Ambition vs. Contentment: The Fine Balance

If you follow the NBA even casually, you’ve probably heard of Kyrie Irving’s request to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers. And, perhaps more importantly, you’ve also probably heard the vastly different responses of various commentators, players, and coaches. Some say that Kyrie is out of his mind for wanting to leave a team that’s gone to the NBA Finals the past three seasons (and are highly favored to do so again this year), others say that he’s making a smart move due to his fervent ambition to be the face of a franchise, and still others say that if he’s not satisfied with his vital role on the Cavaliers then he’ll never be satisfied. All of these are valid points, but it begs a question that I believe many people wrestle with: what’s the right balance between ambition and contentment?

The media sends us mixed messages about this. Some channels promote being content with where you are, being at peace in your surroundings, and every now and then there’s something about “zen.” Other channels will blast more motivating content, telling viewers to take no days off, to always be reaching for bigger and better, and to never be satisfied with where you are. What these channels often fail to communicate, however, is that neither contentment nor ambition is better than the other. Rather, each is immensely beneficial in the correct time and place.

As those who’ve listened to the Hamilton (The Original Broadway Musical) soundtrack already know, Alexander Hamilton was an extremely ambitious man. Whether it was on the battlefield or a piece of paper, the first secretary of state always did his best to better America, even skipping family vacations in order to do so. In all of this, as indicated in the song “Satisfied,” Hamilton was truly never satisfied.

But he was in other areas.

When it came to his family, Hamilton was the most content person in the world, basking in the growth of his children. As a matter of fact, Hamilton was more than content; he was happy. He loved his family more than anything else in the world, and, both before and after the whole Reynolds Pamphlet debacle, his primary sense of joy was in them.

This is the balance between contentment and ambition. Ambition is beneficial, necessary even, in many areas of life. And in each of these areas, be it work, school, or sports, those with the greatest ambition are rewarded for their tenacity. At the same time, however, there are parts of life, such as family (so long as it’s in a good place), where people need to be content, and not let their ambitions in other areas get in the way of this contentment. This is difficult to do, and everyone’s balance of ambition and contentment will be different. But if you can find and maintain this fine balance, you might just be content with life overall.

– J.P.

P.S. – On a (totally unrelated) side note, I think Kyrie should stay in Cleveland…unless he goes to my hometown Timberwolves. With his addition, we would have a SQUAD.


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