Life is a Revelation…be encouraged

Virtue #3 – Ambition


Well here is one virtue I think at first glance we all go, “Hmm, are you sure about this?”

Everyone of us knows someone who has taken ambition, cut the chain, and ran with it. They have run so far with it that ambition no longer looks like ambition. It looks more like greed and walking all over people to get what you want (e.g., Michael Douglas in Wall Street).

Yet let’s back up and look at ambition in its true sense. defines the word as:


  1. an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.
  2. the object, state, or result desired or sought after
  3. desire for work or activity; energy

I will admit the first definition about desiring to achieve power and/or fame makes me a slight bit uneasy, but only because of their abuse. The word earnest thrown in their before the word desire creates for me a better feeling. Mainly because when I think of earnest, I think sincere and honest.

I don’t believe we have to make a choice between being ambitious and having principles. I would like to think I have ambition. Actually, I believe I have above average ambition. I know as I made the effort to turn my life around I was very ambitious. I was not going to fail. My entire focus was in breaking the bonds that I had created in my old life and establishing new positive valuable ones.

When I ran the 3,160 miles across the United States I definitely had the desire. As I have created this blog, worked on my book, and sought speaking engagements to spread hope, motivation, and success I have had ambition.

In our marriage, Susie and I have exercised ambition to be happy and content. Growing up our children understood that ambition is a necessary quality to live life to its fullest. We have already discussed with our six-year-old grandson what ambition is and how it is correctly used.

Ambition has an old fashion feel; like somehow we are now beyond the concept. Yet pure ambition can be used to propel you beyond the roadblocks and obstacles of life. It can be used to harness your positive energies and open a world of possibilities.


As I’ve written this I have struggled with exactly how to portray this virtue. On the one hand, I want to caution against the run away freight train that turns ambition into nothing more than clawing one’s way up the ladder of life.  While on the other, I want you to understand I believe ambition is an essential feature to be successful; whether we are talking about careers, marriages, friendships, or companies.

Like most elements of life I think there is a tension that exists between good and evil. Lack too little ambition and you end up sitting in the basement of your parent’s house playing video games every day for the rest of your life. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you will ruthlessly walk over people and principles to attain power/fame/wealth.

Ambition is good, too much and you have a problem. Be ambitious, but be cautious.

Be encouraged!

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28 thoughts on “Virtue #3 – Ambition

  1. Great post Stephen. You ran 3160 miles across the U.S. Wow!

  2. Lately I find myself cutting back on my ambitions. I didn’t even have much to start. I guess I am afraid of success. Thanks for reminding that our ambitions are not always a bad thing, unless we let it.

    • Success magazine did a poll on women’s fears a few months ago and the #1 fear for women was…you guessed it…fear of success. I have this fear myself and have often done things to sabotage my own success…weird isn’t it…I can’t really explain it…other than I was once such a bad person, that I don’t believe I should have any success…it takes a lot of concentration for me to keep it under control…and having Susie sure helps.

      My email is if you ever want to talk about this without the world looking in.

      Be encouraged!

  3. Well said! Have ambition but have balance as well.

    • Isn’t that REALLY the message of life…a beer every once in a while is okay, a case a day, not so…dieting to lose a few pounds is okay, purging and becoming a walking skeleton, not so…relying on others from time to time is okay, leaning on others all the time because you no longer want to do anything for yourself, not so…you get the idea.

      We do the same thing with a good idea…someone on the south side of Chicago takes a school and transforms the students from dropouts on cell phones, to college bound graduates with a future and everyone wants to turn it into a nation-wide program…start a mentoring program for ADHD kids and everyone wants to make it mandatory in schools throughout the state…while it seems like a good idea it never works…what works locally, stumbles when applied antion-wide…too many chiefs, large amounts of money attract large amounts of people…you get the idea.

      Balance is the key…and pretty damn hard to do as well.

      Be encouraged!

  4. Thanks for this post, Stephen. I never thought of ambition in that way. When I think of ambition, it’s something I think that I don’t possess in great quantities. I’ve never been much of a ‘go getter’ in terms of wanting to win in ways. I mean, when I have a job though, I am definitely ambitious to do a good job, and I do. In my marriage I was ambitious in the sense that you spoke of it…just never thought of it like that. There are ways I could use that adjective to describe myself. Thank you again!

