The Awkwardness Of Aspiration

I was all by myself.

At the far side of the atrium, some staff headed out, bags slung on shoulders. Others clanged shut the legs of folding tables while concocting evening plans. “Glad today is over.”

Not for me it wasn’t. The day had dragged on. It was late. I was the last speaker at TEDx Salem 2020. The auditorium was full, but I was in a hallway behind the stage, alone, under the crushing weight of my own thoughts.

Me: Maybe you shouldn’t be here. Maybe you’re not ready to give a TED talk. You don’t want this. You don’t need this. Could you fake passing out? Could you tell people you came down with food poisoning?

Also Me: Wait. But I’ve prepped for months. I’m ready. These are just nerves. I’m going to be fine. This is my moment.

Me: To bounce!

Also me: Stop it.

I’ve documented my TED Talk in detail here, but what I didn’t share with you was this mental house of horrors that lasted for fifteen minutes before an assistant came out and said, “We’re ready for you.”

How could it be that I wanted this thing so bad and also didn’t want it at all? Was it just illogical fear or was my motivation truly out of whack?

I’m guessing you’ve been there too. There’s this thing you want to do. You might’ve even told others out loud that you want it. But there is another thought you have buried in a vault somewhere near your amygdala that says, “I might also not want this thing. Am I crazy?!”

You’re not crazy.

Aspiration is strange because we’ve been flooded with varying examples of what we should try to be, have, or do with our time on earth. Depending on where you look, “success” can mean different things.

Success is affluence, or beauty, or crushing it.
No, that’s not it. Success is sleeping when you’re dead, or is it sleeping in?
Hold on. Is success “work hard, play hard,” or is it “work smarter, not harder”?
Or is it not working at all?
Nonsense! Success is selling. It’s creating. It’s attaining.
You shush, you! Success is letting go. It’s flow.
Nope nope nope. I got it. Success is about influence and impact.
Bollocks. Success is freedom and focus.
You’re all wrong. Success is doing lengthy stretching routines on balconies in Bali.

Is success about the “do” or the space between the “do”?

Is it about standing out or aligning within?

Is success hitting “publish” or is it the claps we hope to be showered in?

Bananas, right?

What we wish we had is unwavering conviction; an obelisk of purpose in a meadow of possibilities.

You know, like the people who feel they were born to do “x”.

But that rarely, if ever, happens because motivations are as layered as a Katz’s Deli pastrami sandwich.

And yet, we must sift through this thicket of desire to do anything at all.

The work is two fold. We have to figure out:

  • Are we running towards something or away from it?
  • Which motivations are ours, and which ones are those of society?

Dueling motivations aren’t a zero sum game if you know how to play it.




Marketing Dude. Traveler. Author Burrito lover. Avid Leaper. TEDx Giver. Copiously curious. Regular blower of minds.

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Bassam Tarazi

Bassam Tarazi

Marketing Dude. Traveler. Author Burrito lover. Avid Leaper. TEDx Giver. Copiously curious. Regular blower of minds.

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