Jay Rifenbary

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Ambition - A Motivation to Excel

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When you hear someone is ambitious, what comes to mind? Do you evaluate it positively or negatively? Do you see it as a self-centered and egotistical attribute, or one that is selfless and thoughtful? What is the motive behind ambition? Is it to serve and elevate the self, or an outcome that is beneficial to the many? Ambition is critical to a positive future. To be ambitious substantiates a degree of purpose in your life and a willingness to move forward in the development of who you are personally and professionally. Without ambition there is no fuel to power the engine that moves you toward the accomplishment of your goals, and ultimate success. What are your goals, and do they provide ambition for you to succeed? Do you have goals that do not require ambition? It is doubtful, because a goal is the catalyst behind any ambition.

When you wake up each morning do you have something to look forward to? If so, you have a goal and therefore the ambition to see it come to fruition. Ambition is defined as, "an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment: the object, state or result desired or sought after." Earnest is the key word defined as, "serious in intention, purpose and effort." Without an earnest desire, what you may have ambition to accomplish is a pipe dream, because you lack the necessary drive to get there.

Unethical ambition is, and has been, one of the most destructive human forces in history. In contrast, ethical ambition is and has been, one of the most powerful forces behind great human achievement. When your ambition is executed by ethical and righteous means, the benefit of your accomplishment will extend beyond the self. There is a fine line between selfless and self-centered ambition, and keeping the eye on that line is imperative to the meaningful and enduring success of that ambition.

Often, when we hear of ambition we tend to think of acquiring possessions, and reflecting on how unscrupulous people may have attained those possessions. However, you can be ambitious about having a happy, harmonious and successful family. You can be ambitious about staying healthy and setting a proper example in all you do. You can be ambitious about being a person of integrity and thoughtfulness. You can be ambitious about having made a positive difference in those around you. Look at ambition as being one of the most energizing and worthwhile attributes you possess. It is not bad to strive for something you desire and believe in. It is only when ambition blinds the soul and tarnishes the heart that negative consequences occur, and a society is damaged. Without those with ambition for freedom, equality, justice, peace and human rights the world would be a different place.

There are many figures historically and present day who had and have evil ambitions. I am hopeful there will always be those who defeat those who have that propensity toward evil. Celebrate being ambitious for goodness. Encourage and support yourself and those who have the ambition to do good things for people and society. As Abraham Lincoln stated, “I would rather be a little nobody, then to be an evil somebody.” The platform for ethical ambition stems from an ethical platform of core values. Honesty, integrity, character, humility are several that personally come to mind. Is what you strive for each day in alignment with the values you believe in? Is the end result only to benefit the self or does it have a greater purpose?

The ambition of others surrounds us each day and do you have the ability to decipher between ambition of goodness and evil? Your frame of reference and the accuracy of your assessment will depend on how you live your own life. What might that self-assessment be? As Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.” Enjoy the fulfillment of striving for goodness over evil, and take pride in having the ambition to accomplish each goal you set for yourself.



Achievement - Celebrate the Human Spirit

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There is little that comes close to the excitement and satisfaction of human achievement. Yet, there is a prevailing wind that achieving success is being stifled by the continuous emphasis on class differences, and often political maneuvering for the purpose of gaining power. An energy promulgating the need to compare, rather than inspiring one to individually excel is socially debilitating. It is always easier to use the achievement of others as an excuse to justify your own inabilities, than it is to take the initiative to learn and apply the principles that created that achievement. Of course, I am referring to those who achieve ethically and fairly, and not at the expense of others. In addition, I am not including those who are genuinely in need, and have been victimized. I am referring to the pseudo victims who have the capability to achieve, but decide to use those who do achieve as their excuse for not achieving themselves.

It is destructive to a society when more attention is paid to having been the victim, rather than encouraging a path of self-reliance, self-respect and personal accountability. The backbone of human achievement has been independence never dependence, freedom never tyranny, and free markets never controlled markets. These principled applications are far from perfect, and their have been many instances of unfairness and injustice throughout history, but it has been those ideals that have created, for this nation, the greatest innovation, creativity, and achievement the world has ever seen. Human achievement should never be frowned upon and never used to divide its citizenry, but a catalyst to inspire every citizen to strive toward their own potential and ultimate achievement.

Achievement is defined as, "something accomplished, especially by superior ability, special effort, great courage, etc., a great or heroic deed." I may be an idealist, but I believe everyone has the ability to achieve if the resources and education are available. In this nation, with all of its abundance, there is no excuse not to promote that potential in all of us. The foundation of any achievement stems from an awareness of the values, skills and characteristics that it takes to achieve. Ayn Rand stated, ”Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” Personal accountability, awareness and acceptance are the cornerstones to begin to understand those values, skills and characteristics. Secondarily, confidence and self-respect are the result of acting on those cornerstones. Without a foundation of what you stand for and believe in, your core values, the soul is lost. Without confidence and self-respect the mind is discouraged and the spirit depressed.

It is not someone or something that limits your own achievements. It is the understanding that it ultimately comes down to your attitude, and your desire to break away from the old, and strive for the new. As Helen Keller said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” There are those who can influence you both positively and negatively. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to embrace the challenge to achieve, or live as a victim and believe some outside entity will rescue you from yourself. The answer to your ultimate happiness never resides outside, but rather an internal sense of living a life that is honest, honorable and aligned with what you project to the outside. Stuff may suppress having to take accountability for your life, but it will never fill the void of being personally dishonest.

To achieve is to reveal who you are to yourself, and the potential you possess to be a successful person. Success is different for everyone, but it is the individual that defines it for themselves, not a corporation, not reality television, not your friends, and not the government. The beauty of who we are as a people has always been the belief that the sky is the limit of what is possible. Does anyone honestly believe that to devalue achievement motivates anyone? Achievement will never be celebrated when it is limited, dictated and controlled. It will breed apathy, a lack of work ethic, decreased morale, dependency, and little motivation for an individual to take the initiative to do anything different. As author Denis Waitley said, “The most splendid achievement of all is the constant striving to surpass yourself and to be worthy of your own approval.”



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