We are all ambitious; the discriminator is the guardrails.
The 1987 movie, Wall Street, introduced the world to Gordon Gekko who defined the face of ambition for a generation. During a stockholder meeting, Gekko stated; "the point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit."
It is time to reclaim ambition and put it in proper context.
Merriam-Webster defines ambition as "an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power" and a "desire to achieve a particular end." Countries need leaders; films need actors, and militaries need Generals. We need those that are willing and qualified to take on these various roles. The difference is the guardrails.
While we may default to defining the ambitious as someone that will backstab or step on others to attain their goal, the definition expands to include those pursuing any particular goal.
It is unfair to paint the second-grade teacher who is ambitious to get extra school supplies for his students, with the same broad brush as Gordon Gekko; although both want to drive change.
The desire to want more and honestly pursue the objective is noble and good. To eliminate humanities ambition, would bring civilization to its knees. Good-bye, electricity, transportation, latte's, and reality TV. Oh, wait, maybe we can dial back a little bit of ambition on that last one.
History is full of humans ambition gone wrong. Moreover, many flawed people focused their ambition for good works, and the world is better, as a result. Controlling significant ambition is a harrowing journey. Much like driving a Ferrari up a slick mountain pass. Managing the power and speed while respecting the guardrails is critical to prevent careening off the cliff.
William Wilberforce fought to end England's slave trade, U.S. Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman was a brilliant military strategist, and Nelson Mandela was the President of South Africa during the end of apartheid. These imperfect historical heroes battled their ego, changed the world, and stayed within the guardrails. Your turn, the world is waiting.
Going Further: What is your ambition? What are your guardrails to keep you from slipping off the road?