Thursday, September 23, 2010


What is ambition? I have a hunch that if I were to survey 100 people, at least 90 of them will believe that they are more ambitious than average. So, when one person says that he is ambitious, what does that really mean?

I took a look on and it's clearly defined as:


1. Having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed.
2. (of a plan or piece of work) Intended to satisfy high aspirations and therefore difficult to achieve.

Given the first definition, then I suppose the possibility that any average Joe is considered ambitious is quite high since anyone can have the strong desire to succeed. The determination to succeed is harder and probably cannot be measured easily. One can say that one is determined to succeed but does nothing to further the goal while another might not have the confidence to publicly declare his determination, yet quietly move forward.

Another hard definition--- high aspirations. What exactly consists of high aspiration? How high is high? I guess people's frame of reference is different and it really depends on where that person is coming from and the people he is comparing himself with. Imagine a high school dropout, he might thinks that becoming a store manager is ambitious since for him that is a difficult task; compare that to an Ivy League law school grad who aspires to be the District Attorney. Both people, within their world, are considered ambitious, but is it alright to compare their "ambition" side by side and say that one person is more ambitious than the other?

I think there is no argument that an ambitious person reaches for the best and strives to be the one on top. For instance, an employee who gets promoted to the President of the company through many years of hard work is definitely more ambitious than those who were satisfied with a simple job. What I can't get my head around is-- how would you compare that with someone else--an entrepreneur whose start-up has revolutionized the world? Or someone who is paving his path to become the next President of America?

Ambitious Reality vs. Ambitious Dream

I think ambition is a tricky word because it has the possibility of taking someone beyond his dreams, turning something impossible to possible, but it can also keep someone floating in Clouds 9 without any foundation or progress. Here, someone living in an ambitious reality is one who is realistic about his expectations and has a clear head of what are his strengths and weaknesses. While someone living an ambitious dream is one who wants so much things but when it comes down to it, impossible to attain.

Perhaps, one reason could be that he's lazy or unwilling to put the work in, but I think a more crucial reason is that he lacks the crucial foundation or resources to make him competitive in the field that he's striving for. For example, in theory, anyone can run for public office, right? But in reality, few does...because it's expensive, because you need connection, because you lack the education or the skills to be an effective leader... The point of ambitious dreamers is that they lack the solid foundation to back up their dreams. However, if these people can build themselves up, then it's simple, those dreams can becomes reality.

I don't really have a good answer to the questions I've raised, especially I'm more and more convinced that it's impossible to do a direct comparison with people from different backgrounds. After all, it provides more information to compare achievements of those in the same boat, because that should be a fair comparison. Maybe this is why in college admissions-- admission criteria is different depending on geographic location-- for example, average SAT scores in the tri-state area are about 50-100 points higher than those from South Dakota or Georgia... (this is probably not always true; there are exceptions to every case) and that international students are always about agazillion times smarter than domestic students, yet they are never compared to each other in the admission process.

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