Why do people hate ambition?

by Derek Halpern | Follow Him on Twitter Here

Whenever you talk about ambition, there are always some people who will look upon you disapprovingly and say, “There’s more to life than…”

Why do people do that?

And am I the only one who wants to stare disapprovingly back at them?

Is there anything wrong with wanting to get ahead in business and life?

And who says that ambition-realized is at the expense of something else?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Leave a comment right here.

Or send me an email.

Today I ask this question because I’m curious how YOU feel about ambition. I know how I feel, but I’m curious about you.

Also – if you know someone who may add an interesting perspective to this discussion, do me a favor and pass it a long to them. Thanks!

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{ 225 comments… read them below or add one }

Christina

First, I think that some people do take ambition to the extent that it does exclude important aspects of life.

Second, I don’t think it has to do that. I think we can live a great life that is enhanced by ambition.

Maybe the question is are you driving your ambition or is your ambition driving you?

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Derek Halpern

Hey Christina, this is a good comment. The source – or the why as Simon Sinek would say – is a good place to start.

This isn’t self reflection for me, but instead my attempt to understand the ‘why’ behind the way people feel about ambition.

Consider this a crowd-sourced research project ;-D

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Mark Wang

@Christina: Te ambition to be successful in business / career for many people leads them to make sacrifices that has a negative impact on their social life. I have been guilty of that and it took me some time to fully understand how my ambitions hurt me.

@Derek: We hope to see your analysis of this research experiment.

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Liz Hancock

Hey Derek,

I think it is because most people don’t have much ambition or motivation in life in general. I’ve found that there are two categories of people (I know I’m oversimplifying but stay with me,…)

There are those that set goals, get motivated, stay disciplined, and work through the difficulties to delay gratification and realize success. These people (and you know who you are) follow a formula that works for them.

Then there are others that truly struggle to realize who they really are or what makes them happy. They flounder and flit, reacting to life instead of proactively making things happen.

So, when someone from category A encounters someone from category B, the latter reacts with insecurity and feels the need to make A feel as if their ambition is ‘wrong’, when in fact they are really reacting to their own internal voice reminding them that they are lost and not following a path.

Everyone wants to be happy. What makes someone happy is different for everyone,…so knowing what makes you happy and actively seeking to make that happen consistently in your life is what is really being discussed here.

Just my .02. You can tell I’ve pondered this one a lot too…… ;)

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Jim

I think you were right to point out and recognize that you were generalizing, and that it’s hard to keep someone’s attention when you’re generalizing. There are many different factors that make people behave and respond to life differently, at least more factors than what you described. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t read your mind.

There are many different personality types, and some of those types literally want to question life, and see no value in the representation of one particular thing. They have no “ambition” by definition because they aren’t trying to be anything in particular, because they don’t see where they fit in in the world.

In a perfect world the meaning and definition of ambition would be applicable to everyone, but it’s not. Ambition is a product of society, a society that we are born into and don’t necessarily have a choice to not participate in. Regardless of how you feel about society if you’re not productive, or ambitious, you’re usually left behind. The people that don’t fit into this model feel left out. They feel betrayed. They feel like there is something wrong with them.

So in short, I believe someone’s frustration with ambition, is really frustration with their own culture or society they feel they’ve been subjected to.

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Brian

Ambition is a biological function, which makes it an oddity when people debate it. Your heart has an ambition to beat. Your neurons have an ambition to connect. Your lungs have an ambition to inhale. How is it that modeling basic biological functions and replicating them in the exterior world a bad thing?
Remember in order “to see the light” the eye must have an ambition to collect photons.
Have a great day!

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Pieter

This whole article boils down to the quote below for me.

I can’t believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary. -Lou Holtz

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Brian Farrell

Derek – it’s not that people don’t like those who are ambitious. I think it’s because they’re envious of the person *who knows what they want*.

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Derek Halpern

Do you have a personal experience with someone like this? Would love to hear more.

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Alicia Bostic

I agree with Brian. People are envious of those that *know what they want* I think ambition is fantastic, and there’s nothing more frustrating then watching people you care about underachieve. That said, I still believe we have to learn to be satisfied with the now, while still pushing ourselves to become bigger and better people. For example, I always wanted to make more money so that I could travel and control my time. Then I realized, I didn’t have to be rich to do that. I just started investing my time in learning skills that would allow me to work independently (online)…ie: read social triggers, take blog that converts course, etc. By pursuing those things, I ended up landing a dream job that I’m way underqualified for (or was). The in-between was a series of deliberate actions that would take me one step closer to what I wanted. I once complained to a friend that I couldn’t write down my goals because they were constantly changing. She replied, “That’s why you haven’t achieved them. You have to know what you want.” And it’s true. Making a mistake is OK. Not taking action isn’t OK.

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Madeline

I agree with Brain, many people don’t realize what they really want in life or find their inner passion in what makes them happy. Most people are so busy living in a rat race they stop thinking. They do what everyone tells them to do or needs to do. They forget about themselves and what they really want out of life. So when they come across someone who knows exactly what they want in life they feel unbalanced in their own lives. This makes them reflect on their current situation and realize they haven’t lived fully. This makes them feel uncomfortable making them envious on others that know what they want and most importantly have a plan on how to get it.

Madeline

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rodrunnerABQ

Another here to agree with Brian. It’s all a matter of jealousy. Every time, in my experience, the negative comment comes from persons who ‘have less’ than I do, or who ‘do less’ than I do. IMHO, those kind of people are just not worth even knowing.

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Jason

I say it not because I’m jealous, or envious. Why would I be? I enjoy every aspect of my life and do the things that I enjoy not what others enjoy.

I lost my my grandad when I was 16. I then lost my mum to cancer when I was 18 and then my other granddad passed away when I was 22.

This made me completely refocus and ask the question: Would I rather spend 12 hours a day infront of a computer trying to make money or spend the time I have with the people I love?

It fucking disgusts me when people assume that I’m envious of them because they have more money than me. If monetary values are so important to you, thats fine. Thats your life and if that gives you a thrill then so be it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to be a millionaire but am I going to waste away a life chasing that dream? Not very likely, there are more important things in my life than money.

For the last 3 years I started a business that went on to turn over 8K+ per month. For a freelancer, I was happy with that but I worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. The stress was beyond what I wanted. I was ambitious and money drove me forward, but for what gain? To brag and show off? I barely saw friends and I was losing relationships. But hey, I’m ambitious and awesome and amazing so who needs them and they’re all just shit and jealous!?!

Life is what you make of it. If you want to chase fictitious 0′s on a screen or get out there and live a life that was meant to be lived, do it. I’m not judging but just because you want to spend your time in an office doesn’t make me less ambitious. I drive an audi, live in a city and have an extremely comfortable lifestyle and once I’m out the office, the world is my own. There is more to life than work.

Darlene with BlogBoldly

Because they have none.

So they sit back and criticize.

“And who says that ambition-realized is at the expense of something else?” Exactly! It’s not.. in fact I venture to say that being ambitious can open doors to a pretty exciting life.

~ darlene :)

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Ryan

i don’t necessarily think it is because people have none. I know people who are successful in a career and will also knock the idea of ambition for those who may work harder, longer hours.

Perhaps some sort of illogical fear?

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George

Ryan, I too know people with little ambition who have been successful in their careers; or they’re successful for a while. There are those that do the minimum and yet are able to advance, but that is usually because of politics or being in the clique of the boss.

I actually had a discussion one time with a senior manager about a similar topic. He literally told me “those who do the minimum are worth more than those who do the most.” I learned a lot about him during that conversation. He too was what you call successful. But that philosophy ended up being his undoing. And that culture almost ruined a company.

I believe ambition is important. It should be a natural drive. Most probably are ambitious, just in things we don’t necessarily see. Some are ambitious in their careers, some with their families, some with sports or hunting, some with trying to see how long they can continue to get away with doing as little as possible at work.

So, I don’t know what the real answer to the question is.

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Ryan

You make a valid point in what the definition of ambition actually is. However, is it fair to say that one cannot be ambitious in all of these facets of life?

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Barbara Saunders

The automatic leap to “longer, harder hours” may be part of the problem. All too often, people judge other people not by their results or even their goals but by what amounts to social display. Face time.

I, too, am skeptical of the person who is *always* out by 4:59 and never misses a happy hour or a Judge Judy episode. But the notion that *looking like you’re working* is the same as actually doing anything has more to do with the snob game than with actual ambition.

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Derek Halpern

I remember back when I worked in corporate america, one of the main people who told me this was ambitious.

The difference was they had a family, and I had myself.

For me, it was almost as if they were pushing me to start a family (i was in my early 20s) and if I didn’t have one, it was as if I didn’t have a life.

Hence why they said it.

Or thats why I think they said it anyway ;-)

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Jim Wang

I’m always surprised when people take advice that has worked for their life and believe it should be applied to everyone else, without regard to their situation.

I have a family and it’s wonderful. However, I would tell anyone looking to start or grow their own business that they should wait to start a family. You only have 24 hours a day and you don’t need more things competing for your attention and enthusiasm, you need fewer things.

(just think of the small increase in responsibility whenever you got a dog, the little guy needs to pee when he needs to pee… it doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of filming something!)

A spouse is awesome. Kids are awesome. But it’s like having another business, one that should matter far more and requires a lot more time.

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Elly Klein

Sounds to me like the person who said that was the one who needed to get a life!

How dare that person push his or her values onto you. Everyone values something different. If that person values family, good for them. But that might not be what YOU want out of life.

I hope you nodded and smiled and thought to yourself, ‘You poor, narrow-minded sod.’ ;-)

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Sarah

Derek, I think you hit the nail on the head. I think people assume that you can either work your butt off or you can spend time with family. But, it doesn’t have to be one or the other and each individual should, for the sake of their own happiness, find a balance that works for THEM (not anyone else). Ambition is almost always, at the root, a striving to create our perfect desired life. For some people that may mean sitting on a pile of money all by themselves on their private island. For others, that might mean raising a family. Neither is wrong or right, they’re just different. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round.

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Sharon

Sarah,
I agree with you. There is nothing wrong with ambition. That is what drives us and makes us want to get out of bed in the morning. We just need to find a balance. Ambition only becomes wrong when it causes us to exclude everything else in our lives.

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Ryan

To me it comes down to the point of people who question it in the way of, as you state, “There is more to life than…”, yes there is, and that is why you find balance.

Not many know how to find balance. in Leo Baubuta’s book, “Zen To Done” (a simpler more practical guide in comparison to David Allen’s works), he states to take each aspect in your life you wish to improve on one at a time rather than all at once.

I believe people try to tackle every life aspect at once which they know they need improvement on and then get discouraged when it all comes crashing down because they cannot handle the load.

There is no such problem as having ambition in business, the problem therein lies are you holding back your own ambition because of lack of personal/professional balance?

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Sarah

Well said, Ryan :)

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David Boozer

I am a realist and live on planet earth…ambition is a God given gift we can choose to ignore and remain where we are, or, we can harness that gift and use it to better our lives and the lives of others with it.

The business owner has the idea, he becomes motivated and ambitious, then he or she builds and creates. This leads to products, services and even opportunities for others…

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Bob Bright

I think ambition is great, i barely new how to spell it because it’s used so infrequently! Shoot for the moon Alice!

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Barbara Trainin Blank

Christina expressed it well. There’s nothing wrong with ambition as part of life. Without it, not much is accomplished. But if that’s all there is in life, or if others are stepped on to achieve it, then there might well be something negative or at least limiting about it.

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Dan

It’s an excuse not to feel the responsibility of changing something with their life. If they accept that ambition can be good, they’ll have to do something about it.

Instead, if they think “Success = No love life”, “Real art = poor” etc, they will be comfortable with doing nothing.

Pattern: “There’s more to life than [what I think I cannot ever have/don't want to think about]“

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Scot McKay

One thing is for sure, men with ambition are VERY attractive to high quality women.

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Cassandra Tondro

Are women with ambition very attractive to high quality men? Just checking!

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William Vaughn

I don’t know, are you?

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George

Some. But the ambition alone doesn’t necessarily make them attractive. It is a great quality. Ignoring ideologies for a moment between the two I’m mentioning, but two women that are very ambitious are Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. Only one of those are attractive. :-)

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Diana

Way to be a misogynistic asshole. So you’re saying that women who are attracted to a man without ambition are low quality? And why did you exclude women with ambition from your comment? Surely they would be just as attractive as men with ambition, unless you consider them lesser to you.

The statement should be that people with ambition are attractive to other people with ambition.

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Reid Yamamoto

I think small minded people with little or no ambition are threatened by anyone who has strong ambitions and goals. I think these people are secretly hoping that the dreams of their ambitious friends do not come to fruition. I no longer keep the company of these types of people and my life has improved.

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Samar - Freelance Flyer

I’ve always felt folks who say “There’s more to life than…” mean there’s more to life than ambition for them.

And because everyone’s so afraid of being judged for their choices, they go ahead and judge your choice to be ambitious first.

And ambition is so subjective. My ambition is to be a great mother and writer. To you, that might not be ambitious enough – or even an ambition in your book.

Ambition is anything you have to strive to get. That seems almost unattainable to you unless you work really hard.

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Kaya Ismail

Hey Derek, good question.

In my personal opinion, ambition in terms of business and wealth usually equates to leaving society’s trodden path.

Family members for example, will meet your ambition with scepticism out of fear you won’t get a normal job or attend school like everybody else does. They realise that ambition can sometimes mean doing things a little differently. Society in general doesn’t like that.

Basically, in the minds of most people, ambition means doing something different – something unknown. And we all know how people feel about the unknown.

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John Keenan

D-Great point, and well said. I think that since so few people have goals and high ambitions (or have given up on them…), to hear people articulate their own can make people feel insecure. It can be a painful reminder to someone that he/she is falling short. That said, as entrepreneurs we almost have to expect it, prepare for it and not be bothered by it-at least to the point where it can slow us down.

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Chavi

There ISN’T more to life than doing your best at whatever matters to you. Not at the expense of your top 3 priorities, but then that usually isn’t a big concern, in reality.

This was a psychological barrier for me when it came to losing weight. “Ugh, it will take so much work and willpower. Oughtn’t I spend that rather on being a better mother, or more spiritual, or…” STOP RIGHT THERE. Being lazy about who-knows-how-many aspects of your life does not translate into being super-dedicated to your favorite aspect. On the other hand, being a hard-working, ambitious, alive person DOES translate into being more alive in many other areas.

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Andreas

I think it depends how you express ambition. Do you still take care of others or do you push others down by being the ambitious one?
You can thus ask – what part of ambition is good, and which one is bad? How much ambition is good, how much bad? In what context is it bad, and in which not? And so on – just my thoughts expressed with many questions :)

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Steve Currie

Derek

There is a lot of merit in what you say.