    • Anne, I’m grateful I was able to spark some thoughts. I enjoy taking a concept and hopefully finding a fresh approach to it. On the other hand, I wish I was able to do this quickly. It takes me forever to write these posts.

      Congrats to you on your 20 Lines A Day postings…Susie and I have enjoyed them immensely.

      Be encouraged!

      • Thank you Stephen. I’m glad y’all enjoy them! And as for taking awhile for your posts…sometimes I think I should take more time on mine than I do. 🙂 Yours are always good and thought provoking.

      • You always do fine with your posts…Susie and I enjoy your posts immensely.

        Be encouraged!

  5. Stephen,
    I think without ambition there is no success unless one is content with what comes their way.
    As a business owner of 12 years, I can tell you without ambition I would not have stayed in business for this long, it is ambition that has gotten me to where I am.
    like you said it can and does quickly turn to greed for a lot of people, I am lucky I care more about longevity and consistent income than the flash in the pan money greed can make you.

    Without ambition I would not have written my book which is soon to be published.
    Ambition is what drives us, it should not be what defines us, when it does thats when ambition turns to greed.
    Great post as always

    • Thanks Jim for commenting…I always look forward to reading what you have to say. As I replied to slklesko, I think the devil is in the execution. It is difficult to keep everything balanced. Especially when the people who have surrounded yourself with are telling what an incredible genius you are and how in their best opinion you ought to do such and such.

      Sounds like you have found the key to keeping it all in perspective…from some of your past posts I can only assume Mrs. Cantwell plays an important role…lol.

      Thanks again, Jim. I really appreciate your thoughts.

      Be encouraged!

  6. Great post. I think, like most things, Ambition runs on a continuum, like you said. I think what motivates ambition is ultimately the thing to look at. Greed, desire for fame, need for attention, fear, etc. are all negative motivators and probably won’t bring a good outcome. If you’re motivated by wanting to be the best you can be, challenging yourself, wanting to make people happy or provide for others, etc. then I imagine your outcome will be a good one. I’m all about what motivates us.It seems to be at the core of everything and I think it speaks volumes about who we are. As a therapist I try and get people to look at their fear and to stop using it as motivation.

    • Lisa, thanks for taking the time to write…as always you have given me ideas to think about.

      Lets look at your last sentence, “As a therapist I try and get people to look at their fear and to stop using it as motivation.” Is it ALWAYS bad to use fear as a motivation? If so how?

      The reason I am prying about this is because I am in the early start-up phase of collecting ideas, notes, concepts, theories, articles, books, and everything else I can lay my hands on to write a book about how we don not need to overcome our fears (e.g., have no fear), but instead use our fears to propel us forward (e.g., I am scared of heights, no matter how many times I go up and down the ladder every spring and fall to clean our houses gutters, located 22 feet up, I am still scared, but that fear causes me to be very safe, e.g., maintain a three point contact with the ladder at all times, insure the ladder is at the right pitch against the house, step lightly , then slowly increase my weight on each rung, etc…

      I am starting to believe our fears are there for a reason (obviously irrational fears are in a completely different category). We can build upon our fears to become successful.

      I’m interested in pursuing this line of thought with you…if your are interested you can write me back at my email address,

      Thanks and be encouraged!

      • Right. I should have differentiated between healthy fear which would be a natural instinct to keep us physically safe and the other fear which is unhealthy.

        Examples of this fear might include, being afraid what people will think or say or how people will respond to your choices. This kind of fear holds us back. Also, fear of not being loved, accepted, winning approval, etc. When we’re motivated by this kind of fear the outcome is usually negative. I find a lot of people are looking for approval, not from themselves, (Self-approval is very important for healthy self-esteem), but from a with holding parent. This need to please and win people over is usually a sub-conscious need to win a with holding parent’s approval or love. It follows us from childhood right into adulthood and continues even if our parents are deceased.

        We need to love ourselves from the inside out. We need to know that we’re lovable just the way we are without having to prove ourselves. Once you finally love yourself, you won’t be motivated by fear — you’ll be motivated by love, kindness, true desire, etc. (Things that build your self approval/self esteem) You’ll do things because YOU WANT TO not because you are afraid not to. One leads to a happy life, a life of integrity — The other leads to depression, etc.

      • See I knew you were a genius…thanks for getting back so quickly…hope you and yours have a great week.

        Be encouraged!

