The Problem With Ambition


Today, I sat in front of the piano and played it. Nothing special, just a seriously wobbly version of ‘Solfeggietto’ by C.P.E. Bach, a piano arrangement of ‘Nutshell’ by Alice in Chains and learnt the intro to ‘Seasons of Love’ from the musical ‘Rent’. What’s the big deal about this? I’m a musician after all.

Well the thing is, I haven’t actually played piano in months. Several months. Way too long. This is someone who has been playing for piano for 16 years, did all my grades, studied music composition at University to Masters level and wrote and released a piano album.

A week ago I started to tell people I was going to leave the band. “WHAT? Why?” some would say. I don’t think I actually gave two people the same answer. Things ranging from ‘it wasn’t working out’, ‘it’s not really successful’ to ‘it doesn’t make me happy’ or ‘I want to concentrate on other things’. In a way, it’s all of those things, but then, so much more too. If I gave the ACTUAL explanation to everyone, I’d have had to cancel all of my lessons and put ProPlus on drip for the recipients of my musings on rational thinking and metaphysics. I guess I’ll just post it here instead. See it as a kind of therapeutic outlet and chapter closing spewing of thoughts.

I’ve always been ‘ambitious’. I arrived on the first day of university hell-bent on being a film composer and my single-mindedness led me to not enjoying it one bit. I would often dismiss lectures or work as being irrelevant to my chosen career path. I got bored very easily and often became frustrated. I had a result in mind that I was after and chased it without any thought for the actual journey.

In 2005, I joined Le Monnier. I started as a drummer and after line-up changes became the guitarist. When we started recording the first album is when I switched my single-mindedness to this ‘project’.

‘Commercial Success’ was now the desired result and I proceeded to spend almost all of my spare time in front of a screen promoting, building and creating things that I believed would get us there. There was a ‘must succeed’ mentality in the band, but I took it too far. It became an obsession. ‘Blind obsession’ is an oft-used and accurate phrase. When the result becomes the only thing that matters you are blind to the journey. You are also blind to whatever successes you have in your life that aren’t relevant to the desired result. I have an amazing job, nice flat, good car, more Apple technology than is actually healthy and amazing parents who seem to drop whatever it is they are doing to help me with another one of the problems that occasionally seem to come up. But when you are obsessed with the result, you forget about that. You are blind to it.

Seven years after we formed, 2 albums, 6 music videos, hundreds of pounds spent on promotion, it hadn’t really worked. So I left. I left because I didn’t think it will ever be successful and I still don’t. The possibility of emerging through this uncertain world of music with commercial success is remote and would provide a frustrating journey to try and get there. In the case of being in a rock band, ambition shouldn’t mask the ‘fun’ element of it. For me, it did.

It’s fine to have ambition. It’s great to have targets and aims in your life but ambition isn’t limited to a result you have pictured in your head that may, or may not happen. If you pursue ambition in an obsessive, life-depending fashion, whether you get the result you want or not, the entire journey to get there has been wasted.

A “result” is a conclusion. The only real result of life is of course, death. Choose a path, not a destination. See where it takes you, it’ll be more fun.

So back at the piano, I’m working on a piece I started writing 3 years ago. I’m a better pianist than I am guitarist so it baffles me why I neglected it for so long. Equally as much as it baffles me why I chased something and didn’t enjoy it as I was going along. I don’t know what path I’ll choose next, but I’ll promise myself to enjoy it and not focus on some indefinite point of time in the future.

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