In this episode, we tackle the issue of ambition. What does it mean to be ambitious?

Some of the highlights from our discussion:

Society has a pervasive effect on how we value certain people and activities, affecting what we value as ambitious. If we limit ourselves to looking at ourselves through the lens of what society values – notions related to ambition – we miss out on other things. Some activities are considered inherently more ambitious than others. It is often based on arbitrary things that society values and is often based on zero sum games that are useful or helpful.

Ambition is often discussed as a trait that people might look for in a life partner. Ali argues that it can be good for an individual’s self-development if their friends are ambitious. If you are surrounded by friends who all want to do ‘big things’, that ambition is going to rub off on you. But many people probably haven’t thought about what we mean by an ambitious partner and Taimur argues that the only thing that should matter is to be living your life fully intentionally both in the short and the long term.

Living life intentionally and adding value can be more important than being ambitious. These facets can often be conflated as living life intentionally can equally be considered being ambitious but framing these activities in this way perhaps comes with less societal connotations than words such as ambition and ambitious.

Ambition may not be a virtue but being ambitious can lead to virtuous outcomes. For example, even ambitions which don’t necessarily add value such as trying to become the best in the world at chess, leads to developing critical thinking, logical thinking, perseverance, practice, self-improvement, dedication – therefore someone who is ambitious in whatever regard is going to have knock on effects for the rest of their life.


Listen to Not Overthinking for free:

What is this? Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.


Follow Not Overthinking on Twitter: https://twitter.com/noverthinking.

Who are we?

Ali is a junior doctor and YouTuber working in Cambridge, UK. He makes videos about medicine, technology, productivity and lifestyle design. His links: YouTube, Blog, Newsletter, Instagram

Taimur is a data scientist and writer, working on his own startup Causal. He writes on his blog and as a columnist for Medium. His links: Blog, Twitter, Medium, Instagram