My ambiguous relationship with ambition

10 years ago, I was someone who deeply admired ambitious people. I wish I were closer to them, and to their thinking. The world seemed black and white: there were people who only cared about their own close-proximity environment, and those who put humankind and the planet first. It was always a great pleasure to ride the higher, more abstract horse in arguments of looking decades into the future. It was a way for me to overcome the limitations of my reality - coming from a Central European country like Hungary, you need something so you don’t end up getting sucked into the environment you’re surrounded by.

These days, the dark side of ambition seem more visible. Great disparity in ambition may result in similar disparity in income/wealth, if the right “safety features” are not present. It feels like more and more ambitious people abandoning the values that I believe are underpinning the kind of society I want to live in. These are not new phenomena, but they became more clear as I grew older. It even turned into… me developing a mild dislike for clearly signalled ambition.

When I mentioned the idea of being ambitious, and my feeling around it to my wife, Anna, she immediately said “Yes, I no wonder why: ambition is usually a selfish phenomenon”. I think she’s right - all the references I’ve found about ambition mentions this personality trait in that context, where it is combined with self-interest and a lot of ego. I’d pick ego as the more dangerous one among the two: there are many things that can go wrong with that - the history books are full of examples.

I got to realize I need to read a lot more about the other type of this trait as well: on selfless ambition. We worship business leaders, but I need to get to know the thinking of people who had a great impact, but weren’t (on top of that) motivated by money or influence - and I’m actively looking for suggestions!

I want to free myself of the negative connotations I’ve developed with ambition over the last 10 years.