Ambition also changes over an individual’s lifetime. In my early thirties I was a high up corporate bod. Now in my fifties and having been self employed for about 13 years I do wonder why I had such shallow, naive ambitions back then which were all career centred.
Also people in the UK have a different outlook to you guys in the USA and this reflects in their ambitions.

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Bronwyn

In my experience – being wildly ambitious, then allowing myself to temper it to suit those around me, then to allowing it to flourish again:
People almost always take action to minimise, downplay or caution someone who vocalises ambition. I believe it has little to do with the ambitious person, and everything to do with the person needing to justify and support their own inaction – a survival instinct to justify their own resistance to change, to not do more, to accept less than they might have wanted. They can’t allow that feeling of unease and dissatisfaction without going slightly crazy, so they release it on someone who is still striving. Based on the notion that if everyone accepts the middle ground, then it must be OK to accept things as they are.

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Amy

I think most people react negatively to others who are ambitious because they are jealous that the other person is pursuing their desires or that they even have am ambition. Too often I hear people say “I want to be the CEO of a company” but can’t answer what that company is about nor do they even TRY to make the first step in getting there.

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Sylvia Nasser

Hey Derek, I think the term “ambition” feels icky to some people. I think people associate ambition to people who will do whatever it takes even if it’s sleazy to get ahead in life (usually in career). Kind of gives the rest of the ambitious bunch a bad rap. In most cases, ambitious people are the ones who have the fame and power and that perhaps may spark jealousy – the “whatever, I’m fine with what I have” feeling when they secretly want more but don’t want to put the extra work in. However when we talk about successes in family life or personal goals, the word ambition never even comes up. Not sure why – the word ambition means to have a strong desire or eager to accomplish something.
Have you ever read 10X by Grant Cardone? You probably have, you read a lot! ;)

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@Smead_JohnH

The simple reason some disapprove of ambition is that they aren’t themselves ambitious. And that’s ok because not everyone is alike. People typically relate with people like themselves

A dictionary definition of ambition is: “a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work”

Let’s face it – we all know a bunch of people who aren’t hard workers and will never be ambitious under any circumstances. They are the ones who always want to “take” and not “give” too.

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Jen Gresham

Wow. This is a big question, Derek. As someone who works with overachievers, this is very related to what I’m writing an entire book about, so I clearly have a lot to say. Here are just a few thoughts to get the conversation started:

- I really like Christina’s question about who is in the driver’s seat. Many people use ambition as a means for feeling good about themselves. They feel they are only as good as their next achievement. They don’t say this out loud of course, not even to themselves. I think this accounts for a large portion of ambition–take it apart, and we are trying to impress people and earn their love. It’s what Alain de Botton was talking about in the book Status Anxiety. Those who suffer from this are probably more likely to *assume* everyone else is doing the same thing. However, there is healthy ambition–ambition driven by curiosity or challenge or simple joy. The difference is actually more evident in how people view failure than success.

- If you’re curious, I created a video called The Achievement Addiction that talks about this. I hate putting links to my own stuff on other people’s blogs, so if you want to see it, let me know and I’ll send you the link.

- It is worth noting that capitalism benefits from a populace with a lack of self-esteem. Advertisers can’t say that directly, but they can make you feel bad about not being ambitious enough. Some react to that by being more ambitious, some react by scorning ambition. Neither reaction is healthy.

Again, lots more to say on this. I’ll jump back in as others comment.

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Elly Klein

My experience with ambition is the opposite of what you’re saying, Derek – people look at others strangely if they don’t have a ‘dream’ or aren’t trying to have a bigger life in some way.

I have some big dreams for myself – both professionally and personally – but sometimes I think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to just work in a cafe or something and be done with it!’

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Rivka Kawano

There are probably as many answers to this question as people having the conversation. Definitely I think some of the comments above are right on that some people feel their lifestyle is being challenged when you are pursuing a different path. They are afraid of what is possible/impossible and just don’t want to go there mentally.

But I think sometimes it is about the stories we are telling. If we have the tendency to complain about how hard our path is, people may perceive that we don’t really like what we are doing and be trying to help.

It seems to me that whatever the case we need to make some kind of adjustment. Either find better friends who understand and are supportive and will help push us to our potential. Or start telling better stories about our life and showing the positive side of our ambition.

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Jim Wang

Whenever I think about people’s reaction to ambition, I think about a bucket of crabs (there are plenty of these in Maryland). If you ever look at a bucket of live crabs, the ones at the top are always trying to get out.

They claw at the sides, maybe they crab one of the metal hooks holding the bucket together, and eventually they start to pull themselves out.

Then the crab below them sees a little freedom. He tastes the fresh salty air and he thinks there’s more to life than being jammed in a bucket with all these other crabby dudes.

But instead of trying to get out on his own, he grabs the guy who is almost out… and pulls him back in.

If he can’t get out, neither can the first guy.

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Elly Klein

Heh heh. That story was hilarious! And kinda gave me a craving for crab… ;-)

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Jim Wang

It’s delicious! :)

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Amy

This is a great analogy!

Also, former Marylander here. :)

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Nora Jacques

That’s so funny. I was thinking the exact thing last night and this morning. It reminds me of the “Resistance” principle in Stephen Pressfield’s book, “The War of Art”…great read by the way.

I think people fear what they don’t know. They are comfortable with you going to work from 9am – 5pm. They are uncomfortable with you creating your own schedule.

When some one can keep you in a box, they can control you. When you step outside the box….now that’s scary!

How do you handle people like that? Particularly friends and family?

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Bill

I think it is more about passion. When you have passion for something, ambition goes right along with it.

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Darrin

That’s awesome!

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Nicole

Hi Derek.

I think most people feel guilty when they see the ambition of others. They begin to judge themselves for not reaching for their dream or taking a risk on something. They project that guilt onto others and fear they are being judged.

I also think those of us who identify as “ambitious” can be very hard on ourselves, and therefore can be hard on those around us. Perhaps some people hate ambition because in their past an ambitious person has judged or hurt them.

I really liked the comment above that reminded us that we all have a different idea of ambition. Each person does get to decided what her dreams/goals are. And only she knows if she is really going for them.

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Andrew

People hate ambition because on a fundamental level it triggers the “I should be doing more” thought. Everyone has something that has been sitting on their to-do list for longer than it should, or the dream that is just out of reach because they can’t get motivated (for whatever reason) to start taking the steps towards it. When we see someone who is going after it, making things happen, it reminds up of our own failures or lack of effort.

I think this is the same reason why people love trash TV. It makes us feel better about our situation with out expending any effort at all. Our situation is better, so we feel good about all of our accomplishments. There is nothing like an episode of hoarders where they find a mummified cat to make your room look cleaner – and it’s easier than actually cleaning anything up.

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Andrew S.

People hate ambition because on a fundamental level it triggers the “I should be doing more” thought. Everyone has something that has been sitting on their to-do list for longer than it should, or the dream that is just out of reach because they can’t get motivated (for whatever reason) to start taking the steps towards it. When we see someone who is going after it, making things happen, it reminds up of our own failures or lack of effort.

I think this is the same reason why people love trash TV. It makes us feel better about our situation with out expending any effort at all. Our situation is better, so we feel good about all of our accomplishments. There is nothing like an episode of hoarders where they find a mummified cat to make your room look cleaner – and it’s easier than actually cleaning anything up.

A smaller portion of this resentment, I think, stems from people believing there is only so much to the pie, and if he wants a bigger slice what is left for me.

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AJ

What irks me are the assumptions inherent in people saying “There’s more to life than just…”

-What have I said that makes you think I’m excluding other ‘important’ things?
-Why are you positioning my ambition and other aspects of life as two separate ideas, as if they don’t connect or enhance each other (for example, can’t a love for your family fuel your ambition?)
-Why do you assume I have the same desires as you? For example, I’m a 20 something with no kids. Why WOULDNT I be ambitious at this stage??

The phrase says a lot more about the person saying it than the person it is being said to.

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Lalainya

There is nothing ‘wrong’ with ambition. There needs to be a balance between attaining goals, and feeling content. Many people are ‘ambitious’ for reasons that come from feeling inadequate in some way.
Very funny that you should post this today, because I wrote a blog earlier on the same subject (just a different perspective)

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Brian

Many people think that in order to get something, they have to give up something else in return, i.e., you can’t have it all. So they try to justify their current choices and habits. It’s a mental state commonly referred to as “seeing only validation”.

I think people get overwhelmed with the idea of starting their own business and all you have to do and learn… so they create mental justifications to remain unambitious.

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Jamie Oxenham

It comes down to the basic fear and lack. Most peoples thoughts and beliefs aren’t even their own. They have adopted the beliefs of every person they hold as being in an authoritative position. IE parents, teachers etc. Somehow, it seems, we’ve all been taught that there isn’t enough to go around. If ‘you’ have more, then by my ingrained, and mis-taught belief system, it means the only possible outcome is that I will have less. There fore, you are taking from me. However, millionaires are created every day, so that clearly isn’t true. I think people confuse someone who has ambition, with someone who stop at nothing to get what they want.

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David

For me, it really came down to the simple idea of “know thyself.”

I walked away from two companies that I started and went back to corporate America. Why? Because I had to find a way to pay back the $250K hole I created being an entrepreneur. I wasn’t always in the hole–had in fact been up by eight figures at one point (eight after the .00). Long story.

After the bills were paid, what did I do?

At 50, my partners and I starting two more companies… in our spare time… while we work the stressful corporate gigs. Just like we did when were in our 30s.

Why?

Know thyself: I am an entrepreneur. I have ambition. I have to be what God made me to be. I work from 4 am- 10 pm 5-6 days a week. And I LOVE it. We’re building something out of nothing once again and I LOVE it. I’m working with people that I dearly LOVE.

Are there millions waiting for us a little bit down the road? If that’s what’s driving me, frankly, I’m a monkey. That’s not the payout I’m looking for. We’re building two companies that will serve two industries with major pain points and we will let the market decide how relevant we are. Of course, we did our research and we really believe we’re gonna be the bomb! ;0)

But only time will tell. In the meantime, paraphrased, “Release the dogs of ambition!”

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Agnes Kowalski

I think people feel left out when someone goes after what they want. I have certainly felt that way in the past, “how come they are doing all this awesome stuff and I am sitting here in the dust”.

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William Vaughn

Persons who don’t like persons who are stronger than they will often try to rise against said person who has an ambition in an attempt to knock them down so they can walk on they.

I been building my company since I was 7. I’m still not even walking yet. I receive no help despite my pleas. I only receive retort, disapproval, mocks and maybe some who lightly “encourage” me “Oh, that’s a great idea! keep it up, you’ll get there!”

People will follow only when you appear to have Power. But, when you are simply stronger than they… with the strength to chase a dream.. to make it a reality.. They envy that. Likely because they haven’t found their dream yet. Or maybe because they can’t follow their dream.

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Gemma Regalado

Ambition means different things to different people, and in the same way some people want to watch football on the tv every weekend, or eat a strict vegan diet, my ambition is a unique choice I’ve made because I feel it is important to me. For others, it’s something that comes waaaay down the charts, and that’s fine too.

And because it is my personal choice, I avoid sharing my ambitions with people who cannot understand or support that.

Personally, I find ambitiousness a really attractive trait and actively seek out like-minded individuals to share with and support that aspect of my personality.

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Peter

Excellent topic of discussion Derek. I find that the mention of the word ‘ambition’ has a different reaction with people depending on their perspective and approach to life. If your are an ambitious go-getter, you can see opportunities to align yourself with other ambitious people (even if they feel inferior in some way). But if you feel not as successful or ambitious, these people tend to feel inferior which leads to envy, jealousy and sometimes even hate. It’s really a matter of perspective and how you view the world, which is why it is so important to hang around people who think the same way as you – because it is very hard to change minds!!

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Alexis Pimentel

In my own personal opinion, I believe it’s an inward fear that they project onto someone else. It’s also an insecurity of their own. Ambition in itself isn’t a trait that everyone has. And some people who have it, don’t have as much than others.

Have you ever tried explaining your dream/vision to someone and in return given a “I-secretly-feel-sorry-for-you cause I don’t believe it can happen” kind of look? I think that’s why people are afraid of ambition. They don’t dream big or believe in endless possibilities and to top it all off, make no attempt at hiding their beliefs.

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Dawn

Because they don’t understand it.

I have 6 children, 3 are 3 and under. A full time job and a business. I often work from 8 to 5, spend 5 to 9 with my family work again from 9 to midnight or 1 and them do it all again.

I get poked at daily but it’s no different than the person who decides o watch tv for 5 hours a night.

Big ambition is just not the norm. Steve Jobs was amazing and until people realized it he worked the night shift because he stunk. Until your ambition turns into something everyone needs or understands it’s just too odd to deal with. I see grease balls everyday that could care less and work on the front line. They are there because it’s easy to stereo type and say there’s a grease ball who doesn’t care and look away.

I can promise you if Atari could go back in time things would be different. Ambition makes us odd, which clearly creates discomfort for others. If others tried to understand it, it would cause them to step outside of their daily box which is the reason for the discussion anyway.

Just a crazy cycle that will never end.

I can also say that I hate ( hate is a strong word) lazy people that won’t get up and try….because I just don’t understand it.

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Sofia

Good question, Derek! I think that for some people ambition means earning (or striving to earn) a lot of money or “getting ahead”. For those whose values are entirely different, ambition takes on a different meaning. When people discuss topics around ambition I think that they often misunderstand each other. Assuming that everyone else shares your values in life is what I think leads to the disapproval. The disapproval goes both ways – people are often criticized as lazy and unambitious simply because they’re choosing a less lucrative path that leads to realizing their own values.

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Janet

In my household ambition meant that you were greedy. You are giving up the “normal” life to pursue something outside the box and want more then your fair share. I was more ambitious later in life, not in my 20 or 30′s, so I think that people who know you as the person you were before are wondering whats happened and why you want something different now.

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Jennifer

Ambition elicits a knee-jerk response in some people because it’s related to money, success, and power. And while we can scoff at negative reactions, science is beginning to back up what philosophers and the average Joe think about money/power — it corrupts. Have you seen any of these? Basically people “care less” as they gain access to money. They are less likely to ask for help, but also less likely to offer it, even when asked. They take more, even though they already have more. And so on.

So we’re presented with a conundrum, eh?

* Personally, if we have ambition, how do we integrate this with integrity? How do we convey to others that our ambition has its own intelligence? Its own necessity? Money is necessary to do good, but how do we make sure that’s our intention, and that we hold onto it as we move up?

* Culturally, how do we ensure that we maintain economic health and progress while keeping in check the “corruption” that seems to accompany money and power?

If you’re not familiar with recent studies, just google some terms like, “studies show money makes people care less” and other variants.

