If we’re going to do community well and take a genuine interest in others, there’s a land mine I have to warn you about: comparison. These days, it feels like all we see are people who are doing life better than us. You’ll never find your purpose by comparing your life to someone else’s. Don’t you dare hold up your ambitions to someone else’s and try to rank them like some kind of inspiration cage fight. All this said, you know what’s crazy? I preach this stuff every day to others and yet, I still find myself struggling with comparison. If I did one push up for every time I compared my ambition to someone else’s ambition, I’d be totally ripped. When it comes to comparison, don’t do it and don’t fall for it. Comparison is punk.
Paul wrote to his friends and told them to live a life worthy of the calling they had received. In other words, aim for your own target, not everyone else’s. If you want to do something honoring for God, stop trying to be someone else and go be you. Figure out your ambition. Own it. Take aim at it. Pull the trigger.
Confusing someone else’s dream for your own, or thinking your dream should be more like theirs, will cost you the prize. God made you gifted at some things and you stink at others. Run your own race. We can tie our hearts together without tying our shoelaces together.
We all have wonderfully different ambitions. Putting aside evil, morally wrong, harmful or unjust ambitions, our part isn’t to score or handicap the ambitions of others. Tend to your own fire. Don’t get on the same page; get on your page. If you want to restore a plane, climb a mountain, or create a new element on the periodic table, mazel tov. Don’t worry about building consensus; get busy building that rocket ship that was supposed to be your life. If you find someone who wants the same things, you don’t need to sync up with them and pursue agreement. Just delight in knowing you’ve found a kindred spirit. Sure, be likeminded. Be “one” the way Jesus said He wanted us to be, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that “oneness” means sameness. It doesn’t.
Whatever dreams are bubbling up in your heart, there are probably a few people who have done something similar. It’s easy to fall into the trap that you have to do things the way they did. It’s tempting to think that had an easier path than the one you’re facing. Chasing after your dreams requires clear-headedness and wide eyes that accept the specific path in front of you, not the path that was in front of them.
There was a guy named Aaron who worked at my law firm for years as a paralegal. I asked him about his ambitions, and he told me he really wanted to be a lawyer. Here was the problem. He didn’t have three years for law school; he had three kids and a wife. He also didn’t have two hundred grand to spend on tuition at a fancy law school. Here’s what we did. We went to the State Bar Association in Washington. I explained that I’d been teaching at Pepperdine Law School for a decade and was pretty good at it. We asked if we could have our own law school with one student — Aaron. It was like we had done a Jedi thing, because they said yes.
For the next four years, all of the lawyers at my law firm took turns teaching Aaron law school. We all got hoodies with the law school name on it so we knew we were official. Graduation day came and we made Aaron give the valedictorian speech. He was also last in the class. Get this. Aaron took the bar exam and passed it. He was as surprised as we were when it happened.
He got his finale. He didn’t take the traditional path but still ended up at his intended destination. The world is going to tell you there are only a few ways to achieve your ambitions, but that’s simply not true. Comparing your path to someone else’s or assuming you have to do it the way someone else demands will rob you of a pretty great adventure.
If you want to find more purpose in your life, if you’re looking to find your own ambitions, help others find the path forward with their ambitions without comparison. Stay in your lane with your ambitions too. It will be a little scary and your family won’t understand when you’re getting together at Thanksgiving. But you’ll know you’re on the right track.
People don’t often applaud the twisting journey, but they can’t deny when you’ve crossed the finish line. Grab a few friends, buy a unicycle or a pogo stick and get headed in the right direction. You never know, your untraditional approach may just inspire someone else to do it with a hot air balloon or a hover board. Plus, you’ll build a bigger community of people who care less about what the world thinks and more about what their dreams can actually accomplish in the world around them.