Are people born with ambition?

September 3, 2008          Comments (6)

I find the topic of ambition really interesting. Whenever I meet other entrepreneurs, I always try to get their take.

Is ambition something you are born with? Or it something you develop over time?

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert had a great blog post about ambition the other day. He calls it the ‘Ambition Defect’ and I can relate to it a lot.

He writes:

“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.

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.”

For me, it’s about being the best that I can be. It’s about being better today than I was yesterday.

It’s almost as if there is an internal drum beating inside me that keeps me going.

I don’t feel flawed though. However, I do always feel like I’m not doing enough and there are plenty of times where I’ve even wished that the drum would stop because it causes me to put an enormous amount of pressure on myself.

It won’t.

Sometimes that drum gets muted out by external factors. But at the end of the day, that drum is still beating very loud and I just don’t feel right unless I’m moving forward. (Or at least what I think is moving forward.)

I believe people are born with ambition. Either you have it or you don’t. It’s just the way you are wired as a human being.

I also think being ambitious is very different from being motivated.

Do you think people are born with ambition?

Or do you think it’s something that can be nurtured?

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  1. Adam, great post. Made me think. I 100% believe people are born ambitious. You can’t teach someone to be hungry.

    It’s just in you. You got it or you don’t.


    Comment by Aaron L — September 3, 2008 @ 11:19 am

  2. I also think it’s something you are born with. Look at really successful adults. It’s very easy to connect the dots as they got older.

    Comment by Michelle — September 3, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

  3. […] problem with ambition is that the very thing that drives someone to want to do certain things makes them not appreciate […]

    Pingback by Guru Gilbert » The worst word in the English Language — June 10, 2009 @ 2:36 pm

  4. Certainly. I think that most people are born with some amount of ambition. It’s what keeps our grades up, it’s what keeps us trying hard in sports. But I also think that there isn’t a definite “yes” or “no” for ambition. There are some degrees of ambition. I myself am very ambitious, but one of my friends is not quite as much as I am. He cares about his studies, is competitive, wants to win, but he doesn’t take it too seriously.

    Concerning your comment on how it’s a feeling of being perpetually flawed, I think that there’s no better way to put it. Personally, I hate being the ambitious freak I am. In sports class, I am a sore loser; for some mysterious reason I seem to lose all reason when it comes to competitions, and I just strive for first. It’s as if that drum beat in my mind just takes over and I’m not me.

    It’s an innate characteristic, but I think that at young ages, one can develop ambition. Once you’re past that point though, you will remain who you are.

    Comment by Franklyn — March 1, 2010 @ 10:19 pm

  5. I 110% agree with you that ambition is a defect, but I don’t or can’t believe a person is naturally ambitious. Like some genetic defects I think ambition is triggered by either a very personal thought, occurrence,ect. That effects an individual on a very basic and deepest level that it effects how that individual’s outlook and behaviour in life. While on the point I also believe that unless the trigger that lead to ambition is reverse some how the person remains hard wired.

    Comment by Blake — January 1, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

  6. I don’t think I have ever read an article that completely demonstrated what it going on in my head everyday until now. I am glad I am not alone! 😉

    Comment by Sabrina — March 4, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

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