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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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Aug 30, 2008
The way the population and economies of the planet are growing you might set your goals a little higher; say two or three billion Dilbert hits or sales. But it really is important to be happy with what you are doing which you seem to certainly be despite your self- perceived flaws.

All of us have something to contribute to make the world a better place when we are done and move on to the hereafter or wherever. Be it raising a child, inventing a cure for something or just plain leaving no foot print on the ecosystem. Remember how it felt when someone did something nice for you without any expectation of reward? Do the same for a stranger and the world will be a better place.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2008
I look forward to any and all of your future successes, as I, as a reader and fan am likely to benefit:)
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2008
I'm retired now, but during my career I had the good fortune to work alongside many highly intelligent, hard-working people. Nearly all became pretty successful, but a few became extraordinarily successful, i.e. self-made billionaires, or nearly so.

From my experience, the one thing that set them apart from the rest of us was a sense of inevitability. Even at an early age, they seemed to KNOW they were going to be extremely successful, and even major setbacks didn't seem to faze them or make the slightest dent in their confidence.

My hat's off to them. More power to them.
 
 
Aug 30, 2008
Your own ambition is similar to those of greatest brains that Maslow studied whom he located in the self-actualization level of needs. But I wonder if there is such a parallel hierarchy for the Big Lebowskis. Because they seem to be content at satisfying basic needs and never want to move "up" his hierarachy of needs, even if they easily could.

I wouldn't say either of those triats is defective. Rather the question to ask is which category has the evolutionary advantage? I would think it is the regular ambitious types that will grow in number due to their acquisition of resources. But of course what do the Big Ls care? They can lead happier (more content) individual lives as leaf-nodes of the family tree.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
There is a lot of literature on character trait correlation with sibling order, e.g., first born, second born etc. A major finding is that the first born male is often seen by second born males as having filled the niche of the conservative, hard-working (in families with parents that try to motivate their children to apply themselves). Therefore second born males look for alternative life styles, and are often seen by their parents and older siblings as black sheep (which they often are). I can't remember the author but the book "Born to Rebel" outlines much of the research. Good new is that the second born are more likely to be exceptional artists and scientists. This is a good example of a environmental trait, though of course genetic factors play a role. BTW if the first born does not fill the niche the second born is more likely to fill it. Scott is both very hard working and very artistic with a mind that is open to and generates new ideas, but I am tempted to guess that he is first borne.
 
 
Aug 29, 2008
The funny thing is that you *know* you have this defect, yet you are powerless to stop it. The free will thing appearing in disguise (again). I can empathize. However, instead of always being pulled in the "ambition" direction, about 15% of the time I am pulled in the "family" direction. So, I never get anything done & feel totally incompetent in two different arenas.
 
 
Aug 29, 2008
I don't believe there is much doubt that people like Scott exhibit traits that as monkeys in trees or even hunter-gatherers would likely be considered maladaptive- but those same traits, in a modern day setting, cause the bearer to be fantastically successful.

The question, for me, is: what about a person's genetic composition and upbringing causes these traits to emerge? Is it completely up to chance? Is there a known pattern which strongly correlates with this outcome?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
<<I assume all the kids in this fellow's family had a similar upbringing...>>

Not a safe assumption.

<<Ambition is a state of feeling perpetually flawed. >>

Some people find what they love to do, then find a way to make money doing it.
Ambition drives them to find a way to make their joy support them.
 
 
Aug 29, 2008
To MNIT,
Your ignorance is astounding. I am a woman with a college degree who had a very successful career for six years before deciding to start a family with my husband. We made the decision that it would be in the best interest of our children for me to stay home with them when they are young. That does not mean that I will always stay home. When they are in school, I will return to work. I am by no means brain dead nor are all the other women who stay home with their children. I have sacrificed a part of myself and my career and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Women, or men, who choose to stay home with their children are not unworthy or lazy, nor do they lack ambition. They are merely putting those ambitions on hold in order to take care of a greater cause... the raising of their children. And for the record, I work harder and longer now than I ever did during my "working" days. I thought my hours were long and deadlines were short, but it doesn't compare with all the duties and responsibilities of running a household and raising children.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
Mnit, you are a j a c k a s s. Women who stay at home with their children are the exact opposite of lazy or brain dead. That is hard work. My mother stayed home with us and I know their were days when she was at her absolute wit's end. I don't know if you are a man or just incredibly insensitive, but please respect the choices that some women make.

