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I once worked with a guy who referred to his older brother as the "white sheep of the family." The older brother was a CEO of a Fortune 500 company while his siblings had no ambitions that extended beyond lunch. That sort of thing makes me wonder about the whole nature versus nurture question. I assume all the kids in this fellow's family had a similar upbringing, but only one had ambition.

When I was a kid, adults often told me I would be rich and famous some day. Apparently I was giving off some sort of ambition vibe early on. I think ambition is a genetic defect. You can't have ambition unless you think there is something wrong with the way you are. Ambition is a state of feeling perpetually flawed.

By most objective standards, my career has gone well. By my internal standards, I am in a continuous state of not doing enough. A couple of years before he passed, Charles Schulz called me at home to see if I would be interested in a charitable activity he was passionate about. We chatted for awhile, and I don't remember how it came up, but he mentioned that Peanuts greeting cards had just passed the billion cards sold mark.

Pause to digest.

A billion greeting cards. I wonder if any other artist has ever sold a billion of anything. Unfortunately for me, that instantly became my new yardstick. So if you will excuse me now, I have a lot of work to do because apparently there is something wrong with me.

 
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Oct 6, 2008
Another issue is when at 44, like I'm now, you realize that because of lack of ambition you've let many opportunities go by in your life. Some of which you reckon would've made you happier. Then the contradiction of a happy unambitious life set's itself against the happier (theoretically) ambitious one. By the way, I agree that this ambitiousness, or lack of it, sets on early on in our lives (whether genetically or environmentally), however, the anxiety of the clash only makes me unhappy, even though I know I never had the drive to change things.
 
 
Sep 12, 2008
One way to cool your upstairs would be to open the windows - ideally on opposite sides of the house to get cross ventilation as wind on one side of the house pushes air through the house to the other side - and to run a ceiling fan, which will move the air and draw cold outside air in. You can avoid most air conditioning this way, without relying on the chimney effect of the downstairs window that you're focusing on.
 
 
Sep 9, 2008
I totally know what you mean. All my friends constantly tell me they're sure I'll be sucessful in life. But at 30 years old, I'm still striving for better.

And my blog! Oh, my blog! Don't even get me started on all the hopes and dreams I have for THAT thing! ACK!
 
 
Sep 4, 2008
What, you never read that comment by G.B. Shaw: "A reasonable man adapts himself to his environment. An unreasonable man persists in attempting to adapt his environment to suit himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." ?

I saved that for 20 years and then never told it to the one I wanted to tell.

No, you didn't invent this concept, either.
 
 
Sep 2, 2008
Well, if it makes you feel any better, I look at all that you have accomplished and think, "I suck." Think of it as a demented kind of paying it forward.
 
 
Sep 2, 2008
I'm not sure I would call ambition a flaw. An anomaly, certainly, but not neccesarily a negative one. Sure, maybe ambition means you can never truly appreciate your achievements, but it also allows you to acheive great things.
 
 
Sep 2, 2008
"Ambition is a state of feeling perpetually flawed."
I can't agree with you more on this point. People have also told me that I would be really successful some day (although I seem to be decades away from that day). And I always feel that I am lacking something inside which can get filled/covered only by achieving something remarkable.

There is no guaranteed relationship between ambition and happiness. Everyday I see people who never felt the need to achieve something really huge to feel content. I envy them but can't adopt their way of thinking, thanks to the "ambition genetic programming" I'm born with.
 
 
Sep 2, 2008
"Ambition is a state of feeling perpetually flawed."
I can't agree with you more on this point. People have also told me that I would be really successful some day (although I seem to be decades away from that day). And I always feel that I am lacking something inside which can get filled/covered only by achieving something remarkable.

There is no guaranteed relationship between ambition and happiness. Everyday I see people who never felt the need to achieve something really huge to feel content. I envy them but can't adopt their way of thinking, thanks to the "ambition genetic programming" I'm born with.
 
 
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Sep 1, 2008
I totally agree with the ambition part.
As for 1 billion Peanuts greeting cards, I think the English speaking population of the world is about a billion, (may be 2) that makes it one per person.
I guess I havent lived in America, but really people have given or received multiple peanuts greeting cards in their lifetimes.

This is some scale of market penetration. (I dont know what is the total Dilbert circulation, but surely probability of working age people having read a dilbert comic strip in Anglophone region is close to 1)
 
 
Sep 1, 2008
Quantum flux: I think you meant to post in Scott Adams' previous blog about economics.
 
 
Sep 1, 2008
"You can't have ambition unless you think there is something wrong with the way you are."
Now thats really a great statement Scott. It pushed me into a deep shaft of narrow thought. And then my mind too shouted the same. And let me tell you, i always feel something is indeed wrong with the way i am and am working.
Once again, well said!!
 
 
Aug 31, 2008
"Ambition is a state of being perpetually flawed" - I will take this as a good definition. :)
 
 
Aug 31, 2008
On why Obama is a huge economic liability:

Ah, Obama, the biggest democratic ideologist there is. I think that when you attempt to change too many variables all at once at the federal level in this 50 state legislation experiment that we proudly call America, you run the risk of crashing the economy or at least leaving it incapacitated. Don't get me wrong, Obama has some good ideas, but because of his inexperience in Washington he does not realize that bad things start happening when you try to gamble with too many things and you start taking risks.

In all actuality, that risk management is exactly why Washington is a Beauracracy. It is because there is the checks and balances of the House and the Senate that he can not so easily implement the changes that he is promising to bring, nor would he really want to. The thing that Washington needs is less government at the federal level and more government at the state and local levels where individuals can represent themselves and have more of a voice of their own.

