There was an interesting article that appeared in The Washington Post in March 2015 entitled: “Forget Harvard and Stanford. It really doesn’t matter where you go to college.” Though the article was primarily written for parents “devastated” by the prospect that their straight-A students might still lack the stuff to get into a prestigious university, there is a valuable kernel of information in that article for every one of us, college-age or much older. It all comes down to ambition and not pedigree; to sheer drive over blind luck.
Enthusiasm With A Purpose
True story. Many years ago, I knew a man named Ron who was a software engineer, but his passion was music. He loved the piano much more than computers, and while he had taken piano lessons through college, everyone convinced him that being a musician was not a viable profession.
Ron’s company had a round of layoffs, and they gave him a severance package. He decided to devote eight hours a day to music, picking up odd jobs when he could to supplement his wife’s income. Ron sharpened his craft to the point where he started giving concerts, and he became the impressive pianist he always knew he could be.
While we’re on the topic of true-life ambition, can you tell me what author John Gresham, musician Kenny “G,” WWE Wrestler D’Lo Brown and comedian Bob Newhart have in common? They were all accountants who had the ambition to leave a conventional career and live a life in some form of entertainment they felt was more meaningful and fulfilling.
In addition to Ron, I also know a very fine Emergency Room Doctor who had a terrible time of it in college and nearly flunked out of her pre-Med program. Her grades were horrific and medical schools “laughed” at her transcripts. While she was working as a hospital administrator, she decided to take another crack at medical school. She virtually started over at a new school and repeated all of her science and mathematics courses. She studied day and night, received excellent grades and was accepted into a prominent New York medical school.
So how badly do you want it? How strong is your desire to accomplish something you have always wanted?
Ambition is deciding to believe in yourself and to have the desire to accomplish what is in your heart. I recently heard an interview with Soprano’s Actor Vince Curatola who played the part of John Sacrimoni. When he auditioned for the Soprano’s role, his primary source of income was still his masonry and plastering business. Whenever his hands were not setting stone or patching walls, they were turning the pages of scripts in acting classes. People may have laughed at him for his acting dream, and his masonry customers may have shaken their heads, but the important point is that he never gave up on himself. Now they ask him for autographs.
America’s Got Talent
There are many would-be actors, singers, doctors, writers, accountants and the like who have spent a lifetime talking about it rather than doing it. Former Colorado University football player Keith Miller knew he had a good, but untrained voice. He had a secret ambition to be an opera singer. Instead of talking about it, he had the drive and the inspiration to place a high value on the dream and to pursue it. Since 2012 he has been singing opera all over the world, training his voice for ever more demanding roles.
Every person I mentioned would readily admit they are one voice in a world crowded with voices. There are tens of thousands of extremely talented would-be athletes, rocket scientists, chefs, actors, musicians and even keynote speakers who would be dominant in their fields today were it not for a lack of ambition. How long would you wait in the line to audition at America’s Got Talent?
Having a belief in yourself, having confidence that you will succeed despite any tragedies or obstacles you may face on the journey will, in fact, lead to success. No matter where your path may lead, you will be infinitely better off for trying.
The ambitious person understands that if they work hard enough, doors will open for them. Sometimes, it may be a different door than was expected, but it will open nevertheless. Nothing, especially success, is ever automatic, but once a person decides to fight for something better, to fully enter the ring, and to put one foot in front of the other, magic happens. Ambition is the first step to success.