How ambition isolates us

Hollywood loves to pave over isolation. We’re too sensitive to endure its cousins – loneliness, sadness, misery – and it lacks the dramatic power of montages, or the pleasure of seeing a lifetime condensed. Even those that do explore it – such as the depiction of John Nash in Beautiful Mind – do so in easily digestible segments, and which are usually romantic and revelatory, quirky and charming.

We’re not comfortable with physical or mental solitude because we’re not comfortable with sadness, anxiety or depression. But ambition necessitates long periods of solitude. Achievements don’t come from a catalogue of marked points on a timeline, but by the arduous hours spent complicating your goals and your dreams, bound by self-torment and frustration for not yet having ‘made it’.

Solitude is both positive and beneficial and, for the ambitious, necessary. You won’t spend your time contemplating possible X Factor winners; you’ll devote yourself to self-reflection – nurturing an unbreakable and myopic vision for the future that sets you in the crowning chair.

Ambition isolates because it comprises a unique vision – yours. This won’t be shared. And amongst the unambitious, it won’t be understood. Many people are frightened of change, of risk and of pushing beyond an unwritten remit. These individuals acquiesce to limit.

It’s not just the time you’ll spend physically alone, working away beyond reasonable hours to satisfy a goal, but the mental isolation earnt when trying to pioneer a path far from the community’s warm glow. Ambition makes you different; passion and dedication elevate us.

Isolation may not be a great sell if you’re looking to dramatize entrepreneurialism, but by omitting it we’re underselling achievement.

Elon Musk has frequently discussed the importance of focusing on a single task, and the danger of ‘context switching’. We frequently hear of inventors and artists isolating themselves to be free of distraction, as a prerequisite for dedicating themselves solely to the task at hand, or neglecting their friends and loved ones. Herein lies the power of solitude – to unilaterally concentrate on an objective unhindered by the world at large, without obstruction and free of what’s usually regarded as ‘living’. It’s seen as negative to the outsider (and we’re not saying neglecting loved ones is a must-do) but invaluable for the individual.

Context switching isn’t the end of the world. Leaving a goal alone and venturing out or focusing on a different task are great ways to reinvigorate and protect your mental health. But if you’re having to become an unnatural self just to feel connected to the people around you – there’s an obvious question to be asked: is the issue with you or with them? Ambition is meant to be celebrated, but sadly the requisite conditions for ambitious and entrepreneurial pursuits aren’t attractive to the spotlight, leaving you more curiosity than pioneer.

Everything’s romantic at sunset. When the credit rolls and the road is already paved, the journey can be easily packaged in an inspiring narrative. But that’s the fiction of ambition, and it’s not how success is achieved. Ambitious individuals experience a lifetime of necessary isolation, to see the world anew and refuse a ceiling imposed upon their aspirations.