What is Your Ambition? | Motivational Podcasts

Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast, brought to you in part by Book of Zen, makers of inspirational fashion and gift ideas. Visit them online at BookofZen.com. Today’s podcast has been edited and adapted from Personal Efficiency by James Samuel Knox, published in 1920.

The great need of every nation, the great human need, is for a vision of a larger life and its possibilities. Our vision is limited, our aspirations are limited, and therefore our possibilities are limited. Our vision is limited because we lack a definite aim, a definite ambition, a definite purpose.

Rapidity rather than efficiency is the watchword of youth. The young practice a hand to mouth philosophy. They have practically no vision of the future. They are thinking of today and its problems. They are not thinking of what they might be doing in twenty or twenty-five years from now.

The average young person grows up with this kind of limited philosophy of life and when they become an adult, they still have an adolescent’s ambition, an adolescent’s vision, an adolescent’s education and does an adolescent’s work. Then they wonder why they are not more successful.

There is an old story that used to be told about Charles Henry Fowler, the founder of the University of Puget Sound. During the late 1800s Fowler took a trip abroad. He visited every big city in the world and when he came home he said, “America is my alphabet, the world is my textbook.”

Standing on a great mental mountain peak, Fowler had a new vision of his own town, his state, the nation, and the world. Yet there are people in every town in our country who might say: “This town is my alphabet, and this county is my textbook.” Their vision is bounded by the confines of their own community.

Unless your vision is bigger than the boundary of your own business or your own country, it isn’t big enough to help you solve your own problems. The greatest piece of machinery ever constructed is not the steam engine, the printing press, or the personal computer, but the one within your head. And THAT is a discovery that the average person never makes.

The mind and soul (with all its thoughts, hopes, impulses, desires, prejudices, and aspirations) is nothing but a confused jumble until organized and made effective by the conscious power of an earnest consecrated purpose.

What is the greatest cause of inefficiency? It is lack of a definite purpose. Experts have estimated that only ten per cent of people have a definite object, an ultimate aim, a genuine motive for living. This is the great tragedy of life. It is lack of a clear objective that causes so many people to drift.

The individual who has no specific object in life is going nowhere, but is just drifting, and that is why they never arrive. They are sailing toward no port, and if they ever reach one it will be purely accidental. The person who has a definite aim in life grasps every opportunity that will help them achieve their end. But the person who drifts has no aim, and, therefore, sees no opportunities. This is the tragedy of the drifter.

The young person whose ultimate aim is to be a great business person, a great scientist, a great educator, is doing everything within their power to make themselves more efficient and creative. Such a person takes nothing for granted. They do not guess. They prepare themselves in advance to fill the positions they expect ultimately to fill.

What kind of a position do YOU expect to qualify for? If you expect to fill an executive managerial position, then you will continue to prepare until you are qualified and can do the work. Every position, like every proposed building, calls for certain definite specifications. You must measure up to the specifications in order to qualify.

Suppose a boat breaks from its mooring and drifts one hundred miles from shore. Will it ever return to the port from which it started? No, unless by mere accident. It will be tossed from the trough to the crest of the waves, until finally it is dashed to pieces by the raging fury of the elements.

The tragedy of life is to be found in the young individual who drifts aimlessly out into life’s elements, only to be destroyed by the very forces which he or she, by divine right, should harness, master, and utilize in advancing them on their course.

A ship that is going in the wrong direction can be turned because it is guided by a driving force. But you can do nothing with a ship that is drifting. It has no driving force. It is at the mercy of the elements.

You can convert a man or woman who has a mistaken purpose. You can show them the error of their ways. But you can do little with the lazy and indolent who are drifting through life without purpose, and therefore without hope, without courage, and without enthusiasm.

A young person without an ultimate aim is mere putty ready to be shaped and molded by every passing whim of their environment. But the individual of definite purpose is the person of conquering spirit. They are the leaders and the molders of our environment.

They set the pace for others and point the way. They know which way they are traveling, and why they are traveling, because they have a vision. They can see the end from the beginning, because they have created it in their imagination.

