Blind ambition

I feel the need to throw out a warning message. Concerned that some of you guys are missing some critical understanding. Hope I can pull this one together.

Today my youngest daughter turns 15. That’s a big deal. She qualifies for a learners permit. She separates herself from the kids who don’t get to drive and joins the other gazillions of people who do. She is also a high school student this year. Dang. This is a big year for her.

It’s also a big deal for me. Why? Because I see this one.

Somehow, I seem to have missed some of these big milestones with my previous 15 year old. The one who is now 23. The one who I don’t see everyday but want to. The one who had a daddy with his head firmly shoved somewhere that didn’t receive sunshine. I missed out on a whole lot of things for about ten years.

Blind ambition.

This is a phrase I never associated with myself. Not until recently. Not until I was able to step back and see my life from the outside. I always assumed it meant someone who was so desperate to get rich that they were oblivious to the world around them. Never considered myself that guy.

Ambition is simply a drive to achieve a particular goal. Money, success, achievement, etc. That’s all. Not bad of itself. It’s good to have goals and a certain degree of ambition. It’s good as long as you have your priorities locked in place.

I didn’t.

Blind ambition is when you pursue something with such focus and desperation that you are not capable of seeing anything except your goal and stepping stones to get there. It usually means complete sacrifice of everything that isn’t directly connected to that goal.

My blind ambition was in finding purpose and meaning. I needed my life to count. I needed to find work and a position that made my life matter. I had drifted for years, but felt like the work with my church was an open door to making my life valuable.

Give me a minute here and I may be able to give you your life back. Follow this.
1989: I was married to the woman of my dreams.
1990: My first amazing daughter arrives.
1991: I became a Christian. Quit smoking pot. Cleared my head, developed some ambition.
1992: We left our hometown to start over. I end up on church staff and working with a youth ministry. Combined 45-50 hours each week. Ambition and pursuit of purpose has begun.
1994: We move again. Once more, pursuing purpose. Join another church.
1997: Recording school and another move.
1998: Move back. And my next little girl arrives. And we start a production company. And we buy a house. And I take on a staff position with our church. And I start traveling with the first AV crew and prison ministry. Combined average for the next four years, 75-80 hours each week. Plus gone from home about two weeks every month.
2002: Add producing a major Christmas production, and another 250 hours to that schedule.
2003: Left church staff under extreme stress and burnout. Present 15 year old was four then. She thought I lived there. Move over to the second AV crew. Back on the road again.
2008: Fallout with owner, two year vacation from road work. Stressed out. Still missing purpose. Aware that years of developing a company is wasted. Been building something for the family that nobody else wants to be a part of. Burnout, depression, anger building for ten years is at the surface.
2009: Boom. Miscarriage costs us another child, realtor loses the perfect house we are trying to buy, oldest daughter married and gone, wife has had enough of me. Divorce papers.
2010: Intense marriage counseling. Complete restructuring of my entire life and priorities.

Twenty one years after getting married, I found my purpose and meaning.

It was her. She was there the whole time. The kids, too. My family. My most important asset, almost lost, because I didn’t understand.

We take on careers to support our family. We get lost when we begin expecting the family to support the career. It’s never about the job. That’s just a job. That’s doing what we have to do.

Do your job well. Do it right. Make the money. Make the logical choices for your career. Yes. Do all that. But do it to benefit your family, not replace them. The job will end. The contracts runout. The job skills change and we are replaced with fresh blood. The current skills become old school techniques and we become relics.

Jobs are for a season. They don’t comfort you when you are sick. They don’t give you children. They don’t satisfy the deepest parts of you. They provide a check and an opportunity to express your talents. Enjoy them, but don’t ever let your work take priority over your family.

Every deep desire and craving inside can be met by loving and meeting the needs of your family. If you are demanding that effect from a career, you will ultimately have the pleasure of experiencing the same pain as me. I allowed myself to make choices like a single man and almost became one again. I drug my family all over the country pursuing my purpose without considering them.

My life, now, is the opposite. My purpose is them. Making life good for them. Making decisions based on their desires and needs. Making them understand that their needs are more important than mine. That change put me where I am now. The best place of my life.

It’s a very different life. It’s a life I should have had twenty years ago. If only someone had told me. If only I had been willing to listen.

I write these blogs for the men who will listen. Mostly younger guys who are in the early years of their family and career. Mostly guys who aren’t so old and hardened that they can’t accept advice or correction.

Take the advice. Choose the better life. Don’t let a church or job steal the best of you, leaving scraps for them. I did it. It sucked. I allowed the wants and needs of my church and job to take priority over my family. It cost me a lot. It cost them a lot.

I have a lot of great memories from my years in production. I experienced so many amazing things. But I would trade them all to get those years back with my wife and kids.

One Response to“Blind ambition”

  1. Kim A. Jackson
    September 16, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Erik, Great advice! As an older sound guy myself, I have struggled with many of the same issues. Lucky for me, the Family always won the battle. My production company has stayed small and we do mostly local work with only a few jobs requiring overnight stays. My oldest son has even been on the crew. At 16 he could read lighting and stage plots. Now at 20 he follows his own dream. (automotive) I support him as much as I can.

    Keep writing and I will keep reading!

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