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Michael

Ambition life blood that makes one get moving. How’s not having ambition, it’s a lot of youth today, looking for reason for life. No jobs, school that gives no hope, a goverment that want’s you on there welfare lines. Ambition

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Nick Kizirnis

Hi Derek,
I think these well-intentioned people either are expressing concern for you, projecting their fears on you, or not understanding the word ambition. If “there’s more to life …” what do they mean? That you turn off your ambition when we go home to the family? Maybe I do, but I don’t turn off my creativity, my desire to be a good husband and parent and the work that takes. Even in my “older” age I’m still trying to make music, and that takes ambition.

When a friend or family member tells me “there’s more to life” I know they can see that I might be getting a little carried away with one thing or another, because they know me. That’s a reminder, and I appreciate it. I don’t appreciate people pushing “there’s more to life” like it’s a remedy for corporate life, running our own business, or even playing in a club late at night.

Yup, there’s more to life, more every time we reach out to be better at our job or business, to help our kids stand up, to stand in warrior pose a little longer, to hit that high note, or to see that last bit of the sunset.

Hope that helps … great topic, thanks!

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Rosemary

Sometimes, when we see ambition in others, it forces us to take a good look at ourselves and address our own ambition, lack thereof, or imbalance of ambition with other areas of life. That sense of being unsettled is actually a good thing, because it is stirring up an acknowledgement of the need to change. People of character and integrity let it become a motivator and forge ahead. People who can’t be happy for the success of others and are intimidated by success will continue to wallow in their own vices and misery until they honestly face change. This blog is a great example of a forum where the truly successful people will land for ideas, motivation, and support. Thanks, Derek.

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Laura Bailey

I am with you on that Derek. The other thing people say that I hate is “I know my limits!” I live my life in defiance to all that and one reason I accomplish more than the average is because I don’t watch TV. That is the BIGGEST time waste ever. I DREAM BIG and believe in ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES! (Thanks for the great words Alexis)

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Brian K Morris

GREAT subject and awesome comments, all!

Years ago, I was in an MLM and our leg emphasized personal development to a large extent. One day, one of my higher-ups told a story about crab fishing.

When you catch one crab, you’d better tie that basket down tight or else he’ll do everything in his power to climb out for his freedom. But get two or more? Just toss that lid into the sea for all the use it’ll be because every crab that tries to pull itself out to freedom will find the other crabs desperately pulling it back down.

Perhaps it’s a case of misery loving company. Or maybe people hate change so much, they don’t even wish to see it in others. Either way, since I heard that story, I’ve encountered so many people who seemed to live to tell me (and other dreamers) that “it can’t be done” or “you’re wasting your time” or “are you THAT ashamed of us?”

Me, I’m pulling myself towards the light and shaking off anyone who isn’t cheering me on. And when I reach the top, I’m holding out MY hand to help whoever wants my help

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cindi sue

wow Brian, great story. especially the last paragraph. ^^this^^ is how i feel about it too.

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Peter

‘Ambition’ as a talent correlates inversely with ‘the ability to see things in relative perspective’. Those who show jalousie therefor won’t be the ones without that talent. They just don’t care enough. It’s the ambitious ones that feel envy and the real subject of their anger is not the ambition itself but the results (the success).

(I’m Dutch so sorry if my english is not correct, hope you get my point anyway)

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John

Ambition takes work, it takes being a self starter. It’s an ambiguous quality like inspiration. Therefore, I believe that many people do not fully understand it or how it works. There are times when it eludes me as well and I get wrapped up in the day to day rat race.

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Whitney

Hi Derek,
I think it’s about the internal vs. external locus of control.

People with an external locus of control think that everything happens by accident. They think that people become successful by accident. They think their only chance of getting rich is by winning the lottery.

They feel confused and uncomfortable by people taking control of their own lives. They doubt that people starting a business will have success.

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Kirsty

Just as an introduction: I am a very ambitious person, I know this, and many others describe me that way. But I don’t think ambition is a good thing.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing either. But it isn’t the be all and end all of life. I used to think it was, and got myself into a lot of stress.

Buddhist (or non religious mindful) practice has a lot to offer in this debate.
A lot of Depression, Anxiety, Stress and suffering is caused by people living their mental lives in the past or the future. Ambition, by it’s nature, encourages the brain to live in the future.

I think some people say this, because there is more to life than the future. In fact, life isn’t the future, it’s the present, the here and now. So not only is there more to life than ambition, when you are being ambitious, you are not truly living.

Unless… you are mindful of the journey in which you are taking! With ambition, it’s not really about the end result, but the journey, the challenge.
So, if you have ambition, just remember to not spend every second DOING, but sometime just BEING.

And finally, think about why you have that ambition. When it is achieved, will you look back on your life and think “I missed it”. Instead, were you chasing fame, glory, excessive fortune, did your ego lead you all the way?

A happy balance, I think, is key :) ambition to create something that genuinely helps others, whilst truly LIVING the process and the people around, I think that’s the answer. But that’s just my view point.

Great topic! Thank you Derek.

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Rune

You you got a ambition or a goal I think all you have to do is keep talking about it and share your plans with your friends, family and the ones who ask. Always keep focus at your goal! In the end you will reach it!

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Kelvin Myles

Interesting question Derek.

I don’t believe that people hate ambition per se, instead they hate ambition that does not fit with their world view or is outside of their comfort zone.

Their objection comes from transference of their beliefs onto you.

I’ve yet to meet anyone that has no ambition even if it’s as simple as getting a bigger television.

We all operate at different levels as to what we want/expect from life and invariably those with lesser expectations struggle to understand those who want more.

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Laura

Ambition, like just about anything in life, can have either a negative or positive connotation–it is truly all perspective. Do you find yourself judging others because of your view or their view of ambition? At that point, it becomes about you–it becomes your problem. Why does it matter what someone else considers ambitious? What if the simple act of getting out of bed, or putting on clothes is “ambitious” for one person, expecially considering the ebb and flow of energy in the life of each individual. How about focusing on using the gifts that we were blessed with because, really, we don’t own any of those gifts (ambition being a gift)–we can either waste them or we can use them to glorify our true leader and inspire others. Don’t let any one try to convince you to dim your light because in the end it won’t make theirs any brighter. So I say shine in your unique way Derek!!! (Use the gifts you were blessed with–including your ambition! It inspires others to shine too :)

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Sarah Newman

Judging someone doesn’t define who THEY are; it defines who WE are.

When someone judges you because of your big ambitions, it’s because they either consciously or unconsciously have judgments about their own ambitions. For example, maybe they have tried to create a successful business in the past and “failed;” or maybe they would love for nothing more than to magnificently embody their own dreams, but have tremendous fear around doing so, and thus defensively knock others down who are bravely stepping into their ambitions; or perhaps their parents were super ambitious and thus as a child they felt neglected if their parents put the business first and didn’t spend quality time with them.

Regardless of the reason behind it, rarely does someone’s judgment of us ever have anything to actually do with us.

Interestingly, judging is a natural human tendency that can be quite healthy. A fascinating exploration when I find myself in judgment is to reflect that thought back to me and ask, “What judgments do I have about myself in this area?” It’s a great exercise in self-growth when we can see everyone we encounter as our own mirror.

Thank you Derek for all you do! I watch all of your videos. I just launched my first website and blog on Tuesday and am so excited for this journey!

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Glauber M Rodrigues

My favorite explanation is that ambition may vary from person to person, and we may find that people with higher ambitions than ours are too ambitious, and people with lower ambitions are fools.

That explains why in some countries it is relatively easy to accept some level of ambition, and its harder to take ourselves into a higher level without seem too ambitious. It may seem rational to convince ourselves that being less ambitious will bring happiness. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Another explanation is that is necessary for the current state of global economy that some people are satisfied with less than others. So guilty also is inputted as a way of social control.

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tom

People who ‘diss’ ambition aren’t trying to be mean. In fact, they believe they have your best interests at heart. They’re realists and want to protect you from future potential disappointments. Like a parent who nurtures (protects) a child … as opposed to encouraging the lad to play out in traffic (life) dodging cars.

I think Ambition is a great thing to have. It should be taught in school. It should be encouraged verses discouraged. Too much of society is trying to ‘mold’ people into robots.

People must be creative. People must think outside the box. To challenge themselves and to dream bigger.

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tom

Of course, most people would admit that they don’t follow through enough with their own ambition.

So there’s probably something to be said about why a person projects a ‘less than ambitious’ image of themselves … which correlates to that person pointing out the obvious.

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Mye

I’m a very ambitious person and I hear than often but I am also not someone who easily gives up. Well, I believe that’s why I became a part of your community :)

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Morgan

Ouch, good question, Derek. Actually, I often ask myself, “Why are you so ambitious?”, and I give myself that disapproving look. My husband has a decent job, why do I feel the need to be an entrepreneur? Shouldn’t I just be happy staying home with the kids?

I think when we feel hesitant of our own ambition, it’s because of self-doubt. We’re unsure that all of the upfront risks (loss of money, less time with family, opportunity costs in the traditional work force) will not be worth the pay off in the end.

I think when others accuse us of having too much ambition, it’s because they feel that WE are judging THEM for not taking greater risks. They’re doubting their own path, and in the face of our judgement, they provide rationalizations for their safer, more traditional career.

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Rado

Hello Derek,

I try to see the big picture at most of the things I discuss. In this case, people who say “There’s more to life than…” may say that for 2 major reasons:

1) They are concerned about the amount of stress and hardwork you spend in your daily life. They are genuinely worried about you being too harsh to your body or mentality. We have all been in situations where we’ve spent sleepless nights working onto something and we need a break. (Ambition is directly linked to the hours you spend working). Moreover, not matching goals with ambitions could sometimes be hurtful so these people may be trying to protect us from our own ambition failures.

2) The second and in my opinion more likely version is just because they are scared of what they see. They see great desire for success which goes over the 9000 power level. This high ambition, passion and determination are qualities they are lacking, they may be lazy, they may be not ambitious etc but they see this energy and drive in you and they think “I should have been like that, I had to be that driven but I’m not”. They secretly admire you and are afraid of you, your will. This is why they are trying to demotivate you saying crap like “There’s more to life than…”. Of course there are things more important than me reaching 10,000 customers, 100k in funding, 10,000 hit on the website or whatever goal you have but being ambitious is not saying the opposite. When people say that ambition should not play that major role in my life, what I actually hear is: “Don’t be so ambitious because I have inferiority complex and you really intimidate me.”

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Yoli

I love this, Derek – because I just posted an original quote for my subscribers and social media friends that talks about that very subject. Ambition.

I don’t want to make this too long and boring, but you DID ask. :) So here goes.

First of all I think the people who tend to hate ambition don’t have any or are lacking in it for whatever reason.
I also think people tend to hate ambition, because it is associated with people with incredible drive to get a certain something done, and it is usually born from passion for that certain something.

Intense passion can be overpowering and if not checked, obnoxious to some who don’t hold the same … ahem… vibration or thought form.

Ambition is just one component or characteristic of the bigger piece of the passion pie. Along with drive, focus, and heart. The spark of ambition comes from the heart – The master driver.

That’s my two cents! Here’s my quote:

Ambition is your heart talking to you, and telling you that you can do better…that your capable of more.
So, when you hear that ever so slight whisper of a spark of light talking to you. Listen… Because it is always right.”

and there is my other two cents!

Thanks again Derek.. You continue to bring it, and it’s much appreciated.

Yoli

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Laurel Cantu

I believe people that react that way have a blindfold over their eyes that they “can’t” do that because it’s too hard and they might fail.

I’m from Texas and competed in livestock shows where you won belt-buckles as awards. It is HARD to win a belt buckle and they are looked on upon with awe.

When I was in my mid-teens I was purchasing a belt and my only stipulation was it needed to have a removable belt-buckle so that WHEN not IF I won my awarded buckle, I would be able to wear it with pride.

A mom (who happened to be at the store I was shopping at) – whose daughter I competed against – mocked me saying that I could never win a belt-buckle. And when I asked her why – she said it was because it’s HARD. Which… in my mind… well DUH. That’s kinda the point.

Needless to say… her daughter never won a single belt buckle…. I moved on to win several buckles in my livestock showing career.

You can’t be scared to try or fail. I lost more than I won. But I never quit. I kept trying. And I succeeded in my goal.

Life lesson #6,358

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Tres Adames

I think most people who view ambition as selfish likely grew up in a church background where it was viewed as negative. If you go right to the book, you realize it’s more balanced than that:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” —Philippians 2:3-4

Ambition isn’t wrong. It’s SELFISH ambition (that ignores the good of others) that is wrong. A good entrepreneur is one who seeks to solve the pain of others through innovation and self-giving. He or she does reap financial compensation, but not at the expense of others. They benefit because they have given.

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Bill Nickerson

Perhaps they’ve experienced the effects of unchecked ambition. So rather than lacking it themselves, or fearing it, they’ve see the results of an imbalance in their own life or someone around them.

Ambition is a great motivation to achieve something, but it needs to be balanced with perspective and responsibility. Unbridled ambition can become greed, lust, totalitarianism, etc. Or it can be harnessed to produce great art, science, peace, etc.

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Jess Ryan

The ambition of Joe Schmoe evokes Bobby Bobsterton’s (nickname Bobster) frustration/regret/shame over not doing something he really wants to do in his own life. It’s emotionally easier for Bobby to explain away Joe’s success as him being greedy or a showoff or materialistic than for Bobster to face the fact that he is not fulfilling his own dreams.

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Jason Mathes

Ambition is the driving force behind progress. If we didn’t have people who were ambitious? We wouldn’t have things like I dunno… the modern assembly line, the lightbulb or a billion other things we take for granted today.

And they weren’t done by people who were eating Ho-ho’s on their couches watching daytime TV! They were created by people who got off their ass, and made shit happen.

Although I have to say it is tough to find a good balance in life when it comes to family and business. On the one hand you want to build your business so you can better provide for your family. And that takes Time and Energy. Which of course can take you away from your family. For me I have to work hard at finding that magic “balance” between the two.

Bottom Line? Those who look down on people with Ambition? They are the same people who end up doing nothing in their lives. I tend to ignore them and move on.

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zach even - esh

Dude! I get fired UP to kick ass and take names. Achieving success in ANY aspect of life or biz takes some damn hard work, commitment and consistency.

We gotta be careful to NOT allow the resistance of others bring us down, I know I sometimes slip and get frustrated with the resistance from others but then I pull my head out of my a** and charge like a MadMan!

Grant Cardone has a great quote and he says, “Success is your duty & obligation” – I LOVE that and I LIVE it!!

Thnx, Derek!!!

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Alex

The only people that hate your ambition are those that know they cannot compete when you are at your best. Disapproval is a mechanism to keep others from getting too far ahead.

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Kat

I face this all the time. I do a few creative endeavors. I’m very good at them and really enjoy them. Constantly I receive the jealous unproductive put downs. “Jack of all trades, master of none” I’m sure that is a saying spawn from envy. What if you are good at a few things and really enjoy doing them? Why choose? Maybe I’m too ambitious, but I keep them all pretty separate and it keeps me from burning out in any one area. If I get sick of one area, I don’t accept that many clients for a while and focus on the other. I find I always go back to each of my passions. Maybe that just works for me. Especially since I’m a creative person.

