Covet thy neighbor’s ambition

“All day long they would be telling up their shares or grooming over the result. I have said we were pretty fortunate. But an observation fails to be made: that in this world, in no business that I have tried, do the profits rise to a man’s expectations.”
-Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson

But is this a bad thing, to always crave more?

To give you some additional context with the above passage, there are these 2 non-pirates aboard a pirate ship. One of them made the above observation after they plundered another ship, and all of the pirates constantly count their treasures wishing they had more. So, as a pirate, they wanted more, but as a non-pirate, they felt rich in their stolen wares.

I understand you should be content with what you have and all that you achieved in your life but what about having ambition? Is this different? Does this not count?

From the perspective of the pirate, stealing goods is a major part of their job description. They have to do it to prove to other pirates that they are indeed the pirate-iest of all pirates. Kind of like street cred. But, if you are some poor person who is job-shadowing a pirate, that kind of lifestyle would seem pretty amazing. You get to see a lot of new places, and you would have more gold then you ever had in your life.

Let’s step away from this novel and come into the real world. Let’s take me, a lowly graduate student who slaves away in her lab (even on weekends, and on holidays, and every morning, afternoon, evening, and sometimes late evening) for low wages in exchange for all of this knowledge I am gaining, as an example. Is this where I want to be for the rest of my life? Absolutely not! I have so many dreams and ambitions, that I probably won’t get around to achieving half of them before I die. I will want a job somewhere … and then, I will want to be promoted … and then, I will want to be promoted again … and then, I want a raise, and even more responsibility. When I have moved up as far as I can go within my job, maybe I will consider leaving it so I can gain more experience somewhere else. If at any time I lose my drive, I will steal it from my neighbor, just like the pirates. They won’t even know it, but I can become quite competitive, if the right circumstance presents itself … like me not making progress on my project, and my neighbor making a ton. I will start working harder, reading more, you name it, I will do it (well, except sabotaging, I am very positive person and I would NEVER ruin someone else’s life intentionally.)

My point is, never settle for less. You should always want to strive to be the best you can be. No matter how lofty your dream may be (I mean, hello! I want the stinkin’ Nobel Prize, for pete’s sake!)

So go out there, and do something for you. To better your spirit, to better your life, to better your family’s life, to better your job performance … just go out there, and do something for you.

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