How can I sustain my ambition?

Featuring Adrian Reyes of the "Driving Ambition" Podcast

Two exciting new things today:

  1. This is Gridology’s first-ever collaborative post! I’ve co-written this newsletter with a former colleague, Adrian Reyes. Adrian is the host of the Driving Ambition podcast, where he shares wisdom to help us all explore our success and recalibrate our actions towards achievement. Above all, Adrian is a great friend, role model, and salesperson. I’m excited to be writing this post with him today. I especially enjoy his content on Instagram.

  2. This is post number one featuring the new Gridology branding, which is still a work in progress. I’ve ditched most of the old colors and focused on making my visuals even simpler. Let me know what you think! Special thanks to Jack Butcher and his design class for helping me rethink my visual communication style.

And now, let’s talk about ambition with Adrian Reyes.



Adrian and I are both cut from the same cloth. It’s one of hustle, grit, determination, and ambition. We believe in maxims like “hard work pays off,” and we bring that high-level of intensity to all that we do. However, we’ve found that too much intensity and too much energy can actually start to work against us. Today, we’re writing about that phenomenon.

Hard Work + Determination = Success

Ambition is both ends of that equation. It’s not just success or hard work or determination alone. It’s the entire process of dreaming big, creating the plan, and making it happen.

Where both Adrian and I have struggled from time to time is finding ways to sustain our ambition. It’s great to work hard, but at what cost? Are we sacrificing our physical or mental health to pursue our goals? Finding sustainability in your personal and professional pursuits is an important factor in your ability to work hard for the long haul.

On the x-axis we have your energy level. Simply put, are you energized or feeling burned out about the effort ahead of you? Does the thought of doing the work give you joy or dread? When you’re energized about something, you should be able to work towards it no matter what. Your motivation propels you forward. Typically this happens most often when your ambition aligns with your personal values.

On the y-axis we have the vibes you’re giving off to the universe. Is your ambition being met with resistance or embrace by your partners or peers? When you work towards a goal, it’s important to be self-aware about how others perceive your energy and mood. Sometimes ambitious people can be met with resistance if their eagerness is misconstrued to be too intense. Other times the energy manifests in a magnetic way, rallying the people around you to support you and your goals.

Understanding the Grid

When sustaining our ambition over time, it usually requires working with others. Most really ambitious projects will require a team effort. Adrian and I both agree that you’re not being ambitious enough if your project can be done alone.

With that understanding, sustaining your ambition comes down to two things:

  1. Your ability to keep yourself motivated.

  2. Your ability to keep those around you inspired.

Ultimately, when you align your ambitions to your values, it’s easier to stay motivated and inspire those around us.

Speed Up

You are energized and are giving off positive, magnetic vibes to those around you. This very post is a perfect example of both of us operating in this quadrant. Here’s the story: on Friday morning, I messaged Adrian about this Instagram post (taken from The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha) on his Driving Ambition account:

WYA? 🤨
June 26, 2020

When we got to talking, we realized there was an opportunity for us to work together to create content for his podcast and for this week’s Gridology (Adrian’s been a loyal reader since week number one). So what happened here? Both of our magnetic energies drew us towards each other. We found alignment. What Adrian is building at Driving Ambition isn’t too far off from what I’m trying to build here: a community of thinkers trying to learn and improve. When you have a strong, deep-down understanding of why you are pursuing the projects you are, it helps recruit friends, colleagues, and distant connections to lean in and help. This is the ideal quadrant to operate within as it empowers you to enter a supported “flow-state.” When your inherent energy starts to naturally dip, your community is there to validate your intentions, build you back up, and inspire you to keep going.

Check Yourself

You are energized, but are giving off negative, off-putting vibes to those around you. Speaking first-hand, we both have been so excited about projects that our energy is actually off-putting to others. Colleagues have told us that they were nervous to start working on projects with us for this very reason. This is because our teammates received our excitement as overbearing intensity. In these cases, our energy—though coming from the right place internally—was met with resistance. An important distinction here is to note that we aren’t talking about haters, people who are potentially jealous, annoyed, or aggravated to see you thrive. We are talking about people who may be on your personal or professional Board of Directors. These are people who know you and have either signed up to support you (family, best friends) or are people who are going to have to work with you (colleagues). When these people feel like they don’t have a place to contribute on your team, it leads to failure. So, check yourself, and reassess how you can swim fast, but in the direction of the current… not against it.

Slow Down

You are burned out, but are still giving off positive, magnetic vibes to those around you. When you’re in this quadrant you feel like you’ve just drank from the firehose—you’ve done too much too fast. When you hear yourself telling others that “you’ve been so busy” or “you’re getting crushed” it usually means that your amount of energy expenditure has been unsustainable. It’s like you went out to run a marathon, but your starting speed resembles the hare instead of the tortoise. All this leads to the need for a vacation. In these cases, it’s necessary to slow down. When you’re re-energized, your community will be there to welcome you back and propel you forward. But, before coming back to your ambition, ask yourself how you allowed your energy to reach the point of burn out. Without this self-reflection, you will probably rotate between extreme bouts of intense productivity and extended breaks. Can you sacrifice speed for longevity and quality? Most of the time, the answer is yes.

Stop

You are burned out and are giving off negative, off-putting vibes to those around you. If you land in this quadrant, it’s time to reassess. It’ll feel obvious and apparent when you land here. You won’t want to do the work in front of you. Others will start to vocalize challenges in working with you. Here are some important questions you should ask yourself if you find yourself in this quadrant:

  • Why are you so exhausted from the effort?

  • Why were you even pursuing this goal or project in the first place?

  • Is this project off-brand or on-brand for you?

Asking these questions will help pinpoint the problem. Potentially, if you are working towards something that is off-brand for you then you won’t have the intrinsic motivation needed to keep going. There’s an imbalance between your pursuits and your values. Those around you can smell it, often before you can. This permeates in society as what Alex Ohanian calls “hustle porn”—a culture of devoting every ounce of free time to side projects, making money, or building influence. If you are feeling burned out and can’t find anyone to join you for the journey, it’s probably time to stop and rethink why.

Grid Shortcomings

There are 2 shortcomings with this grid:

  1. This grid assumes your ambition is a team sport. However, some projects are purely solo efforts. Do you want to learn, draw, read, write, or paint? How others perceive your energy, in these cases, are less relevant. Unless you need to work with others for your project to be successful, using this grid may not make much sense.

  2. This grid assumes you know whose opinions should matter. Here’s a metaphor to tie this point together: if you are having knee pain, you wouldn’t go see the dentist. Understanding whose opinions matter is essential to ensure you’re channeling your energy in an effective manner.

Above all else, remember that though you may be excited and energetic about your ambitions, that energy may have unintended consequences such as negatively affecting those around you. Being conscientious of how you come off to those you are trying to work with is an essential way to sustain your ambition.

Life’s only as confusing as you let it be,
Ross & Adrian


If you enjoyed today’s Gridology post, please consider forwarding it to your friends, family or colleagues. If you want more from Adrian, please subscribe to his show or give him a follow on Instagram. If you have any feedback or have other ideas you’d like me to tackle, just reply back to this note!