The root of the hate on ambition is just jealousy. People want to make themselves feel better so they put down your life choices. Say you make a lot of money doing something FUN. They are stuck with a lame 9-5 with commute to cry over. So look they look at what they have that you don’t, maybe more time with friends and family or even a family at all. Then they lay it into you…

“I could never risk my family’s livelihood with such an unpredictable career.”

“When are you going to get a real job? You’ll have a more stable life.”

“I could never miss out on having a family just to advance myself financially.”

“What if you couldn’t do this anymore, you have no fall back career.”

“I’d rather have a career that helps others, than just create cute unimportant things”

Parents and loved ones say it out of fear for you, but mostly it’s jealous people saying out of disappointment in themselves.

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Tanner Gers

Great question D Money!
I am often called, and thus labeled, an over–achiever. Is this because people think their achievements are Satisfactory? Maybe because their effort in their eyes is good enough…
I think it comes down to comparing their lives with what Someone else is taking action toward, wants to achieve, and the contrast between their action and what they want for themselves.
Ambition is more of a baseline for me. I look at other people’s ambition and think, if they can do that I can do this. Then I think what else can I do.
I also use others lack of ambition as an inspirational mechanism. The hope is that through all of my success, triumph, and ambition, despite adversity and disability, others can use my life as a metric for what is truly possible in their own life. This is what I really aspire to accomplish…
Inspiring the world to achieve their potential

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Tim Danyo

Ambition comes from a desire to see a dream realized. Folks who have contempt for those with ambition are usually suffering from a lack of dreams. They are frustrated and take that frustration out on those who are realizing their dreams.

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Sandra

I could’t function without ambition. It the force that drives me to be better. I’m also not doing well with people who aren’t very ambitious as all. I’m a Go-Getter and cannot understand how a person can have a “good enough” personality. Why is it good enough for them? Why don’t they want to strive for more (a better career, a cleaner house, a better paper for school)? And I don’t mean to spend all of your time on improvement but just the want to be better today than you were yesterday.

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Niyati M Bhatt

Hi, I think the mindset of looking down at someone who is ambitious might be because when someone is “blinded” with ambition – deep desire to achieve – he/she might make a lot of mess around them !

You’ll find awful lot of such business people in almost all industries. Real estate, medicine, pharmaceutical etc. etc. There are going to be businessmen who are so ambitious about fulfilling their personal agendas ONLY that they deceive their customers, manipulate the system and corrupt the government !

(I would recommend you watch a documentary on American food industry – Food Inc.)

But this, however, DOESN’T JUSTIFY having NO AMBITION. There is no growth, no comfort, no life without the ambition. All dead.

My understanding,

If an ambition is driven out of a feeling of “lack” in life, it may turn unhealthy ! But if it’s driven by enthusiasm to create something and passion to grow, it’ll be healthy for all !

:)

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Jake

Well, a few reasons. If you have ambition and you succeed they fear they won’t be at your level and won’t have the same friendship with you anymore. (fear of loss). If you have ambition and fail, they are afraid they will have to help you out. (fear of loss as well).

Society has also programmed a lot of people to believe that to have success you have to take something away from someone else, and that too much success is greedy.

But, to use a farming example… if you take 100 dollars worth of potatoes and an unused plot of land to grow 10,000 dollars worth of potatoes… who did you make more poor because of that?

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Elizabeth MacNeill

While I don’t know the “why” behind negativity surrounding ambition, have you taken a look at these examples in movies?

Whenever characters are successful in movies, the character is also shown with no social or love life. I notice this example with women, but it hasn’t struck me as predominately with men. (I could be wrong, as a woman, I notice women examples first and foremost).

Films are constantly telling viewers that getting too far ahead will take a toll on you. There are some articles on the idea that this could stem from the Great Depression era where they started making movies that centered on work vs. success. Films that are work related will sometimes have mediocre moments of success (to keep people motivated), while balancing the idea that many people are “working towards the middle” as most people won’t become an Oscar winning actress or record breaking athlete. (I don’t mean that in a negative way).

I wonder if this is a reflection on the world around us or if we pull these ideas from movies. (Or is this a classic example of the chicken and the egg)?

I think ambition should be a strong driving force. Sorry if this is a little all over the place. I have the articles I wanted to touch upon somewhere on this computer of mine.

As a recent college graduate, I find all of your writing/videos insightful and attention grabbing. I wish we had used you in the classroom. I maybe binge watched your videos the other day.

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Palle Schmidt

When you’re openly ambitious, you’re like a mirror showing the unambitious what they are NOT. That can make them feel bad about themselves, like they’re not OK, that what they have for a life is not enough.

What better way to feel better about themselves, than to pick you down?

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Renee Beese

Well said…unacomplished attempt at true in power feelings.

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AJ

Personally I see nothing wrong with ambition. I think people should pursue their passions and what really interests them. In general, there will be people in life who encourage you and build you up. Not to mention people who will discourage and tear you down.

I remember years ago when I was a high school senior and I had in mind to go to college for pre med. Out of all friends and relatives, there was this uncle of mine who loved to challenge me and engage in pointless arguments.

I don’t want to take up too much space here, but in a nutshell he would try to tell me that there was more to life than going to college full time and working part time. That I should take a semester off to build up my savings account, go out, and have fun (he didn’t realize that managed my time just fine). Out of all friends and relatives, this uncle would discourage me the most and basically try to argue that I was wasting my time and money going to school.

Why do I think he tried to shoot down me and my ambitions?
For one, he tried to impose his ambitions and interests onto me. He thought just because we have had military & law enforcement personnel down the family line that I should get into law enforcement, join the military, and/or consider pre law. He thought there was something wrong with me for having my own interests and ambitions.

I think another reason why he (along with other cynics in general) was so critical was that he had his own insecurities. He has a physical disability where he has to rely on crutches and is blind in one eye. I guess he was jealous to see me get ahead – it may have reminded him of his inability to achieve his dreams and/or enjoy life in general.

Nowadays I firmly believe that people should go after what they want provided that they do not infringe on the rights of others and that there’s a healthy balance in place. If there is a friend/relative/neighbor/etc. that tries to discourage you or kill your dreams somehow, then that person needs to be phased out of your life. I know in my case I have had to phase out this uncle I’ve referred to (the only time I see him is briefly at family get-togethers which is only about 3 times a year on average).

I know one of my current ambitions is to build a thriving online business so that I can work from anywhere with an Internet connection and be my own boss. At the same time, I plan to run my online business in a legal, ethical manner while making sure it doesn’t take time away from my other duties. If anyone disapproves of me taking this route, I just take it with a grain of salt. If they keep on discouraging me and annoying me, then I just phase them out and find other more positive & encouraging folks to associate with.

Sorry if I rambled on. Derek, I appreciate all the content and the value that you provide to us. I am also glad that there are plenty of other ambitious people on here that I can relate to and associate with.

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Tiffany

I think that if it’s right for you then you should do it. We all go through different stages in our lives where we value different things. People who disapprove are likely in a different stage in their lives. They’re saying what’s right for them, and you should do what’s right for you.

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Renee Beese

We are and have because we believe what we do. I have value, purpose, I am capable, there are no limits, there is never ending abundant ideas of how to make…..this work. If we have said these things and hear oursleves whining about what soemone else us doing then somewhere in there we really dont believe the above comment. Being annoyed is a great tool to look at what we really do believe underneath the facade. We will get there, keep showing up and being honest. Renee

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Max

My 2 cents -

Ambition is the first step to success, and since many appear to hate successful people, they try to prevent you to have success.

“Prevention is better than cure”, they say.

I don’t consider myself a very ambitious person, I just know where I’d like to get and what I am willing to sacrifice for it (and what NOT).

And anyway, I almost stopped speaking about my ambitions, because the average answers go from “there’s more to life than …” to “are you crazy? stay where you are, at least there will be no surprises, everything can go horribly wrong”.

I admit that I’ll be the first to criticize ambition, anyway, when I feel that the person I’m talking to is obsessed with that. But my critics always end with this bottom line: “it’s your life, do whatever makes you happy and good luck with that – tell me if there’s something I can do to help”

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Anelia Sutton

I’m a huge fan here and this is awesome question, Derek! I’ve always been ambitious so being driven is natural to me as breathing.

I may be dating myself here but do you remember when MTV used to have a show called Driven, with all the back stories of how they made it? I watched that show religiously. Everything resonated with me even at very young age of 13, especially the part about other people not “getting” you and or finally feeling “normal” whenever I was around other people with similar goals or drive level.

Thanks for yet another thought-provoking post! Derek, you are one bad mamma jamma! Keep up the good work. Love you, my brother from another mother!

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Cathy | The Health Coach Group

I think there are just as many people who admire ambition as those who are intimidated or turned off by it. It is one of those things…you can either please yourself or them. My comment may not sound very intelligent as I go on…because I am debating myself while I am typing. I don’t think that distaste for ambition is exclusive to those who are not ambitious. I know successful people who still like the underdog and are intimidated by others ambition. I am not sure how that plays out in their own ambition, except that it has to be uncomfortable and it must develop severe character flaws. Then there are people, in any field, who are in the same field but consider themselves superior because they are not “doing it for money” (they are not successful)…what they don’t realize is that money may not be what drives the ambitious person and really isn’t the driving factor – the other person may be in it for the same altruistic reasons…their ambition is what has driven them to monetary success. LOL…okay, that is all my debating myself for the day. Good question.

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Alex

Derek, that is an interesting topic. From my experience, people don’t have a problem with ambition, but they do misinterpret the meaning of the term.

Ambition is defined as a desire to achieve something, but I believe most people mistakenly associate ambition with obsession and rarely consider it outside the scope of work/business.

From your example, when people say, “There’s more to life than [power/prestige/career/whatever...]” they most likely have a false image that ambitious people neglect other aspects of their life for the sake of their goals.

That interpretation is wrong because a workaholic is not an ambitious person. A workaholic does not work to achieve goals, but to fulfill the need to work for work’s sake or escape personal problems, so the process itself becomes the goal. An ambitious person can also work hard, but they usually have specific goals in mind, i.e. they know why they are working and know how to balance their efforts with other aspects of life (although not everybody is proficient at the latter, myself included…).

How I feel about ambition:

I believe there are two-sides to ambition, as with anything else.

Ambition can be misdirected if you aim to achieve something not because you believe in it or want it, but because you accept what society proposes people should do. This type of ambition is not productive I believe because you will more likely become repressed and find later that you have wasted your time chasing goals others set for you.

When you know what you want and work to achieve it, I believe you need ambition because a strong desire and an idea are at the beginning of every great achievement.

I also think people do need to make sacrifices for the sake of their ambition sometimes, but I also think drinking beer at the bar is an overrated activity and not much of a sacrifice.

As long as people regulate their ambition, I think it is a necessary step to self-realization. By regulating ambition I mean avoiding misdirections towards the goals of others, avoiding obsessive behavior, and actually taking action to fulfill those desires because those influences make ambition unproductive or useless.

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Sandy

I think people say that to make themselves feel better about having no goals, no ambition, about being ships drifting upon the sea. Indeed, when people try to diminish my goals, passion, or dreams, when I think about it–it generally comes from those with no ambitions. Which makes me feel kind of sorry for those with no ambition. There are several people I know who have no clue what they want to do with their lives, they feel like they have no direction and no purpose. They’ve been robbed of whatever passions or dreams they had when they were young and they haven’t yet realized they can reconnect with the core of who they are and drive their lives forward from there. In any case, to answer the question of why people do that, I really think it is to validate their own lives, which are perfectly fine lives for those who like drifting, but I think it often comes from a place where passion and dreams have been lost somewhere in the past.

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Karen Augustine

I think people who are ambitious want all that life has to offer. I know that is the case for me. People snobbing me because I am ambitious are either jealous, envious, or they are aware that they are not doing what they should be doing. Ambition gets results and a fulfilling life. If you don’t want to be ambitious then that is YOU and what you want. And that is okay. We all have to make our own choices!!

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Vicki Aubin, The Rockin' Career Coach

Hi Derek! GREAT question and conversation.

If you look at the actual definition of AMBITION, it’s “a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work”.

So, in essence, Ambition can apply to ANY part of life. It’s that “fire”, “spark”, etc., that motivates and energizes you within to set out to actually reach or attain a specific goal, etc. You could have ambition to become an expert in something, to become skilled in an art form, and of course, in career.

Many people have “ambitions”, and they may even talk about them, regularly, BUT…there’s a difference between passive THINKING and active DOING…

In other words, if someone has enough AMBITION, that it actually IS ‘firing’ them up inside, and motivating them SO MUCH, that they actually are determined and BELIEVE that they want what they want, and they are TAKING the actions and steps and hard work required to achieve that, then, that’s actually pretty incredible and powerful…and when you really do believe in your ambition THAT strongly, and you are taking deliberate, sequential ACTIONS that move you further in that direction , THOSE are the people are are MUCH more likely that not, to actually SEE and experience that they’re desiring. So, in a nutshell, you gotta ‘walk your talk’.

So, as I see it, ambition is the “fuel”, and your actions are the “fire” that build momentum and create the results you desire.

SO…what about business and life? Well, everyone will define “getting ahead” differently to some extent, but in general, in business and career, this means making good $, etc., so what’s wrong with THAT? Nothing in and of itself, but I think it comes down more to HOW are you acting on your ambitions to get ‘there’? and YES, at what ‘expense’?

But, is there really an ‘expense’? Well, if you get to the nitty gritty, I think of it more as an EXCHANGE; you’re exchanging your time and effort and energy in exchange for something else. And we all have the CHOICE whether we want to make that exchange or not. What are the implications of making that exchange?; HERE is where every one of us have to make that assessment and choice for ourselves.

Especially in CAREER- yes, we may have to work long, countless, exhausting hours for some time, put other things in life on the ‘back burner’ at times, etc., if we want to ‘get ahead’…but it’s all a matter of PERSPECTIVE. Do you believe that the exchange you’re making is worth it? Is that exchange lighting and FIRING you up inside because you KNOW and BELIEVE that it WILL get you where you desire?

But, we also have the choice to NOT make an exchange, too. We can steer ourselves and our career in another direction. Just how STRONGLY do we hold the ambition that we have? and is our PERSPECTIVE that whatever exchanges are necessary are worth it? It’s up to you and your ‘gutt’.

Countless people are in careers they don’t enjoy, or sadly, careers they downright DESPISE, because they have made the choice to make their AMBITION be earning a certain amount of money$, etc., more than HOW they are earning it. What EXCHANGE are they making for this? Do they feel like THIS is ‘getting ahead’? Only THEY can answer for themselves.

Many times such people started off with certain ambitions, but then over time, they ‘gave up’ on them, taking the PERSPECTIVE that they couldn’t do what they REALLY wanted to do, either a) in a certain amount of time, b) making a certain amount of $, and/or c) without a certain amount of temporarily ‘undesirable’ EXCHANGE and effort.

