Ambition is Service Before Self

Determined. Persistent. Where would the world be without those ambitious people who were willing to put their nose to the grindstone in dogged pursuit of the inventions and innovations that have improved life for us all?

We would likely still be in the dark.

Results? Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.

You've probably seen this quotation (or some variation) from Thomas Edison. Edison prided himself on his dogged temperament. It allowed him only about 4-5 hours of sleep each night. He loved the structured scientific process that many outsiders would view as neverending trial and error. Rather than shut down for the night, he would often work eighteeen hours or more per day, catching brief catnaps between experiments.

(Of course, Edison did not invent the incandescent light bulb, but he did make it commercially viable.)

He considered work his exercise, his play, and his creative outlet. While many today see ambition as the driving force behind the pursuit of money, fame, and power, these things failed to interest Edison. Here's what he said about his work:

I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others... I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent....

True ambition seeks not only the highest good of the idividual, but the highest good of others, as well. The world remembers fondly those ambitious souls who made life easier, brought joy to others, or otherwise improved the world they lived in and the world to come.

It's those who would seek only selfish gain who give ambition a bad name. Even when they reach their goals, the outcome is hollow and short-lived. Edison focused first and foremost on the service he could provide to others.

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