Brie: It's What's For Breakfast

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Ambition

Ambition magnify

I love this old photo of my dad as a toddler. The expression on his face is so recognizable! His sense of humor and his devilishness beamed through his personality even when he was a little guy.

Because of my father, I make a great effort to be the best person I can be.

While this may not extend to wearing makeup every day, it does extend to the quality of the work I do and the interactions I have with other people.

I am ambitious. I am generally motivated by the need for achievement. I expect the people around me to be motivated by this need for achievement, too, and I am dumbfounded when it appears they are not. I have lost respect for people close to me who lose ambition or who claim to have it but just don’t work for it.

I desperately want my son to be ambitious enough to achieve the satisfaction of at least moderate success so that he can lead a productive, happy life. Being productive in society is vital to finding satisfaction and happiness, I believe. I don’t think we have to contribute to charity, volunteer at soup kitchens, or invent a new vaccine to be productive.

Parents are productive when they give their children values, structure, and education. When they teach a child how he or she may succeed, a parent is fulfilling his obligation to his child. Possibly one of the most productive things my dad ever did was to imbue each of his children with the confidence to surge forward, to try. He gave us the courage to fail and then to try again.

He loved to quote this poem to us:

It Couldn’t be Done
By Edgar Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it”;
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.


Sometimes, ambition counts more than actual success. Trying matters if the effort is an honest and assiduous.

I quote Yoda’s “Try? There is no ‘try.’ There is do, or do not.” But the truth is, Yoda’s maxim really only applies when “do” or “do not” is a choice. It applies to turning in homework. It applies to keeping the house clean. It applies to meeting reasonable deadlines. It applies to yard work. It does not apply to playing the guitar perfectly, to making A’s in math, or to mastering the nuances of the Force without a mentor to demonstrate how the force can be used.

I have to make sure my determination and my belief that others should share my ambition doesn’t cost me my close relationships.

I think it cost me my marriage, in part. I could not understand how my husband seemed to have so little interest in personal achievement, especially as bright as he seemed to be when I first knew him. This was not a failure of his personality, it was simply an aspect of it that I found unfathomable. I failed to recognize this characteristic of his for the destructive force it could be – not to me personally, and not to him because it simply WAS him, but destructive to our relationship.

I lost my respect for him because I perceived his lesser drive to achieve to be a shortcoming that he refused to address. For a long time I did not understand that he couldn’t change it, and why he really had no interest in changing that part of him. But just like my drive and ambition are an integral part of my personality, his are an integral part of his personality. He and I simply don’t manifest our desires for success in the same way, nor do we consider “success” to be of the same importance.

Even when I later came to understand that his level of ambition simply WAS, I could not regain the feelings I had for him before ambition became a defined problem for us. I just didn’t feel the same. I didn’t love him any less, but I recognized how mismatched we were and how frustrated I was by this one aspect of his personality. Recognizing that his level of ambition simply WAS didn’t help me to accept it, because I just didn’t approve of it for someone so close to me.

People with ambition take on projects and see them through to the end. We have ideas, we start planning and collecting information, we put the people and materials together, we oversee the work, we build the ideas up and take them to the next level, and we run the course of things. We don’t quit before we succeed. We are focused and determined. On the rare occasion when a project sputters out or doesn’t work the way we intended, we chalk the failure up to experience and move on to the next idea. We are Movers and Shakers.

Shakers, the people with the ideas, need the Movers to gather the committees of people who can actually make the dream a reality. The Shaker explains to the Mover what the goal is, and perhaps explains a couple of steps along the way. The Mover listens to the idea, considers how to implement it, and puts together a team of people and materials who can get the job done.

Movers direct the Managers and tell them what the Shakers’ ultimate goals are. The Managers are perfectly willing to carry out instructions, but Managers don’t have the innovative ideas. They can take a vision, though, and make it a reality.

Some people are the Craftsmen. They can take an aspect of an idea, hone it to perfection, beauty and grace, and incorporate it into the great scheme of things.

Some people are the Data Entry Operators. They are willing to help and work hard by organizing things or putting them in their places.

Others are the Drones, who are not interested in the work they do but can be counted on to perform adequately and then to put their energies into other aspects of the greater whole: the community or their families.

Each type of person is vital to the operation not just of a business, but of a government, of a society, of a community, of a family. Every person plays every role at one time or another, but the dominant roles they play often are a result of their personal ambitions.

Compatible relationships are those in which the level of ambition are complimentary or alike. A Mover and a Shaker can do well together, but a Shaker and a Data Entry Operator don’t necessarily communicate in the same language. I cannot and will not say where my ex-husband fell in these categories I’ve described. Most likely he fits into more than one depending on the task at hand, just like everyone else. but he and I did not communicate very well when it came to ambition and work, and thus we were frustrated together.

This isn’t the only reason we divorced. There were so many other reasons. This is only one contributing factor. We were very frustrated by each other. I am so glad we parted when we did rather than wait until our frustration levels with one another were so great that we could not remain civil. I treasure my relationship with my ex-husband. It is a sparkling emerald to me – not the hardest or most perfect stone by any means, but a beautiful one that can be clear and bright as well as shattered or murky.

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July 9, 2006 - Posted by | Philosophy

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