And while some things in life may come more quickly than others, does anything truly come EASY? There’s always a potential exchange of SOME kind, and choices to be made.

For those people who have careers that LIGHT them up and fire them up inside, then CONGRATS, and more power to you! It would be interesting to actually hear stories from some of these people, to hear their perspective of ‘getting ahead’ and HOW they creatively (the key word here) put their ambitions into action.

In the meantime, my closing thoughts are: people with ambition…kick ass! and people who ACTION on their ambitions…kick ass MORE (often)!

Derek, thanks for this topic! And for allowing me to share my thoughts. Sometimes when I get started, i just can’t stop!…especially if it’s something that fires ME up inside ;)

Keep Rockin’, Derek!
Vicki :)

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Taleen

I genuinely agree with slit of the respondents.

Ambition is something people envy because they don’t have it themselves. It’s derived from many things, the environment you grew up in, people who surround you and even things that inspire you. Some people are content with the bare minimum, and that’s ok! Others like to give 1000% and that’s the ambition that kicks in.

I’ve had first hand experience with this. I moved to LA from Sydney Australia and launched my own business here. It was important to start fresh because the friends and family that surrounded me looked at me as if I were an alien because I was so ambitious at a young age.

Was I driving the ambition or was it driving me? Who knows!! But I wasn’t delirious about my goals. I’ve lived a well balanced life and been able to do so whilst securing a future for myself and I can thank ambition for that.

Do we “ambitious people” sometimes stare disapprovingly at the “non ambitious”??? Absolutely!! Because we are quick to disapprove of things we don’t understand. I’ve been taught to be ambition and settle for nothing less, maybe others have not been so fortunate?

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maxime sincerny

Many answers are probably right here. There is not 1 reason, but it is part of an individual perception of his environnement.

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Robyn

Oh yes,I’ve ran into several that seem fond of mentioning “that might work for some people in that time,but it wouldn’t be worth it now/for someone in your shoes”
Ok,maybe it hasn’t been shown to work for someone in my exact shoes,because I haven’t had support to try anything yet?
Selfless as some people try to seem,many of their outdated actions only seem to work to leave me dependent on them.For some time,haven’t been in the mood to work at anyone else’s whim.
It’s not hellishly unrealistic to get,and get my friends in,better financial standing.Aside from that,I still want to get some funding and support in areas (branching out from where I live) that actually bring on improvements in certain areas.Not looking to make money just to make money like so many around me seem driven to corner me in,but wanting to take actions to get out of the slump everyone around me seems stuck in is not a childishly naive whim of mine!

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Patty Ann

There are all sorts and types of ambition and only each person can define it for themselves. Some aspire to do nothing, nadda, zip. Others love a pile of money. It’s all just perspective.

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Miffa

I think ambition has been maligned by those who see it purely as self serving when it can be about inspiring others and achieving greatness for many. At the end of the day, it is like so many things….it is “how you do ambition” that really counts.
I also sense that many people are scared by it, becuase it requires one to take responsibilty and to “put in the hours”…and a lot of people don’t want to do that so they find it easier to dismiss it.

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Ann & the Dog

Sometimes I think it’s more jealousy than thinking something’s wrong with ambition. THEY don’t want to do it so they think that you shouldn’t either.

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Derek McCullough

When I’ve said these types of things, I think it has sprouted out of jealousy. It comes from a lack of happiness with myself and the projects that I’m currently involved in(or not).

When you start to pursue your own passions, you start to realize that you aren’t being greedy. Especially when you start to provide value to others. In reality, you’re just striving to be all that you can be and what is wrong with that. I now have admiration for anyone out there doing more than me and hope that someday I do more than them haha.

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Mike

I’ve experienced envy and even hatred towards me when I’ve shown other people my ambition, and it’s tended to be the people who have none themselves.

I have since learnt to mostly keep my ambitions to myself and simply get on with it and only tell people who I know are at least a little bit ambitious themselves.

A current and ongoing example is that I really enjoy weight lifting, and specifically heavy weights at that. My goal is to get as close to being a top ‘professional’ powerlifter as I can, without actually going professional.

This means that I spend a lot of time exercising, which has to be fitted in around my day job (on a farm) and a small business I run in the evenings and weekends.

I eat healthy, and I am constantly doing things to enhance my health – all with the aim of reaching my goal/ambition, which btw I am probably about 2-3 years away from, having been lifting for about 6-7 years now.

I constantly get envious and hate-filled remarks about my appearance or dedication/ambition from friends, friends of friends, and sometimes even family too.

I get comments about the way I look – which is pretty muscly for my size, and this is from fat or skinny people.

I also get comments about exercising on friday nights or weekends, instead of going down the pub or club with friends – the same friends who look like shit on a Monday morning, and rest of the week come to think of it, and don’t seem to care about their current or future health.

The list goes on and on, and it has done for pretty much the entire 6-7 years I have been lifting weights.

I’ve gotten used to it now, and most times I laugh it off. It does help that the last year especially I have been able to find a couple of other people who are as ambitious/dedicated to lifting weights as I am, but we are certainly in the minority.

What annoys me the most is that all I am doing is keeping myself fit and healthy, working towards a long time goal/ambition of mine, and most of all enjoying myself along the way.

I just don’t get why people feel the need to knock others for doing things that they aren’t willing to do themselves.

—-

Sorry about that, turned out a tad longer than I thought it would, kind of just fell out of my mouth!

Cheers

Mike

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Peg McMahan

Why do people hate ambition?

Some people are born to lead. They are born to be masterful business people. They are born to be exceptionally good at coaching and mentoring. They are driven to succeed because that’s what’s on their master plan.

People who hate ambition could be the ones who were set up to be super successful on the master path, but are still plodding along on the student path. Jealousy and envy come into play when they see someone who has what they want.

People who hate ambition may be those whose main focus is family and community life. If the ambitious one is working solely for self, the group feels uncared for. For example, Jim says, “My dad’s focus was on his job. He brought in lots of money and we had a nice lifestyle, but I sure would have liked playing ball with him on weekends instead of him going to work.”

Sometimes people just want to hate something. Ambition as a character trait is handy to hate.

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Mary Catherine George

Hey Derek!

Love that you are sharing about the topic of ambition!! For me, ambition can be the willingness to imagine ourselves as someone at a higher level in the future. Whatever it is, perceiving myself as thinner, healthier, richer, happier and on and on! Often I am derailed from this vision because the picture seems un-achievable (is that a word?) or I am not certain where to start – so the pursuit of my ambition/aspiration is left in the invisibility of my mind without an actionable date or plan. Fortunately, I have changed it with two simple steps 1) what can I easily measure that will move me in the direction of what I desire? 2) what is the smallest step that I can take today? I used to think I needed chunks of time, or money or whatever!! Now, I realize it really is in the small stuff, I can get a lot done. Also, seeking out helpers along the way who can keep you accountable or moving forward definitely is key. I started a master mind group with 3 other women, and listed the 4 most important creative projects I wanted to have legs. I am so, so happy that the app is in development, the book is on the third chapter AND the podcast will be launched in the first quarter of 2014. PLUS, I am finishing my PhD in June of 2014. ALL of these aspirations/ambitious ideas and desires are happening slowly, small step by small step and I am tracking each one with a simple spreadsheet with time windows. Thank you so much for continuing to inspire and move us all forward toward our ambitious dreams and desires.

MC

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Joel Alain

Urg. This happened to me just a week ago. I don’t know why i still bother to talk about my projects and ambition since almost 99% of people ask me “what’s wrong with me”.

When i say that i want to live the 4 hour work week and be millionaire in 12 months people always tell me that i won’t be more happy, etc and it drives me nuts because i then defend my point and say there is a LOT of thought process about my life and what i want and that im ALREADY happy & money is just a goal. what motivate me is having goals pushing. If i wouldnt have crazy goals, then i might as well die because nothing else drives me. I need to push boundaries, and when i do so i am the happiest person on earth.

I wrote an article last week about that (why the lack of ambition is just plain stupid, not the reverse) and shared it with my friends and only 2 replied and the 4 others probably were mad about it (it’s a pretty direct text). Most people live their live with their head in the sand and taking it out and seeing what they’re missing is just too painful for them. They’d rather ignore it and wait to die since it’s easier and much less scary.

Anyway. For entrepreneurs, this is a subject that sucks since unless you have the immense chance of being surrounded by like-minded people and other crazy entrepreneurs, you’re pretty much alone and have to go toward your goals with zero encouraging.

joel

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Tatiana

I feel a bit odd because there’s no definition for ambition given so I can make sure we’re all talking about the same thing. To me, ambition is the drive to do more with your life than whatever it is you’re doing now. Ambition is the opposite of complacency – you realize that there’s more to your world than what you deal with every single day.

So, in this context, I don’t think people *hate* ambition, anymore than they *hate* success. I think when you’re trying to better yourself and your life, people are regurgitating the same stories they’re told (and have been told since forever) about the possibilities in life. In fact, just last night my friend was telling me about how her mom encouraged her to put her dreams on the back burner (“like everyone else”) and just focus on getting a job so she can pay bills.

Ambition says that you’re unwilling to accept your life. That you’re angry and want to change it. Most people find ways to justify and explain their complacency.

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Christina Gillick

I once commented on FB about something going right in my business (I can’t remember what it was now). Anyway, someone commented that “all I need is love” … I think that was pretty disapproving of ambition. I didn’t know what to say … ??

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Lexie

Most people do admire ambition. They are jealous of people who pursue their dreams, and are successful at it. There is talent involved with ambition. Its the talent that people are jealous of. It takes work, doesn’t happen overnight. That is the key. To keep going and not quit. That is where ambition and drive help fuel you like fire to keep going, until you are successful

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Mark

In and of its self, Ambition is the fearless passion of life.

To frown upon ambition could be a mere reflection of ones ‘fear’ of failure or success (deserving of)?

Congrats to all thee ambitious ones!

Mark

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Josue Alano

Ambition: when someone wants what they don’t have, be it a better life, a business, etc.. but unlike all the other “wanters” they get up and do something about it. And usually they get resistance for going after it…

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Katharine

Shoot. Wasn’t this one a big bell-ringer!

My ambition has always been to participate in intelligent conversations, and here I am, last to contribute! Ha.

Ambition is often misdefined, and this is crucial. It comes from the same root that gives us “ambulatory”, and it means “wanting something enough to get off the couch.”

People don’t like the word because they often misdefine it as “greedy”.

Or else they just don’t want to get off the couch. :(

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James

I think some people are instantly intimidated by ambitious people. It is almost like they are afraid that it is “contagious”. The intimidated person instantly gets intimidated of the thought of becoming ambitious because it would not fit in their schedule.

Usually, when someone is ambitious they have to do many uncomfortable things at first. Most people do not like to do uncomfortable things.

Complacency with one’s life is the equivalent of putting your life in a puddle of quicksand, and this scares people.

People that are complacent know they should be doing more but they don’t want to be reminded by an “ambitious” person. Complacent people say that they often view ambitious people as “snooty.” But it really does not have anything to do with that at all. It is not even a culture shock to the ambitious person.

The ambitious person is just stirring a fire within the complacent person and the complacent person really does not have a desire to change.

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Diane Lowry

Hi Derek,
Two things come to my mind. Either one hasn’t found their true calling/ passion or doesn’t have a economic need to earn money. For those reasons one can not relate and somehow actually resents the person who does have passion and ambition.
Thank you for starting the conversation about this topic. The point being more people need to actually discover and use their gifts. It will enhance their feeling of well being. And the rest of us need to move forward unapologetically getting our message out.
:) Diane

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Tyler

Because when people are working towards something, those around them feel inadequate. So they have to make a choice , doing something themselves, stop hanging around them, or attempt to discourage people from succeeding so they can avoid the previous. Sadly most people opt for the third option. And their infinite wisdom of success will tell you about a co-workers friend’s brother-in-law’s neighbor’s cousin who tried something and failed.

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Kiki kranX

We each have to define what’s important to us in life and go for it wholeheartedly. For some it’s business and adventure for others it’s raising a family. I say decide who you are and what you want and go for it with all you’ve got.

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Alex

Hey Derek,

I know many people like this.

The answer is: Envy

People that answer like: ” It’s more in life than…” its Envy, because they don’t want to see you get forward, because this makes them feel bad, because they are jealous, because you getting ahead increases the distance between you and them

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Paul

I think it’s stupid to think that having ambition means that you will sacrifice everything for your ambition. You can have your ambitions and still take time for all the important things in life. I think ambition is important too. To me it just seems to be the desire to be the best that you can in your business.

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Tristram

I think its because people get offended by the fact that you think big and they don’t so it makes them seem small.

Also I think they can justify themselves by saying it. I can’t have that so you shouldn’t be able to have that as well. Lots of haters out there that don’t want you to have! a

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Andy

I think you are asking in the wrong place. Your readers, I would posit, read material like yours to help them get ahead and so are already exhibiting ambition. Find a blog that the “ambitious suspicious” person reads and do a guest post on this topic (I had a quick search but didn’t find anything, unfortunately). I think the comments there would be very enlightening.

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Michelle

Let others live small lives NOT YOU !!! Darren Hardy( Success Magazine)

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Rachel

While I”ve never had people actually say “there’s more to life than….,” I have had them put down every single idea or desire I had – unless it was the one they wanted me to do. No originality allowed.

I wonder if this is mostly a North American thing, from a culture about individualism while conforming, or it applies across all cultures.

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Natasha Lakos

Someone told me once that ambition is a soul word, and it re-framed the way I think about it. One definition is “an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction…and the willingness to strive for it.” The willingness to strive for it – that’s the part I identify with the word and people who are ambitious – they have the guts to follow their calling.

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Tavis Bucklin

I think there may be two parts to this.
1. people who don’t “have” will often associate gain with greed. If your success brings you money, then your ambition must be driven by greed some how. This type of person will probably tell you that “money is the root of all evil”. How many time have you herd this miss quoted version of “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil”? ……..big difference in my opinion.

2. When someone shows ambition and drive to succeed, where does that leave the non-ambitions types? These people are the ones saying its not worth the effort. Of course they are….when you succeed they look like lazy fools. Ambition can bring accomplishment, fortune, happiness and a number of other great things. Things the nay-sayer feels are unreachable for them.
It’s the simple principle of positive and negative energy. negative will always try to drag you down with it! Surround yourself with like minded positive individuals and you wont get those negative comments. :)

Regard,
Tavis Bucklin

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Pretty Fish

Wow there have been so many intelligent comments here already!

The word ‘ambition’ gives very mixed feelings, like the word ‘money’.

When people hate it, it is because it brings up feelings of fear, that there is not enough for everyone, that you have to cut others down to succeed.

To succeed, I believe it is to be your best self, and really believe in your own abilities and what you are about, and share it (art, or teaching people how to be fitter, or get more blog followers)… and people who have achieved it have faced a lot of their own fears and used them to learn more about what makes them feels good.

