Our society gives importance to nurture ambition, success and to strive. To me, some kind of ambition is worth pursuing. Such as to pursue knowledge, education, or purse your interests, passion and some topic of fascination. If that leads to building a career which gives you certain material comfort – there’s nothing wrong in that. Hard work, discipline, and persistent effort to accomplish a personal goal, to perform well in school or at your job, to pursue an area of interest, to practice an art that you love, or to contribute something positive to society, is admirable. However, it seems to me that our society often goes too far in fuelling the flames of ambitious striving for external “signs of success”—status, prestige, fame, money, and power.
In a relentless pursuit of striving to achieve; striving to achieve success, striving to achieve perfection, striving to live up to expectations and striving to accomplish an endless list of things, what we do lose, often, is our own self. I’m not pious than anybody else and have no issues in admitting that from a fairly early age, I have been a striving, ambitious person. Not the sociopathic variety but more of a conscientious type, who tends to worry about doing well enough. Though, my own striving was and still is driven by internal interests, it so happens that the type of career that I have ended up in is like a pressure cooker, filled with other highly ambitious, striving types, who are rushing all around, all day with too many commitments and deadlines and barely a minute to spare.

I wonder what it is about me that more often than not, I find myself in an ocean of conflict dealing with this deep pursuit of striving to achieve and materialise my dreams to a selfless attitude of relinquishing striving and letting it go. Striving, as a pursuit, can feel invigorating at first, but when achieved, ironically, feels strangely unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Deep within, I have come to realise that once you are caught up in a rat race for external signs of success, then no seeming achievement can fill the bottomless pit of excessive desire. Even the idea of refusing offers that could potentially glorify the external signs of success seems fascinating but can be a hard path to walk on.

This conflict in me is reflected, I now realise as I don’t do it for fame, power, money, family, society, ambition, world, success or failure. I do it for me. I can’t decide if that’s good or bad.

In my pursuit, I have found that the journey back into self through this maze of strive, is to simplify life and achieve a sense of balance through inner peace and being fully aware of the moments that make life. One way to achieve this is to know where to know to draw a line and saying ‘enough is enough’ or even when to stop excessively obsessing about striving. A content man can be happy with what appears to be useless. By staying in a small place and associate himself with everything that is simple minus the imperial robes and royal carriages. It must be a beautiful feeling of freedom in letting go of all the grasping for prestige, status, and recognition.

In conclusion, if you fill your glass to the edge, it will spill. If you chase money and security, your heart will never unclench and if you care about people’s approval, you will be forever their prisoner. The content and calm from inside is he can be happy in whatever he does and wherever he goesWherever he goes. He knows when to stop. The local cook creating a meal with his own hands has as much honour in his eyes as a famous singer or a head of state. He has no profits to gain, no salary to lose, no applause, no criticism. When he looks up, it is not in envy. When he looks down, it is not with arrogance. Many look at him, but nobody sees him. Calm and detached, he is free from ‘consuming stuff illusion’, a dragon hidden among men.

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One comment on “‘be a dragon hidden among men'(or women)

  • Hi Rish – I think these are incredibly important topics. I’ve come across a couple of things recently, which I think speak to the point you make about striving to hit a target, only to experience anticlimax when it is attained. The first is ‘Finite and Infinite Games’ by James Carse, which discusses how the pursuit of material or social success are only finite games within the infinite game of life. Carse makes some interesting point, but I honestly think the core of his point is made more clearly (and succinctly) by Alan Watts, which you can find in this 4 minute video, ‘Life is not a Journey’ – //www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBpaUICxEhk

    You note that it was only after reflection that you could determine that you strive to achieve to satisfy yourself, rather than others. I think that is a very intricate thing to determine and something that all ambitious people (should) struggle with. Which of my goals did I put there? Which have I been burdened with by others? I think the most important thing of all, regardless of the balance any of us choose to strike, is to do what we do purposefully, and to appreciate how lucky we are to have life, to be able to experience and move about in the world. Wealth truly is a state of mind.

    You talked about education last week. I think you touched on this when you spoke of the importance of creativity and spirituality, but this determination of self-worth in absence of the external validation of material success and fame is surely going to be one of key things we need to get right in education if the tech-driven upheaval in the coming decades isn’t to lay waste to a large portion of our society.

    Thank you for all your thoughts.

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