Open letter: To my friends trying to make ends meet

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Open letter: To my friends trying to make ends meet, and the irreverence of ambition.

No matter where you are, and how far you’ve come, simply remember, you did not get here alone. Whether for better, or for worse, a large part of our story of success, or failure, depends on those we choose to surround ourselves with. The trouble is, more often than not, we pursue the idea of surrounding ourselves with people we want to be more like, whose characteristics and virtues (or vices) we wish to emulate.

At the heart of it, this basically suggests that we are, by ourselves, inadequate and that our own virtues and characteristics are not worthy to be emulated, so we must become more like someone else. Instead, why not be around people more like ourselves, or people that seem nothing like us at all. At worst we find common ground and build support systems based on shared experiences, and at best, we acquire new perspectives, or gain more certainty about who we individually are, how different we each can be, and what we truly want, and need, out of life.

In a time when most choose their friends based on what they do, how exciting their lives seem, or what being associated with them could do for their personal well-being, the trade off of confidence, self-worth, and general reliability couldn’t be more obviously lacking. It makes for many temporarily and unsubstantial relationships, and worse partnerships in this sharing economy of budding entrepreneurs and startups. The alternative? companionship in complete strangers, or being a recluse? Neither bad nor unconventional in their own right, but to people such as ourselves with ambitious spirits, these are mere trivialities distracting from our life’s work.

And rest assured, ambition is such a fickle friend. I’m sure many of you can attest. It’s that inseparable friend you met in high school or college, lost touch with after graduation because of the rigors and realities of the real world; the friend that’s always in the back of your mind, and that you never really quite forget. Just when you consider unfriending or unfollowing them because too much time has passed, they re-enter your life in spectacular fashion, as if no time had passed at all. It’s fickle in the sense that it can’t quite decide when it’s done with you.

Ambition doesn’t care that you now have what you’ve convinced yourself is a stable job that pays the bills and affords a little financial freedom to indulge in little luxuries every once in a while. It doesn’t care about your family, that you’re married, and maybe have kids. You were already married to ambition, fathered and mothered opportunity, success, and even failure way before your family even knew what kind of person you were, or could become. It doesn’t care that there are only 24 hours in a day, that maybe you can afford less than half of those hours. Ambition demands that you find the time or make it. Ambition is Master Yoda riding you like Luke Skywalker, beating you with his cane, screaming, "Do or do not, there is no try!" It certainly has no regard for your health. Coughing and hacking up a lung is an inconvenience, at best, when you’re hustling on your side grind after your day job, well past midnight; all the while your significant other tosses and turns in bed, hoping you’ll join them soon.

Whether you are that social butterfly, or resolute recluse, at some point the only friend that matters is ambition, and it only favors the bold and the merciless, and any other restless souls you happen to know haunted by it.

The questions we all must eventually face are these:
Will it all be worth it? Will it all be worth it in the end? The people I thought I knew? The people I thought would be there no matter what? The late nights and long hours, the emotional highs and severe lows? Is this what it means to make it? Will I finally be happy, in the end?

Richard Hackman