The ones who are afraid and hate ambition are the ones who are still feeling like someone owes them their success, or maybe are on the verge of recognizing that ambition is about striving and growing and expanding and improving and sharing AND caring…and that at times it does take a leap of faith.

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Brian Savic

In life and in business not everyone will always like what you do, your choice is to promote the people who do.

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Kimberly

Without ambition people would still be dying of freakin’ polio.

“Why do people do that?” It might be jealousy. But I think it shows a lack of depth of knowledge – they need more information about you to make that statement. Seems to be an implied “selfishness” here. Ambition alone can’t be a bad thing.

However, it is simply very acceptable to say “there is something wrong with wanting to get ahead in business and life.” An entire movement occurred around it – Occupy Wall Street. Such great branding. Also, the current president of the US says it so much that I now regularly hear people ape him with “profit is bad.” “Did you see their huge profits?” It means nothing. The person is uneducated. Profit margins, operating margins, etc, matter.

In any case, that person needed to know your goals in life, Derek. Where are you headed? Profit is essential to every business (unless not-for-profit). You upped your production quality, for example, providing more value to your audience and enabling you to grow. That took profit and you employ or hire some other now too, yes? Fantastic!

And growing your personal wealth is also essential, if say you want to support a family one day or start a foundation that feeds and schools children in African nations! Does anyone get mad at Oprah?

“And am I the only one who wants to stare disapprovingly back at them?” No. But why bother. They seem ignorant. Better to educate them from the heart with what business is to you and your goals. Such real, solid thinking might make them feel a bit superficial though. So be nice. You are in the power position when you come from a place of knowledge and not defensive attitude.

“And who says that ambition-realized is at the expense of something else?” The US President, government, media and lots of Hollywood movies. Sorry, but striving for profit has been made to be a bad thing. It has been massively distorted. And with that goes ambition. “Big bad greedy business.” “Their profit means less for you.” “They take too much of the pie.” All lumped together and untrue.

People, in general, allow these statements to go unchallenged, so the uneducated media perpetuates these misconceptions.

Thankfully, Derek, you question these things. You are a thinker and a doer. Awesome and interesting!

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Kevin

The problem is people are going to always tell you that you can’t do something, that you’re not capable of that. And of course they are going to say no, or that you can’t do it because you are making them uncomfortable because you are trying to do more with your life. People who say you can’t do something do not recognize that unconsciously their mind is weak and sad that they themselves are not trying anything to better themselves. So in fact it is their own minds tricking them to put up a defensive wall because you are shining the light on their own weakness. The weakness of them lacking to stand up for what is yours, the weakness of not producing more of their lives.
Because life has A LOT more meaning than just working a day job, going home and doing nothing.
Life is hard, it pushes people around, that’s rough. But that’s just one of the hoops you have to flip through to achieve what is yours. (Haha sorry, that’s my motivational side speaking.)
But seriously, look at people, they are like a boiling crab pot. If you have ever watched a boiling crab pot, you know what they do? When one crab tries to escape the others pull them back in, and that is what I see people who are holding me back. They themselves are sitting in boiling water, and do not realize it. But I am the only one who sees that we are boiling away, dying. So how do you overcome this? You must have the strength, and faith in yourself. You have to believe in yourself!

Anyways, haha I go off on random motivational tangents because I am working on my motivation website.
Either way, thanks for your time Derek!
You rock!

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Jasmine

Is’t ambition that motivation spark within ? Believing in something not because we have an ego or want to put people down but because we want it more than anything? I have always been ambitious & encouraged people in my life or even random strangers to believe in themselves. My why is because I wanted a better life for my family, i wanted to give back to my mum. I had the career & the degrees but you find people get insecure that you may be better than them so they try to bring you down, few people like a tall poppy.

Or some just don’t understand, when I started my first company my grandfather told me I was wasting my time & should go get a job at woolworths, simply because he didn’t have ambition and believed having any work was better than taking a chance.
Ambition is what drives us.

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Penny McConnell

Ambition has a lot of energy associated with it based on the way we were raised. In some communities if you were not seen as ambitious then often time you were accused of being lazy. However, if someone decided you were “overly ambitious” that presented a problem as well and marked you as competitive, single-minded, selfish, etc. In short, ambition is associated with a lot of judgment.
Which is unfortunate. Because in its purest sense ambition is needed to reach desired outcomes and make the largest contribution.

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David

I honestly do not think that people hate ambition. I just think that they are scared of trying to do something that might fail. It easier to play safe and stay firmly in their comfort zone, and then they never have to experience failure. However, if they were guaranteed that everything they tried would work, then it would be full speed ahead and ambition with a capital A. So my view is that it is a defence mechanism against doing the difficult stuff in life.

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David R. Herz

You took the words right out of my mouth. I agree with jealous comments as well. We’re scared, but deep down we want what others have as well. Whenever we see someone going for something – and usually when it is something we could see ourselves doing but . . . – we want to enroll them in our view of the world to justify our own inaction. I think this is also why it’s so important to hang out with people who are similarly ambitious; we too often allow ourselves to be influenced by the decisions of others.

For example, when I was first married, I spent quite a bit of time looking at real estate; I found a number of buildings I was totally in love with. I consulted with a friend of mine who was in the business, but twenty years ahead of where I was. He suggested these weren’t good plays because of the neighborhood, etc.; so I backed off.

What I didn’t do is put myself in his position twenty years earlier. The stuff he owned in a nice neighborhood at that time had been in a much more dicey neighborhood when he got into it, back when he was a lot more hungry and ambitious.

I guess what I am noticing is that even with successful people, we need to look at what they did when they were playing the games that got them where they are, and choose as our cohort those who are still playing those big games in life.

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Jed

This will likely open a can of worms, but I am going to say it. There is a general movement in the country to vilify success. It started with the meltdown in Wall Street and was perpetuated by the Occupy protests and the current administration. Love him or hate him, he has definitely shined a light on the negativity of success.

There are plenty of bad folks on Wall Street and in the upper crust of big corporations, but there are also plenty of honest, hard working folks that worked their asses off to get there. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, a few bad apples… Now, people tend to look down on the person whether consciously or subconsciously driving down the street in a $80K BMW. Where as 40 – 50 years ago, those people were admired and celebrated for their success in life.

What I always say to people is that money does not buy happiness, but a person without stability and security is not happy either.

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David R. Herz

I don’t think we vilify success. I think what bothers us is people not giving credit for the source of their success where it is due, which is not to say that their hard work was not a factor, but it was not the only one. And when we acknowledge that our success may have been influenced by factors outside of ourselves, it may suggest that we have a responsibility to those who did not have the same advantages.

Also, if you look at trends, the executive of 40-50 years ago made a much smaller multiple of what the guy at the bottom made. He might have driven a nicer car and lived in a nicer house, but was less likely than today to live in a my-house-is-bigger-than-yours subdivision of McMansions as far away as possible from the more common folk.

Just my two cents.

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Jed

I guess we can agree to disagree. The reason I disagree is because you kind of crossed 2 bridges at once there. The first bridge was people not giving credit to the people that helped them be successful. The second bridge was successful people having “a responsibility” to those that did not have the same advantages. I agree with your first bridge just out of good manners. Cite your sources, give credit where credit is due, and help those that helped you. In contrast, I believe a person does not have any”responsibility” to folks with less advantages. I DO believe that any person that is well off should do what they can to help people that are not well off, but not out of a feeling of “responsibility for their success.” They should do it because they are good people or because they want to help or because they feel bad for those people or because their faith requires it.

I think the responsibility you reference translates into “entitlement” for the taker. It is that sense of entitlement that makes those folks resent success and ambition. John Successful Guy is giving $10K year charity A, but he isn’t helping charity B. Why doesn’t he feel a responsibility to help charity B? John is doing what he can or what he feels is right, but he is now viewed negatively by Charity B because he isn’t fulfilling his responsibility. I believe this is the root of alot of problems in this country and problems we will see more prevalent in the coming of our younger generations. We cannot raise people to think that the wealthy have a responsibility to support anyone or that the non-wealthy are entitled to anything. Make your own opportunities, help your fellow man if you are able, and don’t rely on anyone for your own personal growth, welfare, or success.

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Benir Koranache

ambition [æmˈbɪʃən] n
1. strong desire for success, achievement, or distinction
2. something so desired; goal; aim

[from Old French, from Latin ambitiō a going round (of candidates), a striving to please, from ambīre to go round; see ambit]

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At the core, humans are instinctive, like our animal cousins; we go towards pleasure and away from pain. Having a siesta on a beach, in the gulf of Mexico is pleasure – an end goal for most. Getting to Mexico requires some effort – and if you need money to do it and more money to do it the way they sell it to you in advertising – then it takes even MORE effort! And effort translates into PAIN for some folks. Probably for most! Effort requires risk, takes (you) out of certainty and into a state of UNcertainty = PAIN.

So, its back to the XBOX, innit?

My main #meta man, Tony Robbins sums it up quite nicely (paraphrasing): People want things easy – they don’t want effort! They don’t see the verdant, peaceful valley beyond the mountain – they’re too distracted by the mountain! And the PAIN they’ll experience during the climb!

Many people want an excuse NOT to go for it. Hence, they will shoot holes in all your lamebrain schemes. And DAMN you if you succeed … cos then, you just got LUCKY, innit?

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Allison

I think that reaction is due to the perpetuated idea that you have to “all in” in order to win big. My personal belief is that this only part of the equation. Our health, mind, wealth, and family life overlap and need balance to be truly happy, and balance doesn’t mean mediocre success. We really can “have it all”, and those who scoff at us uber ambitious types simply don’t believe in themselves enough to go after life like we are :)

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Missy Cooke

Sometimes I think that disapproving look comes because of the thing you are ambitious about, not because you are ambitious.

Everyone is ambitious about something…some about sitting on the couch all day but that’s still an ambition to be lazy, I guess.

Either way, when you are out doing something that someone else doesn’t want to do, or thinks is impossible then they automatically see your ambition as negative. But, if you asked them to do something that was equally as hard but fun for them, they would be all over it.

I have found there is no point discussing why I’m doing anything if it is in an attempt to convince someone else that it’s a worthwhile endeavor. If their only reason for not is that ‘it’s hard’, well, I already knew that – I just don’t see it as an immediate reason not to try.

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Danika Jane

I believe ambition is a beautiful gift. We do have goals, desires and things we want in our lives and this is completely natural and okay.

Everyone has their own unique gifts that are bursting with colours to be shared with the world. I believe you owe it to yourself and the world to make the contribution you were born to make. Ambition to me is to embrace that fire-in-the-belly passionate feeling to go after your hearts desires.

Steven Pressfield wrote…
“Ambition is the most primal and sacred fundament of our being. To feel ambition and to act upon it is to embrace the unique calling of our souls. Not to act upon that ambition is to turn our back on ourselves and on the reason for our existence.”

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Leslie L Denning

Hi Derek:

I think that it is a holdover from the ’60′s/70′s era. When I was child, everyone wanted my generation to do better than the former. By the time I was a young adult then, it was very cool to look down our noses at people who wanted to achieve, who wanted money, who lived in the suburbs, blah, blah, blah. We just wanted to be free of all those trappings of materialism, dance at Woodstock, get stoned, and maybe grow a little food in our commune. Talk about your unsustainable lifestyle!

Unfortunately, a lot of my peers have never outgrown kum-bah-yah and are now in positions in high power in education and government. They want everything to be ‘fair’ and think people who want to become wealthy as greedy, and they have set about brainwashing us. I’m still a rebel, though, and won’t let those ‘grownups’ tell me how to be. I’m ambitious as heck – and I’m going to be a millionaire in 5 years, no matter who looks down their holier-than-thou noses at me!

All the best,
Leslie

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The get in shape girl

I’m totally ambitious, but I want an awesome life, amazing experiences and tons of friends to share them with. I never say I want money. My boyfriend always talks in terms of dollars. He says that I don’t talk about wanting money bc I don’t have enough! Haha. I disagree- his idea of wealth is just different than mine. So I guess if you’re talking about money I may not SOUND ambitious, but in reality I am very ambitious!

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Natalie Jean

I have to I think ambition gets a bad wrap. Heck, guys and gals get dumped over ambition every day. I’ve had way too many conversations where I hear of girlfriends of mine dumping a guy for a LACK of ambition.

I think the reason that ambition gets a bad wrap is how you demonstrate it. If you brag in all the wrong ways (great video on that by the way!) then it’s going to get you negative attention instead of gaining a captivated audience that’s rooting for you to go bigger and conquer more.

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Cora Foerstner

Defining ambition would be helpful.

The above definition by Steven Pressfield is interesting, but I’m not certain it fits all people. For example, I don’t think there is a grand “reason for our existence.” A flower grows because a seed fell into fertile ground and thrived. I was born because my parents had sex and sperm and egg met. I was poor but loved and have followed my heart. Other are born into wealth and privilege and never learn to follow their heart. Others are born into poverty so great their grand reason for existence is simply to survive.

As many of the comments suggest, people reacting negatively to the word ambition might be defining it differently. A son or daughter neglected or abused by an “ambitious” parent, might see ambition differently from a person encouraged to follow his or her dreams, to make a plan, get help, and to realize their ambition. Some of us are not so fortunate and have to fight for our ambitions to become reality.

I really like Steve Currie, Samar, and Sylvia Masser’s answers. I’ve lived abroad for a good part of my adult life and ambition in the U.S.A. is often focused on work rather than other things. It’s possible to have ambitions that don’t sound all that wonderful to some of us.

What if you’re a photographer and want to take the perfect picture? What if it takes you a life time to accomplished that to your satisfaction? Is that ambition less valuable than someone who wants to be a billionaire and accomplishes her/his ambition by age 30? How about someone whose ambition is not to work and travel the world…might seem crazy to some people, but I’ve met some folks who do that and they are very happy. Or someone who wants to grow organic food in their backyard to eat healthy and provide for his family?

Many of the answers here take negative shots at people who have a negative view of ambition. My question is: how is calling someone who doesn’t have your sense of ambition lazy or some other negative term different from someone who views ambition as negative? different sides of the same coin?

A better strategy might be to find out where the other person is coming from and find common ground. My experiences is that we are often more alike than different. You might have more in common with someone who has a negative view of ambition than you imagine.

My ambitions are modest, but they suit me, and they satisfy me. The world is diverse, and there is plenty of room for diversity of ambition.

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David

This may be an unpopular response, but I thought it might be worthwhile putting it out there to see what everyone thought.

I think the answer is two-fold. People seem to dislike others who are successful, because it makes them seem like a lesser person if they’re not as successful. Tim Ferriss is a good example, he is good at pretty much everything he does and he markets himself well and people seem to hate him for it.

