Ambition breeds a particular kind of frustration, and the more ambitious you are, the larger it looms. Without like-minded peers, ambitious people become suffocated by life — chained by tall poppy syndrome and the dogmas of complacency.
As social creatures, humans need to feel validated by their peers in order to go all in on who they are. We become like the people around us, so it’s hard to sustain ambition in a complacent environment. This is why actors move to Hollywood, musicians move to Nashville, and basically every podcaster/biohacker/Internet-writer type lives inside a twelve-mile radius in Austin, Texas.
Moving in search of ambitious peers isn’t a new idea. It’s why Ramanujan, one of history’s greatest mathematicians, went to Cambridge. At home in India, even though he showed a divine aptitude for math, he flunked out of school and hid under a cot because his parents disapproved of his obsession with math. Though he taught himself number theory by working through problems in a borrowed textbook on his own, he knew that his genius was ultimately constrained by a lack of ambitious peers. And so, he wrote to Cambridge mathematician G.H. Hardy to ask for help getting his work published. Once they met, everything changed for Ramanujan.
See, ambitious people don’t just need peers. They need mentors. They need people who will encourage them to pursue hard and meaningful projects.
In college, I felt insane for being driven and obsessive. The anti-dedication environment drove me nuts. My ambition was only validated when I arrived in New York City and met people who exuded the kind of heart and hustle for which I’d always been called crazy. The people I interviewed on my North Star Podcast became many of my peers.
Paul Graham, the founder of Y-Combinator and the low-key God of online writing says “Ambitious people are rare, so if everyone is mixed together randomly, as they tend to be early in people’s lives, then the ambitious ones won’t have many ambitious peers. When you take people like this and put them together with other ambitious people, they bloom like dying plants given water.”
Fight to find your kindred spirits, even if it means moving across the world like Ramanujan or staying in on Saturdays to write on the Internet. The more ambitious you are, the more consciously you’ll need to cultivate your social circle.
Ask yourself: Who do I need to surround myself with?