The struggle of man to rise a little higher, to get into a little more comfortable position, to secure a little better education, a little better home, to gain a little more culture and refinement, to possess that power which comes from being in a position of broader and wider influence through the acquirement of property, is what has developed the character and the stamina of our highest types of manhood to-day. This upward life-trend gives others confidence in us.
When we have attained a little success, when we have gained a little public applause, how many of us think we can relax our efforts, and before we realize it our ambition has disappeared, our energy evaporated. A sort of lethargy comes over us and lulls us into inaction.
First successes, and especially early successes, to many act like an opiate. They are overcome with inertia which only an unsatisfied and determined ambition can overcome. It takes more grit and a stronger will to force ourselves to do our level best after we have demonstrated without doubt that we have the ability to do what we undertake, than it does to achieve the actual first success itself.
One of the greatest enemies to ambition is personal inertia, and it is one of the hardest things to overcome. The temptation to slide along the line of the least resistance, to get into a comfortable position and take one’s ease, is so strong that many allow it to master them. The ambition is not persistent enough or strenuous enough to shame them out of their inertia, or prod them on to greater things. Mediocrity is often a premium upon laziness. The poet tells us,
“He who would climb the heights sublime,
Or breathe the purer air of life,
Must not expect to rest in ease,
But brace himself for toil or strife.”
One of the most discouraging problems in the world is that of trying to help the ambitionless, the half-satisfied, those who have not discontent enough in their natures to push them on, initiative enough to begin things, and persistency enough to keep going.
If a young man is apparently satisfied to drift along in a humdrum way, half content with his accomplishments, undisturbed by the fact that he has used but a very small part of himself, a very small percentage of his real ability, that his energies are running to waste in all sorts of ways, you cannot do much with him. If he lacks ambition, life, energy and vigor–is willing to slide along the line of the least resistance and exerts himself as little as possible, there is nothing upon which to build.
It is the young man who is not satisfied with what he does, and who is determined to better his best every day, who struggles to express the ideal, to make the possible in him a reality, that wins.
Activity is the law of growth; effort the only means of improvement. Whenever men have obeyed their lower nature and ceased to struggle to better their condition, they have deteriorated physically, mentally and morally; while, just in proportion as they have striven honestly and insistently to improve their situation, they have developed a larger and nobler human type.
When a man who is said to be the highest salaried official in the United States was asked to give the secret of his success, he replied, “I haven’t succeeded. No real man ever succeeds. There is always a larger goal ahead.”
It is the small man who succeeds in his own estimation. Really great men never reach their goal, because they are constantly pushing their horizon out further and further, getting a broader vision, a larger outlook, and their ambition grows with their achievement.
If you are getting a fair salary in a mediocre position there is danger of hypnotizing yourself into the belief that there is no need to exert yourself very much to get up higher. There is danger of limiting your ambition so that you will be half content to remain a perpetual clerk when you have the ability to do much better.
This satisfaction with the lesser when the greater is possible often results from relatives or friends telling you that you are doing well, and that you would better let well enough alone. These advisers say: “Don’t take chances with a certainty. It is true you are not getting a very big salary, but it is a sure thing, and if you give it up with the hope of something better you may do worse.” Don’t let any one or any conditions make you think you have not the ability to match your longings. Wrapped up in every human being there are energies which, if unfolded, concentrated, and given proper attention will develop his highest ideal.
Our longings are creative principles, prophecies, indicative of potencies equal to the task of actual achievement. These latent potencies are not given to mock us. There are no sealed orders wrapped within the brain without the accompanying ability to execute them.
When you once get a glimpse of yourself as you were intended by your Maker to be, with all of your latent possibilities developed into realities; when you once see yourself as the superb man it is possible for you to be, nothing and no one but yourself can prevent you from attaining your ambition.
It is only the man who has stopped growing that feels satisfied with his achievements. The growing man feels a great lack of wholeness, of completeness. Everything in him seems to be unfinished because it is growing. The expanding man is always dissatisfied with his accomplishment, is always reaching out for something larger, fuller, completer.