The curse
of ambition

5 min Reading | Darius Stevens Wilhere
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When you look at business news and the history of some of the largest companies in the world, you find time and time again where ambition was a crucial factor in creating something truly magnificent or where a visionary executive is achieving remarkable things. But what you don’t often see until you look closer, is that in almost all these instances there was a burnout or pushback factor or near collapse that happened until they got wiser, and realized ambition alone wasn’t enough.

Ambition can be both a blessing and a curse.

As a blessing it can drive you to greater innovation, greater effort and greater achievement. You use it to look for advantages your competition overlooked. You use it to work hard and long into the weeks and weekends willing to make the sacrifices others are not. With it, you take risks that others might consider foolish. It helps you push yourself to the edge time and time again looking to achieve more and often accomplishing more. And these are just some of the many blessings of ambition.

But as a curse it can leave you constantly unsatisfied with what you have achieved. It can alienate you from friends and it can estrange you from family. It can blind you to the dangers of what you are attempting until it’s too late and it can trick you into believing that you have no physical limits or worse yet, prevent you from seeing the disaster of pushing others past theirs. Sure, you may burn twice as bright in the heat of ambition, but you run the risk of burning out twice as fast.

There are so many inspirational quotes which drive you to fuel your ambition and push you to discover and exceed your limits, that you often don’t see the wreckage on the side of the road of those who made the fatal mistake of depending on ambition alone. How often have you seen a person of pure ambition wind up in personal collapse? How close have you come to that point yourself? How many times?

In actual fact, ambition isn’t a blessing or a curse.

It’s simply one of many tools that you can use to drive your success as a person and as a business to higher levels of achievement. Like any tool in life, it can be overused to the point of personal collapse or business disaster or it can be underused to the point of no growth or gradual decline.

So how much ambition is enough ambition? Well, I don’t think you can ever have enough ambition, so long as it is kept in balance with the other factors that regulate life and business.

Ambition alone will drive an unexperienced executive to continually demand his employees work late into the night and over the weekends to meet production quotas. But once the adrenaline rush of necessity wears off and the grind sets in, the willingness of the employees turns to resentment and eventually the desire to leave.

However, ambition plus the skill to organize will see an experienced executive training his employees in new skills, arranging things for greater efficiency and providing new equipment so that those same production quotas can be met and exceeded within standard work hours so he and his employees can go home to their families and personal lives and show up to work happier and therefore ready to achieve more.

I could give you dozens of examples. But my point is this: it is the unexperienced, or perhaps misinformed, executive, business owner or individual who thinks that success is dependent on ambition alone.

Factors such as learning how to organize and establish properly; ensuring that you and your employees get adequate food and rest and are cared for to be healthy; that families are given the time they need to be appreciated; that training is done to make people more efficient, that you take the time for spiritual and personal growth; these and many others are all vital tools to be used along with ambition. I am sure you can think of others.

Have all the ambition in the world, but also have all the other things that will ensure you will succeed far greater than just ambition by itself.

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