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Ambition

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Picture this, a fictional but entirely possible and indeed, probable, situation: A group of scientists are working in a company, developing new technology. Someone proposes a potentially revolutionary idea, but the first thing the head scientist asks for is government funding. Having obtained these funds, he goes to work every day and leaves at the same time, working just enough to get paid for it, and not particularly caring about his research. He can put more effort into it, but only if you pay him more. But you can’t blame him for mediocre results as long as he put in enough hours.


And here lies the difference between people who work because they want to, and people who work because they have to. The man looking for results and the man looking for his next paycheck are working by different standards, towards different goals.


Two athletes given the same funding, with the same innate ability, are sent to a competition. The difference between the medal winner and the person who didn’t survive the first round is the amount of time spent training, and how high they aimed, as well as how high they’ll aim next time.


The desire to do better is something infused with an individual’s personality, and is not something easily created or destroyed. But it’s a sad thing indeed when it’s not there. While it is true that you cannot fail to achieve your goals if you have none, you will never get anywhere either. In fact, it’s better to aim just a bit higher than what you can achieve, so you’ll never find yourself at a standstill, with nothing to do.


As cheesy as it sounds, dreams can be achieved if you cling to them. That is especially hard to do when you’re in an environment that doesn’t encourage such ventures. When you’re being pressured to choose between personal goals and your social standing, there is something wrong with the group mentality. But when everyone around you is perfectly fine with what they are, it seems wrong to try to break out of the group, and do more. On the other hand, when everyone else is trying their best, you’d feel wrong just lazing around. But what really is encouraged?


Using the Olympics as an example, and without giving names, I have to admit I’m disappointed with Canada’s performance. At a certain point, someone had a perfect opportunity to win gold. But instead of sprinting for the medal, which was well within his grasp, he chose to slow to a jog, and let someone else pass him. At the end of the race, he was the only medalist who still had the energy to stand and smile. Why was that? Because he didn’t give it his all. I can only speculate, but I believe it’s because he didn’t want to get too ahead of his teammates and be singled out. (And to be honest, if I had been the guy who had won, I would’ve been rather annoyed, because it just doesn’t feel as good or as fair when you win because someone else let you, and not because of your own ability.)


I have touched upon two points in this, the first being personal motivation, and the second being environmental discouragement. The latter is almost a consequence of the first, and as individuals, all we can really focus on is the first. I cannot stress how important it is to try to find a career in something you want to do. In some societies, people are assigned jobs based on what they’re good at. As efficient as it sounds, that philosophy is flawed. While it would be convenient if your talents coincided with your interests, no matter how skilled you are, you won’t accomplish anything without motivation. You wouldn’t want to. I know I’m tempted to discard homework on a boring subject as soon as all the answers are filled in, leading to mediocre work.


So it is indeed a good thing that we’re all different and all have different goals, making a variety of careers possible. Still, there will be people who are forced into a job for the money, and who will have to do something for the rest of their life because no one else wants to, or because they can’t find what they want. And that is very a sad thing, so I’d like to see what we can do to change that.



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