  7. To me ambition is having a goal and the drive to get there. I think when people think of ambition as negative it is because either the goal is negative in itself or the path the person takes to get there is negative. But it doesn’t have to be.

  8. WordsFallFromMyEyes on said:

    This is great. I very much enjoyed it. I have always said “I don’t have any ambition” because I have always been in office jobs and have never had a desire to move “up” in the office.
    I do realise an ambition though, and that is to communicate worthwhile subjects and issues, and communicate in a way that reaches. This is not a grandiose ambition – not quite one I have to climb over others to get to. I have always felt life is without value unless you “make something of it” or do something with it that aids others. I have never thought life was “Just have fun, you’ve only got one life”.

    Running those billions of miles, omg, yup, that’s ambition! Because you’d have your goal, and you’d go at it. I lack a little spirit in this life. I have a lot of spirit in not being taken down by people or circumstances, so to speak, but I have never been able to view myself in an elevated position, for want of a better word – such as is an actor, singer.

    This was a great post though, very thought provoking to me. Do you believe we all need ambition of some kind, to have a life?


    • Hi Noeleen, thanks for taking the time to write. In regards to your question, “Do you believe we all need ambition of some kind, to have a life?”, my answer is yes. But the important words in your question are “some kind.” I believe we typically think of ambition as what you said, “an actor, singer” or maybe a politician or musician. However, I think it can take other forms, such as father, mother, son, creating a work of art, writing a book.

      I believe ambition takes all kinds of forms. My little six year old Grandson has ambition to learn to read better. He has ambition to know more math. My wife, Susie, has ambition to be a great wife (which she already is, but she tells me she knows some areas that need refining). I have ambition to change the world by what I write.

      The problem with ambition is people have limited it’s meaning. Then others have taken it and destroyed the original virtue of the word. They have claimed the word ambition for their acts, but in reality they have been greedy, dishonest, conniving, backstabbing, lying, cheating, and a host of other words, but definitely not ambitious. Of course, these are the ones we hear about most often.

      I say we reclaim the virtue in ambition and make it a pure word.

      Hug and kiss Daniel…tell him you love him…hoping all the best for you and him.

      Be encouraged!

  9. Ambition for me can come in many shapes and sizes. I can be ambitious but at the same time a huge procrastinator. That definitely affects success. Sometimes working under the “gun” to make something happen can bring great success, but it can also cause such stress that the road to success is full of potholes. I sometimes listein to that inner voice that says, I am not worthy of anything good.


      This is my wife Susie…she is currently in another p[art of our state with our Grandson Hayden while his Mommie goes on a honeymoon with her new husband…Susie is doing Mom-duty until Hayden gets out of school.

      Hi Honey…good to hear from you…I miss you…and thanks for taking the time away from Hayden to comment. I agree with you about working under a deadline…at times I have found I work better, other times not so much.

      Don’t listen to the “I am not worthy” voices…remember the post I wrote, inspired by you that was titled You Are Worthy…maybe you need to go back and reread that from time to time.

      See you soon. I love you.

      Be encouraged!

  10. Dave on said:

    Ambition. I’d like to believe I have ambition. Other people have mentioned balance. That said, is it a close watch between confidence, and conceit coupled with ambition? Where’s the line drawn?

    Thinking out loud, a purposeful outer display of confidence could easily translate to conceit whereas, the inner absolute knowing, is confidence.

    Presentation is an important part of ambition, and accomplishment.

    Random thoughts on the subject.

    • Hi Dave, Great random thoughts…the problem with your musings is only you know where the line…in your mind you know when you have crossed over, even when it isn’t apparent to others…although I’ve had the opposite issue sometimes…I’m cruising through life happy with how things are going and my own well being, only to discover those around me believe I am a pompous ass…lol.

      We just keep trying to keep an eye on it at all time.

      Be encouraged!

  11. I guess as you mentioned balance is the word for Ambition…..In my life, everything i have been crazy about was somewhat left in the middle, i guess because i was lacking ambition, and sometimes i sacrificed my ambitions to fulfill others dreams….
    I wanted to fly planes, become an artist, make a rehab for stray animals etc. stuff like that, but don’t know what happened!

    • The problem with our lives sometimes is we tend to get preoccupied with other priorities, then wake up to discover a large portion of our life has passed by. I am now a huge believer in living in the moment. It seems to help.

      Be encouraged!

  12. I see AMBITION as a motivation, as our internal energy boost that gives us the drive in our daily work towards success…

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