How to pursue excellence and ambition…without all the negatives

Building Blocks: Actionable insights to build an Intentional Life

Hey everybody,

Here’s another batch of actionable insights to start your week off right, so you can be more intentional with how you live, work, and create.

Let’s get started.

​Insight 1: Practice groundedness

For many people, the desire to be more drives them to do more.

Before they realize it, they’re caught up in checking their emails during family dinner, staying at the office “just a little later,” and slowly allow their work-life boundaries to disintegrate until they’re virtually on-call 24/7.

So how do you balance being ambitious with all the existential angst that typically comes with it?

Brad Stulberg has a few solid strategies to help.

He’s a kickass executive coach, researcher, and best-selling author.

Every time I read Brad’s content, I forget he isn’t a psychologist because he has such a deep grasp of the nuances of psychology.

In this article, he highlights five principles to help you practice what he calls, groundedness, which is:

“The internal strength and self-confidence that sustains you through ups and downs. It is a deep reservoir of integrity and fortitude, of wholeness, out of which lasting performance, well-being and fulfillment can emerge. Being grounded doesn’t mean saying goodbye to passion, striving and ambition. It means leaving behind your frantic, omnipresent anxiety and finding a way to express your authentic self in the here and now.”

Brad does an amazing job combining ancient wisdom and modern science into evidence-based practical actions you can take today.

Give it a read if this is something you’re struggling with.

​Insight 2: Pursue mastery, not status

Why do we play status games?

The simplest answer is: Status is easy to measure.

A video that gets 50,000 views is “better,” than one that gets 10,000 views.

The entrepreneur who drives a $200,000 car is “better,” than the one who drives a $30,000 car.

The Twitter account with 100,000 followers is “better” than one with 500 followers.

Status is simple, concrete, and easy to compare.

But this constant comparison is a cancer to creators.

In a recent article, Lawrence Yeo shares a few thoughts on this modern plague:

“The tools we use to create and distribute our work have democratized the playing field, but they have made us slaves to the metrics of attention…Each domain wields its standard metric of progress, and by focusing on it intently, we gauge our work not by what we produce, but how it is received and measured…​

One’s position on the totem pole is always relative to someone else’s, so if you’re vying for status, you won’t ever be able to truly create things for your own sake. You will always look for someone else to elevate you up this pole, and will seek the admiration and approval of others to justify your position at all times.”

So how do we escape playing status games?

By pursuing masteryinstead:

“Status is obtained by collecting attention, whereas mastery is achieved by refining intuition. Status is always relational, so external validation is a prerequisite to feeling secure. Mastery, on the other hand, is gauged by your unique sense of progress, which can only be derived from within.”

If you’re looking for a reason to trust (and follow) your intuition and stop playing status games, check out Lawrence’s article.

​Insight 3: Redefine ambition

Is ambition a virtue, or a vice?

Depends who you ask.

For some, ambition is synonymous with hustle porn, sleazy sales practices, and neglecting your loved ones to chase more money.

For others, ambition means reaching their highest potential—however they personally define it.

Steve Schlafman is an executive coach, writer, and entrepreneur who’s struggled with both sides:

“One end of the spectrum led to burnout, anxiety, and addiction. The other led to negativity, cynicism, envy, and jealousy. I hated the way I felt when I would expose myself to anything or anyone that had the slightest scent of ambition.”

Steve needed a middle ground, so he could strive to be and do more without falling into the trap of more, more, more that leads to deep existential dissatisfaction.

So how did he do it?

By developing what he calls, holistic ambition, which is:

“An intentional desire to be, become or create something new, better or different that is aligned with who we are and what we value.”

Holistic ambition allows you to not only pursue excellence as an entrepreneur, but also excellence as a parent, partner, friend, spiritual practitioner, martial artist, and so much more.

If you want to redefine what ambition means to you and develop holistic ambition, check out Steve’s article.

It’s well worth the read.

​Question for the Week

What does excellence mean to you, and how can you better embody it this week?

​Coaching Corner

This week’s question is from Bethany:

“How do you know what to work on “in the meantime” while you’re working on a long-term goal, or trying to figure out what the right goals even are?”

These are two separate questions, but I think there’s a through line that connects them.

After you clarify your Core Value, the next step is to create meaningful goals with the simple question:

What goals move me progressively closer to a life aligned with my Core Value?

This is how you create the “right goals” you’re asking about.

But there’s another piece…

You don’t actually achieve long-term goals.

You achieve a series of short-term goals that eventually build toward an overarching long-term one.

It’s like the adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

So it’s less about what you should work on in the “meantime,” and more a question of is what you’re currently working on building to your long-term goal.

Hope that helps.

Got a question you want me to answer here?

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My goal is to help people be more intentional with how they live, work, and create.

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Until next time—memento mori,


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