Ambition or Mediocrity: You Pick

In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill wrote that ‘desire was the starting point of all achievement’. With all due respect to Hill, I think one needs to have more than desire to achieve anything of significance.

According to the Miriam Webster, desire is: to long or hope for, to express a wish for, whereas ambition is: an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power to achieve a particular end. If you study these definitions, you will see that ambition is really desire on steroids. Bluntly stated, many have desire but few actually have ambition.

Many hope for, long for and wish for achievement but few are willing to do the back braking, bust ass work that is necessary for significant achievement in any endeavor.

In the last 15 years, I have coached and trained more than a thousand sales professionals, – I use that term loosely – sales managers and business owners. My observation is that only about 5% possess ambition to any significant degree, 15% possess some ambition, and 80% possess no real ambition to achieve anything more than what they have. This should not surprise you if you are a student of human nature.

Everything in life is characterized by the pyramid. At the top you have the few who are the achievers, in the middle you have the middle management and the worker bees that have minor ambition and at the bottom you have the losers who have little or no ambition. Roughly, this distribution is 20/60//20 – the same as the bell shaped curve. These numbers were valid last week, last month, last decade and will be valid next week, next month , next year and next decade.

In 2009 65% of every dollar that was earned was earned by 22% of the people. I suspect that this number is more skewed to the top end today. It will continue like this in spite of what wealth redistribution strategies the politicians may try and implement. Unlike the color of your eyes or the color of your skin or hair, which you have no control over, you have 100% control over which group you chose to belong to. If you fail to choose to deliberately belong to the top 5% of super achievers, you will muddle along in mediocrity and fail to experience the sweet fruit of success.

2 replies
  1. Lee Weiss
    Lee Weiss says:

    I agree and I would also like to add persistence. Most everyone has the desire and some have the ambition to power the desire and a few select have the persistence to make it happen no-matter-what. I know, because I have done this myself in the past. It is hard work, like you mentioned, to do anything significant. Most people want to do the minimum amount of work while expecting the maximum outcome. Any worthwhile endeavor will encounter resistance….we just have to move out of our comfort zone and persevere.

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