Selfish ambitions don't really get you anywhere. They cause you to think narrowly about what's good for you and gives you a good pay out (one person), as opposed to thinking about what could give a good payout to others (multiple people). Not only that, but it makes for lame brands, since it's hard to make other feel something if you have not rooted your company in empathy.
There are blatant examples of this when startup founders go into a venture with the purpose of making a bunch of money so they don't have to work anymore. No one is going to hand their money to you so that YOU don't have to work anymore. It seems silly to reiterate that, but sometimes we all need a reminder. It's rare to find a company with a purpose like this that does anything innovative or builds something others find irreplaceable. However, it's not always as easy to spot such self-centered ambition.
Where selfish ambition gets tricky is when it's veiled in altruism. Here are some example: "I see all these big companies that are selfish with their money and do a bad job handling it, I think I could do a better job."
At first glance, it doesn't seem like that big a deal. There are indeed hundreds of big companies that get caught in scams and aren't very generous with their money. But take a look at the example again but with this question in mind: who is the beneficiary?
There's only two subjects in it, large companies and the founder of this startup, so it must be one of them. Sparing you the trouble, if either of these subjects are the beneficiary, then this purpose sucks. Despite the acknowledged problem of large companies' ill-spending, the solution of trusting one person (albeit, a stranger) to do a better job with it is not much better. It's certainly not something that you could rally a team behind, convince investors to buy-in to, and certainly not customers.
Why? Because it's all about the founder. No one is going to buy into that.
It's not all lost though, with a small tweak this could be improved. Let's try this: "I see all these big companies that are selfish with their money and do a bad job handling it, so I'm going to create a company where every employee gets to dedicate a portion of our profit to a charity of their choice."
Now who's the beneficiary? The employees and the charities they choose to support. Shoot, even the founder becomes a beneficiary because they now have recognition for giving others an opportunity to do good. Despite a purpose dedicated to the service of others, the company still grows because other people have bought in and get something in return.
Point being, if you want to grow your startup, make your purpose about other people, not you.
When J.K. Rowling submitted the first Harry Potter book, it didn't have the same title as we've known. It was first called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and later adapted to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Why? These two things are synonymous.
Attitude. When you hear the term "philosopher," it sounds geeky and pompous. A sorcerer on the other hand, bolsters the idea of mystery, power, and elusiveness.
What's the point? Branding is full of nuance, while these two terms on paper mean the same thing, their emotional qualities are different. In branding, it's not just what you say, how you look, and what you do, but the attitude you bring to the table.
A friend of mine and I met up yesterday. She's a talented artist and creative thinker, but she's struggling with getting her work out there and attracting commissions/clients. It's a common issue for creative types to stall the display of any kind of work to the public unless they deem it perfect. The truth... it's never going to be perfect. You have a better chance at winning the lottery than you do creating the perfect piece to show, especially if you have particular expectations.
She had asked, "what do I need to do to get out there?"
"You need to make something everyday, for fun, for yourself, and show it to the world."
Lo and behold, within the span of 45 minutes today, she had an awesome collage piece completed and ready to go. I'd call that a win.
Here's the thing:
You will always be nervous taking the first steps into a new venture. Be it founding a startup, putting yourself out there as an artist, starting a band, you name it. If you want to get to the top of the mountain, you have to take the first step. It's gonna suck at first, you're going to suck at first. But you will get better and it will get easier if you dedicate yourself to small habits that will make up your success.
Go for it, I believe in you.