Show me a young person who has set their Definite mark, who has driven their imaginary stake, who has created within their imagination the position they propose to fill twenty years hence, and I shall show you someone who will work out in real life the pictures they first created in their imagination.

But set no mark, dream no dream, build no air castles, have no definite aim, no vision of a larger self and a larger life, and you will be eternally doomed to drift and fail. You cannot avoid it. It is the law of life. This aimlessness is the canker that is eating into the heart of human progress.

This is the poison that is chloroforming the vast majority of men and women, young and old. It paralyzes initiative, progress, and prosperity. Remember that you were made in the image of God! Assert your might! Throw off the imaginary shackles of impossibility! Dare to achieve! Get a vision of the blue sky above! Have an aim and an idea! Look ahead, not back; up, not down; and press on!

Why do you think it is that one person has magnetism and another has not? Why is it that one person has a distinct personality and another has not? Why is it that one person has flashing eyes and another has not? Why is it that one person radiates courage, optimism, enthusiasm, ambition, and leadership and another does not?

It is because one person has anchored their life with a definite aim, an ultimate purpose, and the other has not. The individual with a definite aim is the maximum man, the maximum woman. That aim creates within them life’s great positive forces. It gives them what George Eliot called “an energetic certitude and a fervent trust.”

Such a person was created in the image of the Divine, and they are trying to live up to its heritage. Ralph Waldo Emerson says, ”There is one quickest, best, easiest method of acquiring the desirable things of life.” But you must first decide what you want. The aim, the purpose, is the big thing. When you once establish the purpose and then fortify it by a burning, conquering determination, then you will naturally begin to study the ways and means, the how and why, of acquiring these desirable things of life in the quickest, easiest, best way.

When a person decides upon an ultimate aim, they expect to make sacrifices. But to them, they are not sacrifices. They meet difficulties with eagerness. They are willing to go through fire and water to accomplish their end. They become a power in the world. Yet other people do not understand them because they do not see the source of their power—their moving, dominating motive.

What is YOUR ultimate aim? What is YOUR dominant, driving motive? Remember there can be no ultimate aim without a driving motive. The motive furnishes the inspiration and stimulus. Every great achievement of the human race was made possible because it first existed as an ideal, an ultimate purpose in the life of some individual.

Can you conceive of anyone reaching a worthwhile goal unless they know where they are going? This is the greatest weakness in human life. We are conducting our lives by guess instead of by chart and compass. We are drifters and floaters on the sea of life, instead of being pilots and captains with a destination toward which we are steering. We are followers and failures, instead of leaders and successes.

When we finally do get a vision of the ultimate ideal, the supreme purpose, it will not take long to revolutionize our lives, incomes, and possibilities. It is not enough merely to have a purpose in life. That purpose must be legitimate, and it must go beyond making money. When Andrew Carnegie was asked what his business was, he said it was to do as much good as possible.

As Emerson says: “It is not enough to have ideals. There must be some standard or standards of measurement. To be efficient you need not only ideals of the desirable things of life, but you need some way of knowing that the things you wish to achieve, attain, and acquire are legitimate, useful, and truly desirable.”

To work for either money or fame for its own sake is unworthy of any man or woman. There is only one legitimate purpose and that is to serve humanity in some way. Our aim should thus be to serve our families, to serve the public, and to serve posterity.

Let us acknowledge that many people go through life without knowing what it is to truly live. Unless you are living for something and know what it is; unless you have a definite aim in view; unless you are making the most of every talent with which nature has endowed you; unless you are developing every day by judicious exercise the faculties that you possess; unless you are gradually but unceasingly broadening, expanding, and achieving better and greater results, as the days and weeks and months go by; unless you are doing all these things, you are not LIVING in the right sense of the word.

To spend your days in anything short of searching out the forces within you, and without a daily, active, vigorous, aggressive struggle to accomplish the aim of your life and live up to the best that is in you, is not to live but to exist. To take things passively as they come along and to get along with them whatever they are, is not EVEN to exist, but to merely tolerate.

To say you cannot make a success of your life is to place yourself on a par with the people of the Dark Ages. But to say you CAN and you WILL is to place yourself among the best men and the best women the world has ever known.

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