Generally I also think people dislike anything that conflicts with their ideological world view. If someone has a different opinion to you then it subtly undermines your values or puts them in doubt, and so the tendency is to attack the other person’s values and defend your own. So I think you could equally ask why do you dislike people who think there is more to life than ambition?

Personally I feel there are much more important things in life than having a lot of money and being successful. Where does ambition get you? Nice car, big house, might make you popular, and then what? You get old, sick and die, or some life event happens that leaves you an emotional wreck and then what does all of the stuff and prestige matter? Is the big house going to console you? Will your network give you what you need to get through the difficult times? After our basic needs are met having more stuff will not make us happier or more fulfilled. Those sorts of things in my experience come from within.

As far as I can tell ambition is a hangover from the process of evolution. Animals need to fight and compete with others to survive. We don’t, but we still have the same drives and instincts as we’re basically more complex animals.

I don’t think drive or a solid work ethic are bad things at all, but I think it’s important to see where we focus them, and what the underlying psychological causes for our actions are.

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marquita herald

Hum … ambition is not a popular topic where I live (Maui). I remember how thrilled I was when I began moving up in my career in hotel sales and marketing and my “friends” didn’t wanted to hear a word about it. Things went from bad to worse when I was promoted to international sales – here I am living my dream traveling all over the world and I couldn’t even share it with those near and dear – although they never complained about all the great gifts I brought back after each trip. For better or worse, I’ve learned to effectively separate my personal and professional life to keep the peace.

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Josephine Lee

Honestly, I don’t run into this problem. Maybe it’s because I’m a 25-year-old Asian female. It doesn’t exactly scream out intimidating or threatening (which I believe ultimately triggers ambition-hatred). I own a dance boutique, which is also not intimidating or threatening. Although it takes just as much ambition to run as any business, I don’t think it’s perceived as so.
And I do sacrifice my dating life to my business (I work 7 days a week). But no one really gives me any grief about it. Maybe I just have awesome, supportive people around me.

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hans

Hi Derek,

Of course one must have ambitions to proceed in life. I think there are many kind of ambitions though. The arrogant one, the more subtle one, the clever one, etc. The word ambition is just a vehicle to get to a destination in your life. People who are stating that ambition is an abusive kind of thing to do are partially right because some of us use it as an excuse to push everything and everyone out of the way to achieve ones own selfish interest. However ambitions, when used in the correct way, is a must for us to achieve goals and dreams. If there wouldn’t be any ambitions life would be numb and dull.
Just use it in the correct way so that nobody else gets hurt!
With friendly greetings, Hans

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Kamila @ Sensual Appeal

I absolutely agree with you, Derek. I’ve always found myself to be highly ambitious, intellectually- and business-driven. I love getting ahead and it IS what makes me happy. Sure, there are ALSO other things that are beautiful and amazing about life, ambition isn’t the only thing, but for me personally it is certainly one of the main things. I don’t understand people without ambitions. I simply don’t get it. Why WOULDN’T you want to strive to be better? To get ahead? To make more money? Striving is what makes us feel pride, achievement, satisfaction. I love it and I put it at a high priority for me ALONG with family, spirituality, and other things in life. Life isn’t black and white – it isn’t just ONE thing that makes it go round.

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Tony Jay

Hey Derek,

I think that there are people out there to whom ambition is a dirty word. But there are also people who don’t have ambition that don’t necessarily hate on those of us that do.

My thoughts are that I’m glad there are people that don’t have ambition because it leaves more opportunities on the table for us to action.

Let’s all just get along, and they can have their lives of mediocrity.

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Marc

Ambition is the fuel that drives human achievement. It should not be confused with greed which is a purely selfish sentiment. I had the misfortune of working in an environment where the bar was set very low and there was a strong bias against those considered to be overly ambitious. In this case, the resentment was mainly based on fear of change If you find yourself in this scenario, it’s best to get out as it is impossible to change the prevailing culture.

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Miriam Ortiz y Pino

For a long time the people around me – especially my colleagues – gave me a hard time about wanting to be more successful. Then I started hanging out with the cool kids who were also ambitious and desiring a certain amount of money to live the life of our dreams. Now I just don’t care what those “settler’s” think. BTW – you are one of the cool kids. Thanks for all your great stuff, it helps.

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Dan Ingraham

I think some people do not want to see others be ambitious and succeed because then that would take away some of their excuses for not following their dreams. It is easier to pull others down than it is to raise yourself up.

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Bobbie Murphy

Great topic! It is VERY possible to play BIG and serve as many people as possible with your expertise and services while giving even MORE or your time and love to your family and friends. Ambition is wanting to give your gifts to the world. Making money…lots of it…can allow you to do great things for this world and the people in it who might need assistance.

Yet sometimes as you are advancing, those in your life who are not feel threatened somehow. They see the lack in themselves and so it’s easier to criticize you for working towards being the best at what you do. That makes them feel big for a little while. It is painful, but it is also important that you surround yourself with like- minded advancing people.

Never apologize for wanting to be the best version of you by hard work and ambition. The world needs people who want to share their gifts freely. And they should be paid for it.

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Doug

Ambition is fine unless it makes you walk over others to get what you want.

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ambak

Yes, most people are drifters or dreamers, with
no real purpose in life. They will quickly imitate
or ‘borrow’ ideas from others since whatever they
pursue previously failed miserably. Some may even
put it entirely on fate, que sera sera. Very few indeed
has the ambition and foresight to see the ‘ambition’
through.

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Priti

Ambitious people make others uncomfortable because they raise on the standards of achievement for themselves and their peers. Unambitious people fear that their peers will reach out for higher goals and they will be left behind.

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Jana

Ambition in someone else can make them feel bad about their own life.

Some people just except their demographics, situation and life. Thinking that’s all there will ever be, there’s no point trying to get ahead or get success because that’s just for the movies.

I’m around a lot of people like that, I’m the odd one out. They always see me pursuing my dreams, always ambitious, taking on challenges, never sitting on idle….

If someone said to me, like they said to you ‘there’s more to life than ____” I would reply with this

“damn right there’s more to life than just passively sitting around watching TV and waiting for life to happen to you and being restricted financially to doing the things you want to do in life.”

You can either sit around, have extra time but no money to do anything in that time (p.s it’s costs money to do so called ‘free’ stuff – i.e. fuel and food when going to the beach for example). Or you can work your ass off and hustle your little heart out, keeping your mind fit, focused and always learning/doing/trying/making/creating and earning so you can afford to enjoy your time off. I can afford to provide a roof over my families head, I can afford to pay for nice food and clean crisp sheets for my kids.

To me ambition and drive is the essence of ‘getting more out of life’ it gives me the ability to enjoy life more, because there is nothing more fulfilling in life than loving, learning, sharing and making a difference.

I’ve never commented here, but I share your view, extremely strongly.

Anyone around me knows, this is one topic that gets my hackles up if they give me a hard time about my ambition and drive in life.

Jana

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Barbara McKinney

People hate ambition maybe because they know that some of them are too good to be true.

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Joy Donovan

A car bumper sticker, seen some years ago said ‘that women who compete with men, lack ambition’!

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Debashish

I think the bad rep stems from our fear of missing out. It’s the reason why people spend hours scrolling Facebook posts, and why the majority of people never quit their soul sucking jobs. The idea that focusing on one single thing for the next X years, always brings out that voice in the head that goes, “But, what about doing A?” or “I want to enjoy doing B too.” The voice becomes the excuse for not being ambitious, and “enjoying the good things that life has to offer”.

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Sam Bailey

Great question…I thrive and are encouraged by others around me with ambition…to be scared of ambition one lacks ‘Passion & Purpose-fruits of life”

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Anan

Human brains like binary ways of explaining the world, hence the ever popular phrase “there are 2 kinds of people…”. Ambition is so commonly linked with negative personality traits like selfishness, power hunger, etc, that being seen in this way almost immediately puts a picture in other peoples minds about the kind of person you are. It’s the social draw backs of thin slicing. People very quickly assume a lot about you using very little information.

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Seth Chong

Hi Derek,

Sometimes, it depends on who’s saying it. For one, they may be motivated to disapprove it in a way, because of negative reasons. For another, they have said so because they may be wise. For the latter, sometimes the person they’re talking to might be too hard-headed, so they could only disapprove in order to make their stance stronger. It’s like what Anthony Robbins said as, an answer to break a pattern.

In my opinion, ambition is never bad. However, I believe it must be fueled by positive motivations. If someone’s ambition is to be a billionaire, for example, and they want to be a billionaire because by being one they can have the resource to further better the world – it’s something that… in my opinion, can’t be disapproved at all.

It’s true that to be perfectly strong, one needs balance. Hence, ambition must always be accompanied by groundedness as well. This can mean being aware, being conscious, of what matters in life. Such things can range from: Family, a healthy lifestyle, being kind. Moral teachings that should always be remembered, and kept close to heart.

When ambition is driven purely by the urge to prove oneself, chased for one’s own selfishness, it can be a very blind rush. This can lead nowhere. And in this case, disapproving the ambition, is actually a disapproving of its motivations. If a selfish person wants to be a billionaire, chances are they would waste a lot of time, and can ruin a lot of people, and missing what matters in life.

Looking back from when one is eighty years of age, and is lying on the death bed – I believe ambition can only satisfy someone, if it has impacted others positively, and further be more fulfilling, if it has transformed something, someone, or people in general deeply – for the better.

I hope my answer here has been of service. Thanks.

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maria

I won’t be reading all the comments.
However, to answer your question: Sometimes people like us as we are.
They are used to us, they like to ‘flock together’ and when someone among them takes steps to follow their dreams other people may find that they no longer know the old you.
You stop being familiar and unthreatening.
You force them to see themselves differently.
Perhaps prompting them to do something else with their own lives or careers or, even, prompting them to remain in their comfortable predicament … by finding dangers, risks or selfishness on your part to prove their point.

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Tim Francis

Derek,

There’s ONE concept that’s kept me out of the insane asylum when it comes to the topic of “ambition.”

(and specifically dealing with those that seem to have less ambition…)

For a LOT of years I ran into the really frustrating reality of others having a lower level of ambition / commitment / investment in a specific project we were working on together.

I would pick up the slack behind them when (I perceived) they were dropping the proverbial ball. Or when they were reluctant to take on work, I’d just jump in and say “Okay, I’ll just do it myself.”

The hard lesson I learned is perfectly summarized by the legendary Jim Rohn in this video – a speech he gave back in the 70s or 80s: http://www.timfrancismarketing.com/jim/

(Yes he’s addressing a network marketing audience in this specific speech, but the lesson is equally applicable to those of us in non-MLM business models too)

Onwards and Upwards Derek,

Tim :)

P.S. Doing Blog That Converts right now and really digging the process!!!

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Ism

Thanks for the email. I can’t say that of late I have had the privilege of meeting those types of people. I do find it very interesting that you may have. It could be that you interact with an enormous amount of people weekly and that got me to thinking. I do step out and engage with strangers but I do not usually get that type of response, so I would like to know the particulars of what you said to invoke this response. Maybe these people have similar attitudes… I don’t know hell that’s why I follow you.

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Darrin

I’ll tell you why people are skeptical about ambition. Jealousy. Some are conditioned to think that getting ahead in life should be easy. With that mind set comes failure. That’s why they look disapproving on those that are still in the fray.

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Peg Fitzpatrick

I feel confidence in others can be intimidating for insecure people. Negative people look for a way to try to break down people who are on their game.

Can’t wait for the product of your research. Cause I’m all about you doing your thing.

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Bree

I actually get the opposite. Instead of people telling me “there’s more to life than…,” I usually have people all around me being super-ambitious (freelancers, content creators, media producers, etc.), trying to beat out all their competitors and score the highest-paying gig.

They look at me like I’m NOT ambitious for pursuing niches that I enjoy but won’t be lucrative until I’ve established a reputation. But really, aren’t both camps ambitious in our own ways?

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Mackenzie

Derek,

Ambition needs to be clearly defined for the sake of this discussion. If we stick to the denotative meaning of ambition: “a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.” No one really has a problem with this (that I know of). People everywhere praise the idea of reaching for the stars and believing in yourself. Society respects and praises people who work hard.

However, ambition has a connotative meaning that is not so well received. Ambition often means “pursuing one specific financial goal at the expense of everything else.” This idea of ambition is disliked for numerous reasons. I believe the most common reason is a low self-esteem. Person A wants XYZ but is not willing to give up TUV to get it. Person B has given up T and V and has gotten XYZ as a result. Person B is deemed very ambitious. Person A feels bad about not having received XYZ out of life, but rationalizes that TUV is more important. Person A rationalizes that Person B is too ambitious and is, “missing out on the finer points of life.” in this case, the rage agains’t ambition is more about a denial of lost opportunities and a refusal to undergo deep introspection, than it is an altruistic attempt to ensure that people don’t lose sight of what is important.

It’s important to note that for some people, the “TUV” can be things like self respect, moral values, and valuable friendships. In this case, the connotative ambition really is a bad thing. Material wealth should not drive you to be a bad person, but for some people it does. This is where ambition gets it’s bad name. This type of ambition is the poster child or “false positive” that represents all types of ambitions in the eyes of many.

For other people, Ambition represents futility and effort spent on the wrong things. These are people who work really really really hard and have gotten nothing for it. These are people who have worked too hard and never took the time to figure out a better strategy. They see their effort spent on “ambitious” things to have received the smallest gain per work put in. From this perspective, ambition is a misplaced effort.

Finally, ambition is linked to the idea of the elite class. The people of the world are not strangers to the reality that moving up in socio-economic status is a statistical anomaly. This drives a fierce distaste for the higher echelons of society amongst those who are the most needy. Ambition is a trait found amongst those who have more than those who do not. A member of the lower class cannot display ambition without announcing to the community they are a part of that they want to become something that is disliked by the community they are a part of. Its like walking into a Tea Party convention and telling your Tea Party friends that you have decide to become a progressive liberal.

Just my thoughts.
-Mackenzie

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Brian Lau

There can be lots of things that are wrong with ambition. However I think much of that is how a person goes about their ambitions and what their ambitions are. Hitler was ambitious and not exactly a role model. Then there are stories of people who sacrifice their significant others and their families to get their goals. This begins the gray area. Also, how far would you take your ambitions? Would you take advantage of people and pay them less than living costs just to make another million? Plenty of stories of that too. Are you gonna murder anyone to get what you want? Would you lie, cheat or steal? Would you bribe governments and build over sacred land like Walmart? Nothing wrong with going after your goals as long as you aren’t hurting people in the process. What that hurt threshold is depends on each individual.

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Matthew Jeschke

Hey Derek, great question. I have similar experiences. In the beginning of becoming an entrepreneur people just looked at my dumbfounded and told me leaving my job for some pipe dream was the worst thing I could do.

