The One Quality that Beats Ambition

The title of this post may cause you to believe I’m against ambition. Far from it. For those who know me personally, or especially those who know Michelle and I as a couple, you know that ambition is something we value considerably. I love working hard, pushing myself, and to quote the retail chain Lowe’s, “Never stop improving.”

For me, ambition is not about making more money or rising the ladder of influence. My friend Steve Carter recently shared a quote I keep thinking about: “When you anchor your life in Jesus, you have nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and nothing to hide.” I’m trying hard to live by that.

My ambition applies to weird things. I recently updated my Apple Watch (a “vintage” generation one) to the Apple Watch generation six that just came out. When I checked on the trade-in value for it they let me know that they would recycle it for me. There were quite a few improvements in those five iterations which I noticed immediately. One of them is how good the activity tracker has become.

It’s become a new goal of mine simply to close each of my activity rings each day. In case you’re unaware of what I’m talking about, one ring tracks 650 calories of movement, one tracks 30 minutes of exercise, and the other tracks 12 hours of standing for part of the hour. I even have another app that tracks my streak of closing all three daily rings.

I linked up with a couple of friends on the app and started sharing my stats as well as seeing what they are doing. Then I noticed a new feature I’d never seen before: “challenge a friend.” Of course, I had to hit this button. This week I finished my first head-to-head challenge with my friend Tyler. Michelle laughed at me as I literally paced the airport terminals before our flight yesterday to get steps counted.

You may think, “Wow, Jeremy has an ambition issue.” But I’ll let you in on a little secret… this isn’t about ambition. These days I’m pursuing something far more than ambition and I believe the payoff is exponentially greater. What is that thing?


I want to try new things, I want to learn new things, I want to be genuinely interested in the people around me. Most importantly, I want to ask better questions. I want to think less of what I know and more of what I’ve yet to know. I’m committed to ambitiously pursuing curiosity.

Curiosity—not merely ambition—is what prompted me to challenge my friend Tyler to a week of physical activity. What is an activity challenge, and how does it work? Would I like it? Would it ultimately be good for both of us? Would I absolutely ruin Tyler’s self-esteem like that time I destroyed him in NBA Jam? Sure, my ambition played a significant role in why I often logged multiple workouts on some of the days last week. It also played a role in how he put up points against me in a “dance workout.”

But the driver of ambition takes a backseat to the driver of curiosity. Curiosity makes a better goal than ambition. It will take you further and shape you more.

Ambition gives you something to prove: “Show your value by hustling more than anyone else.” Ambition gives you something to lose: “Keep at it or all you’ve built will be lost.” Ambition even gives you something to hide: “Don’t let them know the real you or you’ll never get ahead.”

Curiosity doesn’t. Curiosity tells you there’s something new to learn, something new to be experienced, a better you to discover. It tells you to downplay what you already know and elevate the perspectives and insights of others. It helps you find peace with yourself.

Curiosity tells you to read books about things you disagree with or don’t understand. Curiosity minimizes the fear of stepping out of your comfort zone. Curiosity helps you listen to people more than trying to get them to understand you. Curiosity gives you the courage to become a novice in something you’ve never attempted before. Curiosity encourages you that it’s healthy to change your mind on a regular basis as you grow. Curiosity always prompts you to the next step.

Curiosity makes you better. It will also help you connect on a deeper level with others. And in case you’re wondering, I won’t tell you who actually won our weekly challenge. For that, you’ll just have to be curious.

Curiosity makes a better goal than does ambition. It will take you further and shape you more. Share on X

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co.