A Conversation with My Mother

It was the day after my birthday. I was sitting in my bedroom thinking about work. Then my mom walked in. My mom is one of the few people in the world who can have one look at my face and know that something is on my mind. So she asked me what was going on…. I said I was just thinking of work stuff, and the following conversation took place:

Mom: So you’re 30. Are you happy with what you have achieved by age 30?

Me: Yeah I guess I am. Just every now and then got stress from work.

Mom: Of course you have stress from work. You chose to be an entrepreneur. Everyone has stress but an entrepreneur’s stress is different from that of a professional. But you have so much to be thankful for so don’t worry about having to deal with whatever stress you have.

Me: Yeah I guess.

Mom: You know you’re really lucky to have what you have today. You have a good business, a great family and good health. What more can you ask for in life?

Me: Maybe to be a billionaire someday?

Mom: No… don’t think like that.

Me: Why not? Isn’t it good to be ambitious?

Mom: Society expects us to be ambitious and never stop trying to get bigger and bigger from whatever we have achieved this far. But that’s wrong… there must be a limit somewhere. There is an optimum amount of ambition needed in each of us. Anything beyond that is bad because then you will never be happy no matter what you achieve. You will always keep trying to do more and more and when you can’t, you get disappointed in yourself. Why do we have to always be ambitious? Why can’t we just be happy?

As I sat on my bed that night I pondered upon the wisdom my mom had parted unto me. That yes it’s good to be ambitious but being ambitious means never being satisfied of where you are and always looking to achieve more. If we’re always ambitious… then will we never be satisfied? And if we will never be satisfied … then will we never be happy?

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  • feliciapeh

    I personally believe it’s all about finding the distinction between complacency and contentment. Knowing what’s worth pursuing and fighting for and knowing which battle has been won.. For instance, many people spend their whole lives searching for an equal partner while you have found a lovely one who even bore you a beautiful son, all before you turned 30. That’s real happiness and contentment. At the same time I’m sure you would still have certain goals to achieve but I wouldn’t call that ‘ambitious’ but rather ‘motivation’.. Motivation keeps us alive, having something to live for. nnFurthermore, I always believe that when God blesses us abundantly, He is giving us the capacity and ability to bless others. So I thank you for leading by example, as you are definitely put in a position that could inspire and impact people in ways exceeding your understanding 🙂

  • Ling

    A very inspiring post 🙂 sometimes wealth cant buy you happiness 🙂

  • Eunice

    If you are one very inspiring person, your mum must be a hidden goddess!!!

  • Adele

    Wow thanks Tim.nYour post always inspire me and now its my turn to continue thinking about MY plans and ambitions in life. nn:)

  • Anonymous

    Your mom sure is right! Love this sentence ‘Why do we have to always be ambitious? Why can’t we just be happy?’ Very impactful sentence!

  • Phil

    Hi Tim, thank you very much for sharing this! I wrote a blog post based on what your mom said. very inspiring!nnhttp://philipyongkc.blogspot.com/2014/06/is-being-ambitious-key-to-happiness.html

  • sue

    Your mom is a wise lady. Theres so much in life that we will not be able to achieve all…so….just be happy ☺

  • KC

    Thanks for the article, Tim! I think it’s a very inspiring article especially coming from someone as successful as you. My bf might not be as successful as you but he’s probably the most ambitious person I know and I sent him this article. He said the last line really hits him. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    ‘The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; nThey just make the most of everything they have.

  • Vy

    Wise words…

  • absolutelybd4

    Wow..wow…wow…thats really a very very wise word from a mum…i really enjoy reading yr blog as u r so real whenever you blog on it..keep it up and thank you being such a inspiration person for us…

  • jazz

    That’s a very inspiring post! Thank you for sharing. I guess society makes everything competitive and as such, everyone is always thinking about achieving more, yet sacrificing happiness or even family time for it. Thank you for sharing, it really sets me thinking of what I really want to achieve in life and yet to stay happy at the same time. nnThank you!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Tim, very wise words from your Mum.It got me thinking – what is happiness? How do we know if we are truly happy? Would love to hear your take on this.

  • eveline

    Hi Tim! Thankyou for sharing! You have a very wise mother. 🙂

  • this reminds me

    this reminds me of the suicide of Madison Holleran. She was pretty , smart , athletic and ivy league educated but she chose to suicide because she wasn’t happy with just ‘great’.

  • Flora C

    Your post reminded me of a part written in the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’ In the past, people focused on things like integrity, humility, courage, justice, patience, simplicity and modesty. But the view of success now focuses on public image, possession and career achievement.

  • chung

    Life is either growing or dying. – Anthony Robbinn

  • sgrmse.

    brilliant. i wonder if your mom hangs out with my mom because more, of late, i seem to be having this same conversation with my mom, too. nni always tell the boy friend moving on & up in life is kinda like climbing mountains. sure, reaching the peak is important & accomplishing but just always remember now & again to stop & drink in the moment/s.nhaving said that, once you’re done with one mountain.. it’s just on to the next. & when you feel you’ve had enough of climbing, just pick a mountain & retire there forever (‘:nnthat’s when you tell yourself you’ve achieved all you wanted in this life & then just make peace.ntake the time, relax. enjoy. & let the rest just unfold..

  • Anonymous

    I readier words as count your blessings and with continuing efforts and humble attitude, you will be there naturally and happily. Don’t stop counting your blessings. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    This is totaly true!

  • Meowmeow

    Sounds like some buddhist philosophy and teaching…. “Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.nThen he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

  • ahlost

    good read for a wednesday morning. thank you for sharing 😉

  • SY

    Found a good read relevant to your post. Enjoy! :)nnhttp://thoughtcatalog.com/maggie-meyers/2014/06/i-had-to-quit-my-career/

  • Mark

    Your mum is indeed very wise! Thanks for sharing!

  • Vilvian

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve always been a silent reader but felt compelled enough to comment on this post.nnI’m an entrepreneur myself and it’s been so stressful that I find myself more unhappy than happy these days. I think I might have tried to be too ambitious, tried to bite off more than I can chew. But really, I have a decent relatively growing business, a happy family and a doting partner. nnSo thank you for this post. It reminded me that happiness is really just right in front of me and that all of my crazy ambition is really really blinding me.

  • Jason Loh

    Bro if u do read this, now we are still young still got energy still got ambition, when we get old and tired, best to enjoy life than chase for dough to no end… Alot of greedy people left bankrupt in their old age. In life there is always a balance. And this balance is different for different people. I have much to achieve. I hope in the 6 years to come b4 i reach 30 i will be as successful as u if not more. Wish u all the best in chasing your dreams but remember the words we always hear and keep it close to heart “Money isnt Everything”. I do know some mega rich personally, whos family are split thx to cash. It always happens. I even know of once case the family choose to have only 1 child because of this. O.o Even sometimes i wish my family had more time to spend with me =( …

  • Timothy Tiah

    Thanks for the nice comment.

  • Siew chin

    Just to tell you. I love your post on this and your mum’s wisdom. 知足is the word.

  • Half

    I’m a UK reader and have followed your blog for several years; I never fail to be either enlightened, inspired or amused by what you have to say. Today, even by your own high standards, you outdid yourself. I too am very grateful for this and all the other pearls of wisdom and humour that you share – long may you continue to write.nnOn a visit to KL I once passed you at an event, I regret I didn’t stop to thank you in person.