Column is a monthly feature that explores the world
of creativity and aesthetics.
de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
Some view ambition as the root of all achievement,
for others the ambitious person is self-centred
and often ignores the needs of those around them
in their voracious appetite to achieve their aim.
In this column I explore the idea and nature of
Ambition is the will to achieve the fulfillment
of a dream. The word 'Ambire' in ancient Rome was
used to describe candidates soliciting votes for
office. This striving for popular favour was spoken
of as ambitio. Today ambition in the Collins English
Dictionary is defined as 'a strong desire for success,
achievement, or distinction. Something so desired;
a goal; an aim'.
Although ambition is sourced from the ego and fuelled
by personal desire, it may have a social or uneconomic
aim. You might for example have an ambition to be
a great parent, or perhaps you're aim is to design
your own home one day.
Ambition is common in commercial and competitive
contexts, but not confined to them. Ambition can
be as much focused on achievement as rivalry, and
'Creative Ambition' is a term I want to use that
describes the pursuit of excellence in the things
we make and build.
The Gene of Ambition
Whether it's a painting, a story, a website, or
program, whatever we create requires Creative Ambition
to see it through: a dogged determination to get
to where we want to be despite setbacks and discouragement.
This need to achieve the very best might be stimulated
by our upbringing and experience, but I've also
little doubt the fire of ambition is hard-wired
within us from birth.
There are for example very able people with tremendous
potential to achieve at the highest level but who
have little ambition. Their path is very different
than those whose 'ambitious gene' is the fulcrum
that transforms their dreams into reality. It is
not talent or ability alone that achieves the fulfillment
of potential, but the combination of innate ability
Perhaps it might be useful to categorise three types
of ambitious people:
• Those who create,
innovate, or pioneer like artists, designers, programmers,
authors, and other creative people.
• Those who define
new infrastructures of distribution: an example
of whom is Tim Berners-Lee, the man whose work at
Cern created the language of the Internet.
• Those that
consolidate, such as professional managers, museum
curators, film producers etc.
It is this last group of ambitious people whose
focus of ambition is in the commercial world that
has often led to a notion of ambition as carrying
negative connotations. When someone says of another
's/he's ambitious', it's far from being a straightforward
We all have our secret ambitions. When we're young
ambition is at its most fervid, the world is full
of opportunity, and anything seems possible. As
we age the realities of life often deflate our ambition
and drain our dreams. In some however, ambition
persists, despite the skepticism or mockery of others
who either have little vision, or have long since
given up their own dreams in favour of a quiet life.
The Need for Ambition
Ambition does not always go hand in hand with social
assertion, insensitivity, and aggression, nor does
it have to be a battlefield with rivals that must
be defeated, although some will do anything in pursuit
of their goal.
There are many things out of our control that thwart
our ambitions: bad luck, ill health, and time passing.
Ambition however is something that defines us, and
without it we have no desire to improve our present
or create a better future. It is the unbreakable
belief in this that drives the highly ambitious
person on in the face of adversity.
The nature of Creative Ambition is cyclical. A work
is born of the imagination, modeled and refined,
then reaches completion before the cycle starts
over once again. This makes Creative Ambition a
particularly challenging and psychologically difficult
task as the length of time between each 'ambitious
cycle' is often short lived before a new focus and
purpose must be defined. Some thrive in this state,
other's dwell on their past achievements, or become
disheartened by the frequent effort required to
Financial reward for having attained a goal is also
an important factor for many in further motivating
their Creative Ambition. A few however continue
to be motivated by the pure aesthetic and pleasure
of the medium alone.
Creative Ambition aims for excellence in the development
and production of original work. A characteristic
of Creative Ambition is how the focus of ambition
(achieving completion of a creative work) resides
outside the ego. The individual becomes the observer
in the final realisation of a creative project.
Creative Ambition is realised there is a moment
of great exhilaration, and a powerful desire for
others to share in that excitement. I guess the
reason we developed ambition as a species in the
first place is that it furthers our chances of survival.
Using that ambition constructively is a deeply rewarding
activity, and the progress that Creative Ambition
affords us is invaluable.
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