Oh, and I say this as a single working female with a college degree and a very good job. I don't know what I'll do when I have children someday, but whatever I decide to do, if I ever meet anyone like you it will be everything I can do not to punch him/her in the face.
 
 
Aug 29, 2008
There is lots wrong with you but fortunately you're way more talented than your hero. Get cracking.
 
 
Aug 29, 2008
Yes and no. There's a dichotomy there. Driven people are often insecure, but at the same time they feel that they are intellectually or artistically superior to the average person. This gives them the ability to be dissatisfied with any level of achievement they reach, while simultaneously believing that, if they put their mind to it, they can achieve more than the average person.

Sound like anyone you know?
 
 
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
I think it's cultural, not genetic. All people in America of European heritage come from ambitious people who came over to this country. America has had a culture of ambition since then, but has slowly petered out. I find schools teach most kids to play it safe and to follow the rules, that might not be helpful to foster ambition.
 
 
Aug 29, 2008
There's ambition, then there's ambition. Do you want to be the best at something that only you know about, or do you want to be famous (or infamous) about something different? Personal goals and achieving them mean a lot to me, but might be worthless to anyone else, but achieving and completing these goals, to my standards, makes me extremely contented. Fame isn't for me (I'm way too shy) and wealth brings problems. I want enough to survive and play a bit, but without kids to leave it too, if I break even at the end it'll be all worth it.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
Wow Scott! Charles Schulz has a long penis and he made you look at it. Just wow!
 
 
Aug 29, 2008
Well put Scott. There's a big difference in my wife and I's level of ambition. She's much more ambitious than I am. I also feel as though I'm a lot happier than her, and lead a much more fulfilling life. Do you believe there's any correlation between ambition and happiness/fulfillment?

I remember one time: We had just finished a three month home improvement project - tiling an entire floor of our house - and my wife commented about how unhappy she was with the front yard, and how it stressed her out every time she walked through it. My response was that i was just overwhelmingly happy with the results we got from our tiling project. I guess it's just a glass half full/empty kind of thing.
 
 
Aug 29, 2008
Did it become your yardstick because it became about beating Schultz? Would 500 million feel like settling for second best?
I'm enthusiastic about running but I'm never going to be a great runner, so the goals I set are internal ones. I know if I've tried hard and I try not to worry about the other guy (who's probably showered and changed in any event). Drive and ambition are admirable traits, but I think it's worth standing back and assessing priorities sometimes, you know?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
My ambition is to have a lot of stuff wrong with me. It's the only ambition I could think of that I didn't have to work at.
 
 
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
I wish more people had "defect" like you.
Most people do just enough to get by. why? because they are not smart (enough) to have ambition or passion.
Siblings in a family generally have different genes (random mutation between the two genes of two parents), my family has some smart kids, some stupid kids.
In my eyes, a person is unworthy if he/she does not work. Even if she does not have ambition, working is enough to make a person feel useful. I always think housewives have brain-dead. Many churches still advocate women staying home to take care of the family's needs. It's the opposite extreme of ambition.



 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2008
ykjay has forgotten something. Ambition doesn't always produce positive outcomes, in fact it often produces negative outcomes. I could have lots of ambition, and try to be a cartoonist, try to manage restaurants, start the new Google, etc etc. But I'm not capable of doing any of those things - if I tried, I'd spend my life as a failure, live in a gutter somewhere and not manage to get my genes out there at all. I'd be better off trying the average slog - that will get more of my genes out there.

It's been suggested that depression exists because it stops us trying to do things that we can't do. All monkeys want to be the top monkey and spread their genes, so they (we) go and fight the top monkey. The top monkey beats us up, and we get hurt and look silly. We'd be better off not being so ambitious and not trying to be the top monkey, that way we'd spread a few genes, and not get hurt as much (and maybe killed).

Depression sucks away ambition. When you're depressed, you stop doing things, and stop trying things. If you keep losing to the top monkey, getting a bit depressed about it and stopping fighting with the top monkey is a good idea.

(That's not an explanation for clinical depression, it's an explanation for why we are capable of getting depressed.)

I think that ambitious people are not hurt by failure as much as others, and so keep trying - you have to keep trying to have success, but most people can try do draw a successful cartoon series for as long as they like, and they won't succeed.

 
 
 
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