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.

Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +22
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Aug 29, 2008
I vaguely remember a book written in the 70's that compared the sense of unease/self-dissatisfaction imparted by American parents to the practice among beggars in some other cultures of breaking their children's legs or otherwise deforming them so that they will be better beggars. Be grateful you just feel flawed!
Aug 29, 2008
Ambition is a state of feeling perpetually flawed...I like that and I might add one slight change. Ambition is a perpetual state of feeling your situation is flawed. The ambitious person believes that they are better than the situation they are in. A person who believes they are fundamentally flawed is more likely to accept what the world dishes out as their just desserts - Witness Catholicism and original sin. Pride and anger are looked at as sinful in our culture (the first 2 of the 7 deadly) but originally they were looked at as sinful only in excess. Sometimes they are the only things that allow you to say, "This is wrong and I can make it better.".
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
I've always felt that we 'choose' at some point (possibly unconsciously, possibly we're just programmed that way) between greatness and happiness.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
Hi Scott,

Try selling Dilbert push pins or paperclips and perhaps you can reach the billion mark a bit quicker. Did you join his charitable activity?

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
Is something a defect that generally produces a positive outcome? Nature doesn't care if you feel like crap, only that your genes get out there, and ambitious people should generally be more successful than sluggards.
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog