The difference between ambition and a pipe dream

I was trying to figure out what it is that makes some people and their dreams magnetic.

You know how it is – some people, they talk and you’re watching them speak about this vision they have, and you can feel the power behind what they’re saying. You think to yourself “This person is going places, yo. And I can’t wait to see that.”

Whereas when others have equally-awesome or equally-big ideas and I listen to them talk, I find myself thinking “Yeah, I get it. Whatever.” At first I thought it was excitement – but no, that’s not quite it. Then I thought maybe it was just a matter of sheer charisma, but I don’t think that’s it either. Excitement and enthusiasm and charisma are great things to have, but they aren’t this mystery ingredient I’m searching for here.

I’m mentally going down a checklist between two people I know in specific, trying to figure out what makes Y’s plans and attitude so attractive to me, but X’s so yawn-inducing. I was thinking about ambition specifically, and thought “But X is ambitious too! They have some really awesome ideas!”

And then it hit me – “Oh yeah. X doesn’t have ambition. They have a pipe dream.” 

Ambition is hot.

A pipe dream? Not so much. Not to me, anyways. You can dream big? That’s awesome, but I want to know how you’re going to turn it into reality. When you constantly talk about something you’re going to do but you don’t take any actual action towards, you know, doing it, we’re going to get disillusioned. We’re going to think “oh, here they go again, all talk and no action.” Or even “this is a really cool idea, I wish they’d do something with it”. We’ve all seen someone like that, who has a classic case of SOGOTP syndrome. (That would be “shit or get off the pot”. You can thank my backwoods Missouri heritage for usage of that super-classy phrase.) It’s not a good look on anyone, even though we’ve all been there at some point – whether for a business project, a difficult conversation or confrontation, a family trip, or what have you.

There’s one of three endings to this scenario: 

  1. You realize you’re being all talk and no action and you actually take some action.
  2. You realize you’re being all talk and no action and…keep talking.
  3. You realize you’re being all talk and no action, ask yourself “why no action, self?” and then realize you’re afraid, or don’t actually need to do this thing, or whatever.
Numbers 1 and 3 are outcomes I’m down with. Outcome #2? I don’t want that for you.

Worried you’re suffering from SOGOTP syndrome?

Think about the way you talk about your ideas. Do you have no idea what your first concrete step towards that plan is? Do you use a whole hell of a lot of “someday”s and “maybe”s and “one day”s? Do you have steps to take? Do you know what those steps are? Do you have a start date, or at least an end date?

If not, you don’t have ambition. You’ve got a pipe dream. 

PS: There’s no problem with dreaming big without having a detailed plan, at least at the start. And knowing the “what” but not the “how” is at least knowing something. I’m not knocking figuring it out as you go along, but sweetie, you have to take some freakin’ action somewhere along the line. 

Photo credit: ilkin

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