Ambition

A long time ago I was told that ambition is a defect and this forceful statement (as it came from an adult and I was just a child) revolted me.  Since then, times and again, I have bumped into this negative label of ambition.  This label is offered freely and sourly by those standing on the lines preserving their energy, by those who do not exceed the limits of “socially acceptable”, by those who do not want to feel inferior.

It is true there are extremes of ambition.  One extreme is represented by “up or nothing” – people who give up on integrity and respect for others for being ahead and/or stretching their own status and capabilities.  The other extreme is defined by the bland passivity of accepting any rules set by anyone in the hope of avoiding conflicts generated by “being different”.

Between these two extremes there is a whole range of people who want to exceed other people’s expectations, behaviors or performance or to improve their own position considered to be inadequate or unsatisfying.  People who want to be better or do better. People that bring progress and new perspectives.  Regardless of the results, third party reactions or circumstances of any kind, the ambitious action involves risks and costs.

The picture attached can help us imagine various consequences of the ambitious goat’s jump: broken legs, slippage, meeting a predator, the ridicule or envy of the goats left behind, loss of former companions, reaching yet another obstacle to be overcome.

The rest of the world either benefits or is hurt by the ambition effects. The people rising above the crowds, whether in the past or present, have involved and influenced humankind as part of their escalation endeavor.  Some are inventors who did not accept failure as an option (Edison or Nobel) and others attempted to change mentality or governments (Gandhi or Fidel Castro).

It is indeed difficult to reach a final conclusion regarding the topic of ambition and this debate over the pluses and minuses of being ambitious will continue – in spite the clarifying verdict stated by Napoleon (yet another ambitious character!)

Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.
 Napoleon Bonaparte