For instance, a national healthcare policy where every citizen is taken care of does not benefit all of the states but just the states that have lower incomes. It actually would be detrimental to states that have both higher incomes and a higher cost of living due to the additional tax burden placed on them. If he truly thinks that he can raise taxes on the people who make more than $200,000 a year then he has another thing coming from the delegates of the higher average income and lower populace states.

Similarly, it is generally intelligeable to leave federal tax dollars out of higher risk investments, and that is exactly what investing in alternative energy programs at the federal level entails. There is obviously risk involved in any business venture, and there is especially high risk in trying to make the leap to alternative energy sources where the technology is still in the theoretical stages. Every single prototype that doesn't work would be a loss of federal money, and you can bet there would be a lot of corruption with people seeking federal grants for research projects that should never be approved due to fiscal, technological, or incompetence problems. Hey, it's Uncle Sam, right!? It's a bunch of ideological legal students making the financial decisions with tax dollars instead of trained businessmen and woman or engineers. To top it off, Obama is wanting to do that all without first using the tried and true methods of drilling in Alaska or implementing nuclear energy as an ecconomic safegaurd in the time being.

With that risk, Obama also wants to support abortion as well. Economically speaking, abortion is costly when you have a nationalized healthcare system. Oh sure, why not give out federal grants for other research projects in biology and stem cell research? Might as well cure people from their horrible illnesses so they live longer and can mooch off of welfare and healthcare at the expense of the....wait a second, how about taxing the middle class and the lower class to fix the federal budget at this point!? It's only fair to do that, since the people earning higher incomes are already being extensively taxed.

Maybe we ought to bring our businesses back to America too!? Yeah, we can afford to tax businesses that send people overseas until they go bankrupt. Why not, those jobs should be here in the USA given to the corrupt unions so that blue collar workers can sit on their asses and demand higher pay. Sure, the unions won't be taxed so they can afford to pay more money to the union members, money that comes from the fresh scabs paying their high union dues.

Oh sure, might as well give more grants to students in college too, also while making the classwork easier so that anybody can graduate. Then the companies that recieve these fresh out of college interns should have to front a much larger learning curve which translates into wasted time and inefficient progress in the American R&D departments. By that time India, Russia, and China would be so far ahead of us in business due to their nationalized slave labor vs our nationalized unions.

I think Obama is suffering from ideology delusion, and possibly so is the rest of America too. If he gets in, the chances are he will make all sorts of executive mistakes in foriegn affairs due to his inexperience and trusting in NATO and the UN, which we really should get out of. We don't need to be swindled by foriegners just because Obama wants to be diplomatic.
 
 
Aug 31, 2008
I've never seen any Dilbert Greeting Cards, but it's true, the Peanuts one are really amazing: they have humour, a bit of reflexion and are cute. I imagine that if you publish your greeting card with Dilbert on it, it would be humourous with a taste of reflexion but the cuteness would miss (but Ratbert would be a good idea for the cuteness). Their is also the fact that now in some place Dilbert is associated with geekness and Snoopy is accepted by all.
I would have very much difficulty to send a Happy Birthday card to my girlfriend with Wally or Dilbert on it...
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 31, 2008
Once I heard in a "management effectiveness" (?!?!?!?!) training session...........

"A rational person accepts the world for what it is....while an irrational person tries to force it to be what he or she wants it to be."

Hence all "progress" is made by irrational people. All self accomplishment and improvement too!!!!

Scott, if you dont' sell a billion anything...you contribute much more GOOD implicit advice.
 
 
Aug 30, 2008
I wish I had that defect, or at least Alice's "fist of death". I think it stems from not trying to please other people. For example, you go to a party or a volunteer event and the hostess or team leader wants you to help move the table. Given that there are several men present, and women still make only two thirds of what men make, why would I want to chip in and risk a trip to the emergency room and risk being disabled for life from a moving accident that I'm not even paid to do. But the usually female hostess knows she can give me "the look" and make me feel guilty. Sure I pretend to lift, when I'm really just putting my hands on the table, but why should I even make a pretense of doing something that is clearly wrong?

One day I will break the glass coffee table!
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2008
I agree with you that ambition comes from wanting to be or do more than you are today. I've always felt like a second fiddle to my brother. While he is younger he is male and that is what is more valued in my close and extended family. After having a near-death health experience at a young age - also seen as a failure on my part - psychoanalyze at will - I became insanely driven to finish school and become more than anyone in my family. I completed graduate school in about a year and moved far away from home. It all stemmed from a need to prove that I was better, however, it also grew into a very defined need to live up to an image that I concocted in my own mind. Those who are never challenged never find ambition because they have nothing to strive for. However, those who are knocked down or are made to feel less than they should be, perceived or real, either live up to that expectation or are driven to great lengths to achieve it. Many go to their graves never feeling satisfied. I hope I'm not one of them.
 
 
Aug 30, 2008
I grew up in a fairly poor little town. A rich family moved in and I was invited to play with their son, who was my age. He had lots of expensive toys, but no imagination. It was boring. After awhile, his mom came in and told me I had to go home, because David had to take his bath. It was not Saturday, so after she left I asked him why he had to take a bath. He looked pathetic and moaned that he had to take a bath every night. I was so depressed by his miserable, freedomless life that I never went back there... and have never envied the ambitious rich.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2008
Your assumption that the siblings had no ambition is wrong. They had ambition. But their elder brother bullied them into submission. Later, he discovered he'd learned a valuable business skill.

Good point. Perhaps this may be even more important.
Though either way it is birth order.
 
 
Aug 30, 2008
Your assumption that the siblings had no ambition is wrong. They had ambition. But their elder brother bullied them into submission. Later, he discovered he'd learned a valuable business skill.
 
 
 
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