Ambition according to Jack Ma

I recently read an article about Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba.com. In this article Ma is quoted: “You are poor, because you have no ambition.” He also listed four reasons why people are not successful.

1. Being myopic to opportunities
2. Looking down on opportunities
3. Lacking understanding
4. Failing to act quickly enough

This actually got me thinking all the way back to high school. In high school we feel as if the world is this giant place that we can conquer. Of course, there is a lot of fear; fear of the unknown. Up until now we have had our parents and teachers wrapping us in a comfortable safety blanket. During this time, we are taught right from wrong and shown a linear path to ‘success’. In order to buy a nice house, car and clothing one must first educate themselves and upon leaving that institution of great knowledge you will get a good job that will provide you with enough money so you can live a decent life or even great life for that matter. Now, this formula has worked very well for many. There are many successful people who have followed this blueprint and will tell you look at me I am an example that this is the way to go. I did it the right way, like all those before me. I am living the dream.

I remember the first week of University so clearly. There I was unsure of what I would find or what I wanted to learn. All I knew was this was where I could make it happen. As excited as I was I knew something was missing as I picked out my first round of courses. Some people know early on in life exactly what they want to be. They enter university with a mission and every choice is tailored to meet this goal. For me, it was different. Sure at times I thought maybe I would go into medicine. Who doesn’t want to be a doctor? Not only would I make a good living I would enjoy the prestige that came with the title. The only issue was, I knew this was not my passion. There was no way I could stay the course when it came to this demanding yet rewarding career path. I believe that we must do the things that we are passionate about. Pick things that no matter how hard it may get we will stay committed because we are rooted in the belief that this is what fits us and where we ought to be. I knew right away, when I sat through my first class, this was not the place for me. There was a world out there and I needed to find something that fit me. Of course, I loved learning and would often spend my time in the library going up and down the stacks looking for old books to read. For as long as I can remember I always had my nose buried in a book. Nothing excited me more than the magic and fantasy words can create. But there I was, in my current state of academia which told me that I mustn’t stray from the norm. That although my thoughts and the way I see the world is great this way of thinking is not valid unless it agreed with my professor and some philosopher/theorist I had to study in a book. For four years I followed the formula and I drank the academic cocktail. By the time I left not only did I think the way they taught me I also wrote the same way. My mind was no longer my own because at the end of the day if you want the grade you must do as they do say and say what they say; so I did. Upon graduation I left feeling drained, yet optimistic that I would soon find my self a nice job.

What I didn’t know then and I sure as hell wish I did is that I was allowing myself to be limited by the thoughts of others. I was also giving up opportunities to do other things that strayed from the norm because I was mentally locked into a formula of what I believed would lead me to success. It took a good year for me to realize this and there I was on a new journey to learn a new way. A new way to be the person that I should be and what this meant was living the life I visioned for myself. I knew this wasn’t impossible because while I was busy studying in school I had friends who chose the path less taken. Took opportunities that may have seemed grim to others and turned them into great beginnings for themselves. I saw the comfort this gave them. Knowing that the career path they had chosen was where they wanted to be and they thrived. I wanted to thrive in the same way. Sitting in an office answering to someone all day didn’t interest me. I knew I could no longer be an extension of someone else’s dream. I knew I had to be the master of my own.

Now, going against the grain is not an easy task. You will constantly fight the internal battle within yourself. Why? Because this was not what you were taught. In my case I will have to say though, for the most part my parents are not the type of people to follow any conventions and are living a life that they had dreamed of. I am sure there was a time where they came to the same crossroads I was at and with pure faith and determination they diverged off course and into a life that suits them. So this is where I was, trying to figure out what was next for me. I already knew office 9 to 5 girl would never fulfill me. It left me depressed and dull inside. While I was locked in this perpetual state of misery little sparks of hope would come my way. Whether we believe it or not we are always given a way out. Opportunities will come our way that can change our lives for the better. So when Ma says being myopic to opportunities is a sure way to prevent your success. I have to agree with him. Some opportunities don’t glitter in the beginning and it’s easy to only see what’s in front of you and if it doesn’t look all that great we don’t act. I have done this many times. Oh the opportunities I have given up for the silly reasons I told myself. What a difference it would have made had I opened my mind and taken the chance. You can’t live in the past, but you can learn. Learn to see unexpected opportunities as something that has come to you for a purpose. Figure out how to use those small sparks. Learn as much as you can. If you don’t understand what it means do your homework and it’s okay to learn by doing; you will never experience great new lessons unless you try. No one knows everything or really anything at all. It’s all trail and error but eventually you will get it right. No opportunity is too small for you. Step outside of yourself and drop the ego. Your giant ego will cloud your vision and stifle you if you allow it to dictate all your decisions.

Ma had an idea 24 people heard and only one person told him to take the chance. Thankfully that individual did. His success story is a reminder that the impossible is your friend and not an enemy to steer clear of. The only enemy is you. If you aren’t living the life you want and I say this with the best of intentions; it’s your fault. I know there are circumstances that block our way or prevent us from doing certain things. Just as much as I know this is a reality for many. There is another side of the spectrum where you may be the person who is living in fear and holding onto your own excuses as to why you’re not satisfied with your life. You know it will take a bold move. You have had an idea for a long time. It’s not easy and maybe a few friends have told you to forget it. What do they know? Really?! Ask yourself that and the truth is they probably know as much as you know…nothing. Just know that doesn’t mean that in time as you take the plunge and go for it you won’t acquire knowledge because you will. Learning is best done by something very simple: action. Learning by doing and also learning by asking those who were bold enough to live their own dream. Success is not limited to only a select few…wait it is. It’s limited to the select few who are willing to fail many times over to get where they needed to get. The one’s who in spite of all the nay sayers or long bouts of brokeness (not a word I know) kept on going and did it anyway. Trust, me it’s the best feeling when you feel comfortable in YOUR own life. The one you have crafted and designed.


Photo Courtesy of: Niki Saint

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Hanifa Sekandi

Founder & Editor-in-Chief Follow Me on Instagram @thethingsiwishiknew

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