I do because I can, not because I need to). I don’t believe in saving (which is the biggest tell-all-sign of a hippy’s mantra) that’s why I’d rather splash my hard earned money on things I like and enjoy doing. Of course my spending habits have been better managed since financial savvy M’s influence, so I do save some for rainy days BUT I don’t horde my wealth. I will not be petty if you’re $40 bucks short when the bill comes. I’ll buy you something on an impulse should I feel that the top or necklace is “so-you!”, without expecting anything in return. That’s just the kind of person I am. I see something I like, I buy. If I see something you like and I can afford it, I buy. Obsessive consumption. But lets make things clear, I don’t earn to spend. I spend my earnings. To me its like, I work my butt off for less than my worth, I might as well live my worth. I don’t count my pennies. I spend my dollars but I can still indulge in life’s simple pleasures. You still with me?

(Side note: Simple pleasures – though subjective if ones simple pleasure is getting food on the table versus spending USD3.99 on an iphone app versus taking a private jet to watch the final FIFA match in S.Africa. True story – though not mine. Point being, the term “simple pleasures” describes a highly subjective pyramid of myriad pleasures. Don’t pull out the World Vision card on me now. I know I’m spoiled in my own ways. I’m just saying, I need some, I just don’t need a hell lot.)

Which brings me back to the topic at hand. I guess I’ve reached a stage in my life now where I’m taking a stern look at ambition and I find myself somewhat revolted by its competitive, narcissistic and ruthless nature; used as an egoistic device to shamelessly flaunt ones achievements.

Perhaps I have since my younger TMKL days, met many ambitious characters. They are high achievers but they are not successful (to me) – in terms of character. Though they drive nice cars, get paid in fat cheques, own fancy and expensive things; they lack basic human compassion, ethics and the much preferred genuine act of generosity versus exhibitionism of generosity. I have noticed that the driving ambition that propels these people to build business empires can result in a different kind of madness: a loss of reality, a rampant folie de grandeur and a shattering moral compass, which leads them to prop up repulsive regimes and influence governments for selfish gains – hence my last post.

When ambition is exclusive to one common goal, it can sadly be a narrow thing, especially when it is channeled exclusively towards work. You can be passionate about a job – I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t try to get a raise or advance in the career ladder – just don’t loose your heart in your ambitions. What are your ambitions? Whats the driving force behind that? Money being one of them, I’m sure. But at what cost? How many people do you need to screw over to get there? How many friends do you need to betray? The loved ones you choose to leave behind?

In achieving your ambitions, the saddest thing is to have no one to share your success with. Ambition’s venom can remain benign as long as it is constantly examined; if not, you may find yourself lost in it and one morning wake up to a stranger staring back at you from the mirror – lets hope that by then, you’re not all pruned up, ripe for the pickling.

I like the idea of a broader strive, not merely to be successful in a monetary sense but to find passion within the things I do for work, pleasure, love and life. Everything else is a bonus.


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