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Sanity Notes #010- Rethinking ambition

How to navigate the tension between reaching high and living a more content life.

Matt Munson
Matt Munson
3 min read
Sanity Notes #010- Rethinking ambition
Rethinking ambition
Sanity Notes is a semi-weekly newsletter aimed at helping leaders feel less alone in the journey. If you were forwarded this email, you can subscribe here.

I would like my clients to think I spend more time reading books than scrolling on my phone. Some weeks that's true; others it definitely isn't!

Tonight, I found myself an hour into YouTube recommendations watching a Simon Sinek talk on principles of leadership. (True confession: most of the hour was spent on movie trailers and car reviews, what my wife jokingly calls 'car porn,' but Simon's talk caught my eye.)

The talk was great, but the thoughts that spun in my head were not:

  • Look at this guy speaking at the World Leadership Summit. What are you doing with your life?
  • I should be doing something bigger!
  • You are too lazy to get your book done

And my brain was off to the races.

To reground myself, I thought I would sit down and write. And now I have decided to invite you along for the ride!

My relationship with ambition has become increasingly complex in the past few years.

I spent my 30s founding and building a venture-backed company with a global customer base. As I have written about extensively, it was a wild ride.

Looking back, I was chasing a desire to achieve; I wanted to live a life worthy of the gifts I had been given. I wanted to prove, to someone, that I was worthwhile.

What level of achievement would make my life worthy?

I don't think I could have told you.

What level of proof would show that I was worthwhile?

I know I couldn't have told you.

My view of achievement has evolved.

A new lens on my own value

First, it now begins with my own value as a first principle. I have come to understand, in my early 40s, that I am inherently lovable and valuable simply for being.

I do not need to achieve to prove my worth. In fact, I no longer hold achievement as an end to itself.

Achieve for whom?

Achieve how much?

These questions no longer hold much weight for me.

A new lens on work

What I am more interested in is effecting change in the world around me that is an authentic expression of my truest self: expression which is in line with my purpose.

My purpose, as I understand it at this time, is to help others come out of aloneness and into deep connection.

I aim to effect that change at any moment where the opportunity presents itself:

  • With my coaching clients
  • In my marriage
  • As a parent
  • Through friendships
  • In a conversation with my Lyft driver

Trying to learn from my own mistakes

I spent eight years building my last company. And I made a lot of mistakes.

One key mistake I made was not aligning my work with a purpose I cared about. Another was approaching the work with a finish line in mind.

I hold ambition quite differently now.

There is not end game to our work at my coaching firm Sanity Labs. We know the change we exist to effect, but there is no arriving. And that is how we like it.

I have been fortunate to train with the wonderful strength coach Jerzy Gregorek. In our first session together, Jerzy said something simple and profound:

Be better every day. Be stronger tomorrow than you are today and next year than you are this year.

That is how I wish to hold ambition and impact in my life now.

I want to:

  1. Be clear on my purpose.
  2. Align my work with that purpose.
  3. Have more impact tomorrow than I did today.

Albert Einstein said:

Compound Interest is The Most Powerful Force in The Universe.

I can be deeply in touch with my own value. I can celebrate life just as it was given to me the day I was born. From that place of self-reverence and gratitude, I can seek to impact the world around me from my heart, offering the gifts that are uniquely mine to give.

As I do so, I aim to approach the work from a place of compounding impact where the impact is greater tomorrow than it is today.

From those intentions, I write.

From those intentions, I coach.

When I ground myself, I am clear. When I spin out on YouTube, I am often not. 🙃

If you find yourself feeling at times stuck in your own self-judgment, lacking clarity in your own purpose, or out of alignment in your work, you do not need to find your way alone. If I can be of help, please reach out.

I appreciate that you are here. If you were forwarded this email and it resonates, you can subscribe here.

With love from my desk in Los Angeles,


Looking for some support? If now is the time to consider coaching (or a CEO peer circle) reach out here.
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