One of my fellow entrepreneur friends put it best when I asked him about why people react that way… He said people have a similar instinct / behavior to crabs. What happens when a crab fisherman goes to pickup his pots is, one crab will try to escape the pot / fishing crate. The rest of the crabs grab the escaping crab and pull it back into the crate, despite their ultimate demise becoming my tasty treat at dinner. Apparently there’s a subconscious behavior in people to do the same. When you have ambition or choose a different path than others, the group feels compromised and pulls you back in by trying to squash your ambition.

The only way I found to deal with this was to be so set in my plans that nobody could dissuade me. I think after continuing on your own path eventually you create a new one and people start to follow you. I’m starting to see that now that I’m a few years into this.

Anyways, I have a tendency to ramble on these comments. Thought the crab analogy was great one though and I’d share it with you ;)

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Jeff Washburn

I don’t think that people hate ambition per se. I’d say that suspicion creeps in until the primary goal is known. If the primary goal is fame, power, wealth or rank, then people generally dislike that ambition. The direct pursuit of those things raises resistance. However, if those things happen as byproducts of ambition to help, entertain, etc. people, then there is less resistance.

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Beatrix Willius

People hate ambition because their own life is over. Perhaps “hate” is too much and “don’t understand”is better.

I live in corporate america here in Germany. The only ambition my coworkers have is to be alive for retirement. When I ask them if life isn’t more precious than waiting they shrug their shoulders. Isn’t this sad?

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ambak

There are also many in Malaysia who waits for
retirement as experienced in Gemany by B Willius.
The main reason being ‘preparation’ for the life
beyond death (afterlife), which is more permanent.

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Michael Lopez

Hi Derek!
People often confuse the word ambition with the nagging feeling of moving forward as since we’re kids, we were taught that ambition is bad and means being greedy, the desire of keeping everything for oneself.

Actually, ambition is moved by ‘desire’ and desire comes from the latin ‘desidius’ (‘de’ – from ; ‘sidius’ – star(s) ) that means that our desire to grow or be better is also inspired by whatever our mind is, or something bigger than ourselves.

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Carlos Ramirez

Derek, you should feel offended by the comments of the people especially those who are not seekers people that they react only to what they been told, I say this by my own experience I was also told many things bad or good about ambition, I worked hard until I found the answer to this paradigm an was then when I accepted the word ambition within my vocabulary: it is not an emotion is a desire is controllable it can be shared. desire is nothing less than a search of the human being every day for the sake of achieving their needs and for others, ambition is; desire Not to be confused by similar words, and the best thing when we come across to people that are confused we must try to persuasive them to the correct answer. Greetings

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Linda S Taylor

I had great fun reading all the comments here. Of course you set them up, Derek, leading a great majority of the comments to the dark, negative side! But you certainly hit a nerve here, didn’t you.

I doubt you’ll ever get to read as far as my comment but, as Bill said way back at the beginning of the comments, passion and ambition go together. Nearly everyone has had a passion at one time or another, but traded that in for something else. If they question or bash others acting on their passion, it’s because it reminds them of what might have been for their own life.

My personal experience has been that
* reminding a young person to remember there are bills to be paid, or
* querying them how they might feel if going for their golden ring results in losing the silver one they already hold,
come from a place of love and experience, not jealousy.

Of course, there are also those who are much happier living with less ambition and smelling the roses, maybe writing a poem or two, and just being who they are to enjoy this beautiful world we have. Those

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Linda S Taylor

(Cut off from my original entry) Those are the ones who want to warn the overachievers to remember we won’t be here forever.

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Lucrecer

I think ambition is a great thing when you know what you are trying to achieve and what you want. I think it a shame when people are made to feel bad about desiring or achieving wealth. I am want to achieve a level of wealth to support my family. I believe I have to be ambitious to do that. I will not apologize for it. And, I am right there with you about looking at the naysayers crazy. Who are any of us to judge another?

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Brian Lau

I find it ironic that almost everyone commenting is judging people who question ambition.

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Nikos

Simply because we tend to disapprove, what we don’t “choose” to do. Hey, isn’t that why we don’t do it after all?

They just judge ambition, for the same reason we judge “no-ambition”…
And the reason is, that we all tend to forget about our different needs as human beings and have the tendency to generalize our personal “decisions” as the best practice.

A deeper question could be:
Why most of us have the need to feel that our beliefs are superior and we don’t just settle with the notion that we are just different from each other and that’s ok(no right & wrong strings attached).

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anne

There is nothing wrong with ambition. The problem is the avarice that can from time to time become a partner of ambition. Remember the saying, “It’s not what you do it is the way that you do it.”

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Amy

I was just wondering the same thing, and I almost become discouraged at the thought of how much effort it takes to remain uplifting about tough subjects around people who think it is funny to be negative. It is one thing to have doubts but sharing a voice of negativity to the point that others are drawn into it seems almost evil to me. I think for some people, it is easier to fight against the tide with anger instead of courage.

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Jarret

Derek, it’s like this – Your drunk friends don’t want you to get sober.

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Michael Lynch

So many comments here about those who knock ambition being seen as negative and yet no comments saying anything negative about ambition. Do people who lack and knock ambition not read blogs or do they just not comment ?

Methinks you might be preaching to the converted.

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Fiona McAllister

It really just depends on what a person’s goals are. Some people are happy with the simple life. They go to work, they go home, they relax, and that’s good for them.

Then there are overachievers like myself. Who are constantly fidgeting unless we have a project on the go.

And sadly there are people who make themselves victims. These are the people I believe you are talking about. Who instead of changing their own lives find it easier to whine and complain.

I’ve found that there are people who are ambitious and just have no idea how to implement, there are people who think they want to be ambitious, but aren’t committed to

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Kayley

I think the problem here might be how the other person defines ambition. They automatically assume that ambition entails devaluing other parts of our lives. That’s not the case, however; ambition goes hand-in-hand with family, friends, charity, etc. and in many cases can drive those factors. Ambition to me just means striving for something greater than what we have. Everyone does that in some respect.

Additionally, ambition is important because it breeds innovation; we would never innovate if we weren’t aspiring toward something greater. Cars, computers, and cell phones would never have existed without the ambitious people who orchestrated their creation. People who knock ambition should keep that in mind.

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Margot

I found myself here by typing a question into Google: “Why are we taught that ambition is bad?”

I’m a freshman in a small-town American high school and have been told time and time again to wait until I’m more mature or until I have experienced things to voice my opinions and make changes to what I don’t find reasonable. I know my frontal lobe isn’t developed enough to make fully conscious and reasonable decisions. I know I haven’t had a lot of experience in the “real world.” I know that I don’t know everything yet (but who does?)

Sure I don’t have the full knowledge of other peoples’ realities, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find problems in the banal life that I live. I’m just a kid, so that means I just have to spend the first 18 years of my life listening to someone drone on and on about something just simply don’t care about and absolutely know I can’t substantially benefit from, as well as sit there asking fairly meaningful questions about the worth of this so-called “education.” And all that on top of other teenage social and intrapersonal struggles, of course. Being forced to comply with something you find yourself constantly questioning in order to “have a future” is an incredibly torturous experience. I find myself stuck in this situation daily, and expect to for the next four years (at least.)

My point is, maybe I haven’t experienced the hellish life it is as an adult in the real world, maybe I haven’t learned just how simply impossible it is to ever have your opinions heard, maybe I haven’t had other experiences that weigh the lives of other people and deem my problems meaningless, but should I have my ambitions crushed because someone in power has experienced more than I have? We are told we have control over our own education, yet any ambition I have to make a change for student benefit is seen as naïve or some crazy idea brought on by raging hormones. Because I’m a kid, I shouldn’t have ambition for the immediate future, I just have to wait it out. “If you don’t like something, change it!” Something I hear teachers and principals and parents say all the time. It’s so encouraging. Unfortunately they forget to mention the second part: “…but only after you’ve gone through all of it to assess every bit of damage so then at the end, when you can change it, it won’t be of much worth to you anyway!”

“Follow your dreams” but not that one, that’s unrealistic. Instead please glue these popsicle sticks together, it’ll give you a future.

I’ve come to generally distrust the encouragement from adults in my life due to the fact that more often than not they will eventually contradict themselves, and then refuse to recognize the contradiction.

Uh… a bit rambly, sorry. Just another rebellious, naïve teenager’s opinion. Feel free to ignore.

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David Herz

Here’s the thing. You are threatening to those who have squelched their own ambition to survive in this world. Don’t buy into their crap. Be ambitious, be proud, be yourself; don’t let anyone tell you that you must settle for less.

And yes, maybe your idea is crazy, but maybe it’s the one that will change the world. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Feel free to ask your teachers and elders to let you fail. I am sure if you probe a little bit, you will find that they all have some experience where they failed from which they learned a heck of a lot. While they might want to protect you, it just might be keeping you from growing. There are some things best learned firsthand.

That said, feel free to thank these people and listen. Maybe there are pearls in what they say that are of value.

In the end however, you must make your own way, and they know it. There might be hurt and disappointment along the way, but if there weren’t you wouldn’t be putting yourself out there and living.

So whatever it is, I suggest you go for it. Do your best to prepare, ask advice where you can get it, but mostly just be in action. And have fun; always have fun.

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Jeff Goins

The question is ambition for what? It’s not enough to have drive or desire. There must be an object at the end, something to work for. In other words, I believe ambition is a means to an end, and as Covey says, we must begin with the end in mind.

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Umesh Sharma

I think people hate being asked about ambition is that they haven’t thought, discussed or really defined an “answer” about it seriously/maturely like I had not until now.
Ambition is desire which if attained can lead to a blissful, peaceful and relaxing state of mind of the person. Its like feeling of drinking hard found water in hot summer in a desert.
Ambition is different for different persons. Example of these different persons can be taken form extreme personalities in scientists, social workers, artists , business persons.
There are three groups in ideal sense which are cause of “An Ambition” which is actually mine. These are Myself, My family or the other common people.
Example of Ambition for other people is Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi. Example of Ambition from family is, of a child lived in a poor family pledges to eradicate miseries of his home. Ambition from self is by, say curious researcher wanting to explore the mysteries of nature. So Ambition is not just the successful career, its beyond this. Its the happiness we get from our Ambition. The happiness which can stay with us for a longer amount of time without any fear. One can not decide his/her Ambition. It has to be recognized.

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Toyin

I would say, it is more of understanding. The level of understanding differ from people to people. When you are operating at a higher level of thoughts and dreams and the other person is still struggling with knowing what they really want out of life, there is bound to be a ‘disapproval’ of your visions, until they are at par with you thought wise.

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Darren

When I was unemployed the welfare officers always rolled their eyes or made sarcastic remarks when I described my business ambitions. They would say things like “why don’t you get a job, what is the point in starting a business, how much have you made so far?”.

Those individuals were clearly not happy working their mediocre bureaucratic office job. It got to a point where the conversation became hostile and confrontational. I believe people like that are depressed because they do not have the guts to try anything worth while themselves.

They have allowed themselves to get their hopes up in the past and have failed, but the failure has made them BITTER instead of BETTER. People like this love to see others die trying because it reassures them that their own stationary position in the world is justified. People who do not move at all are in fact going backwards because the rest of society flows past them, like a river and a trapped log.

I have tolerated many types like this and it is all jealousy and bitterness. By succeeding you are holding a mirror to their failures. If only they would realise a certain amount of failure is a given perhaps they would face their fears and do something worthwhile too?

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Greg Vinson

Ambition can mean many different things, and if people hate it (I’m not convinced most people do, as a general concept), it is probably because they are thinking of negative examples of what ambitious people do. The upside is amazing and wonderful, but the downside is horrible beyond our wildest nightmares.

I don’t think ambition is any better or worse than ego. Everyone needs an ego to survive, and ambition to accomplish anything noteworthy, but some egos and some ambitions create very serious problems.

Ambition, combined with energy, makes all human activity possible. Which means all great works of art, and all great humanitarians were fueled by it. So is the arms race, terrorism, greenhouse gases.

The fact that we have modern conveniences is a result of ambition. So is the fact that everybody walks around with toxic chemicals in their bodies that didn’t exist 100 years ago, and kelp in California now is heavily contaminated with radioactive contamination from Fukushima, which is still not under control. It’s a mixed bag, we need it, but we are victims of our own cleverness and ambition. Our species probably won’t survive through the century, as painful as that is to face. But if we start being ambitious enough on behalf of future people, rather than in the service of our own greed, perhaps we can find a way.

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Megan Carter

Ambition; it is what pushes us to chase our dreams, it is the reason we get out of bed in the morning, it is the driving force propelling us toward success and productivity. Ambition is that fire inside of us, fueling us to fulfill a purposeful life and driving us to make and reach goals. Ambition is a great contributor to society. Without it, there would be no advancement in any field of study, no personal accomplishment, and certainly no purposeful life to live. With this being said, ambition is necessary for a fulfilling and accomplished life.

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C West

As somebody who doesn’t have much ambition other than to be a good friend, partner, family member and decent human being (not bad as far as ambitions go), I find the way Western society is *far* more geared to reward the ambitious. Someone who “lack’s ambition”, usually to work or make money, is almost always seen negatively, whereas the “just do it” “no pain, no gain” “go for it” mentality has, for probably economic reasons, become pitched as ‘desirable’.

Some people without (work/money) ambition can be comfortable, at ease with themselves and have a balanced, fulfilling perspective with what constitutes health and happiness just as some “ambitious” people can just be filling their lives up with distraction, clutter and noise — anything to stop them just really being with themselves.

My partner is a teacher and loves nothing more than to teach — I respect that completely. I’m an intelligent, compassionate human who has no interest in work, jobs or money. He respects that completely.

People are different, we’re all dots running round a planet living beautiful, complex, ridiculous lives, probably for no reason — and that’s okay.

To quote RuPaul: “We were born naked — the rest is just drag”.

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Ken

I often get accused of not having *enough* ambition. Lol!

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Nisha

Number one because they envy them, number two becaus3
They fear them, number three because they have no freaking clue how the world works.

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Nisha

I forgot the best answer available. Ego.
Oh and fear of death. fear of pain.
An overall attitude of belief, false of course, that says if you have to do some things that are good and some things that are bad to make something that is both good and bad then it isn’t worth it. Far better to BBQ a cow (slaughtered in a meathouse) grill it on a hibachi grill (made Ina factory, and engineered) watch the television (not even going to get into that), and maybe go to church?
so I guess what I am saying is that they hate ambition because of their greed. They want to consume things but not think of where they came from because it makes them feel good, much like a dude wants to keep ten lady friends, because its fun…

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James T.

If people have higher ambitions than others, they should not look at those ambitions of others as being “lower”. In fact, who REALLY CARES if one’s ambition is so high? People who waste time comparing their own level of ambition with other people are just wasting their energy and time. I hate how people would look to you as being “lower” just because they achieved something you have not. The fact is, they actually NEEDED that achievement to feel satisfied of themselves, which I don’t really care about, because they don’t mean anything to me. Their outlook in life is different from mine. There is always a limit to everything in life. If one has reached his “limit”, others should not judge him as being “weak” because he is different from them.

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