The goal we hold in the mind is the model which shapes our lives, and its character is reflected in everything we do. Think, therefore, what the influence must be of pointing all our faculties, focusing all of our energies upon the money-making goal! How it must warp and twist and wrench out of their natural orbit the more delicate sentiments, the finer faculties. When everything in us looks moneyward, and the gaze is held persistently upon the dollar and what it will bring, what must be the havoc, the tragedy, the fatal damage in the affections, the friendships, and the social faculties! When the affections are chilled and the friendships strangled what is there left in a man but the monster, brute qualities?
This is why a youth who starts out with noble aspirations, with fine sensibilities and responsive affections, often becomes hardened in his business career. His finer sensibilities and more delicate faculties atrophy from disuse, because he overdevelops the grasping, greedy, selfish faculties by the modern mania for the almighty dollar.
The transformation is so insidious that he does not half realize it until he finds himself stooping to scheming and plotting and underhand cunning, which would have shocked him a few years earlier.
When a man once gets in the power of the selfish, greedy, grasping monster within him, which he has fed and catered to so long that it has become a giant, it is almost impossible to wrench himself away, and he often becomes the slave of the very thing he once despised and loathed.
It is always a question of what is uppermost in the ambition, the dominant aim, that shapes the life most. When a man has pursued an aim for years which tends to dry up the best within him, when he has used all of his life forces, all of his energies, to feed that unworthy ambition until it has become a monster which controls him, he is a pitiable creature. There is no more distressing sight in the world than that of one who is completely in the clutches of a heartless, grasping, greed. Spurred on by the morbid ambition which has taken possession of him, he is madly pursuing the dollar which haunts him, until he is deaf to all appeals of his finer self, and has lost all taste for that which he once enjoyed.
Multitudes of people seem to think that if they were only in an ideal environment, where they would be free from worry or anxiety regarding the living-getting problem, if they were free from pain and in vigorous health, they would be perfectly happy. As a matter of fact, we are not half so dependent for happiness upon our environment, or upon circumstances, as we sometimes imagine we are. False ambition, envy and jealousy are responsible for much of our uneasiness, our restlessness and discontent. Our minds are so intent upon what other people have and are doing that we do not get a tithe of the enjoyment and satisfaction out of our own work, out of our own possessions, that they should afford us.
An inordinate ambition, a desire to get ahead of others, a mania to keep up appearances at all hazards, whether we can afford it or not, all these things feed selfishness, that corrosive acid which eats away our possible enjoyment and destroys the very sources of happiness. The devouring ambition to get ahead of others in money making, to outshine others socially, develops a sordid, grasping disposition which is the bane of happiness. No man with greed developed big within him need expect to be happy. Neither contentment, satisfaction, serenity, affection, nor any other member of the happiness family can exist in the presence of greed, or an inordinate, selfish ambition.
We have had some conspicuous examples of political aspirants who have put their personal ambition above their duty to their party and their country. Time and again one or the other of the great political parties has been well-nigh ruined by a man who could put his own personal ambition against even his country’s welfare.
It is a dangerous thing to put personal ambition above duty, anyway, but especially so to a politician or statesman, who is rendered doubly dangerous if he possesses great magnetic qualities.
We do not always know where the following of ambition’s call will lead us, but we do know this, that by being loyal to ambition and doing our best to follow it in its normal, wholesome state, when not perverted by selfishness, by love of ease or self-gratification, it will lead to our best and highest welfare, that when we follow, when we put ourselves in a position to give it the best and the freest scope, it will lead us to the highest self-expression of which we are capable, and will give us the greatest satisfaction. We know, too, that when our ambition is perverted to base ends our lives go all awry; when we are false to the higher voice within us, we are discontented, unhappy, inefficient, and our lives are ineffective.
When a man becomes so infatuated with the mania for wealth, position, fame or notoriety that he focuses his whole soul, all his powers and energies, upon a false ideal,–upon a selfish, narrow goal, he develops only a very small part of himself and he becomes very narrow. He lives most who lives truest. He lives most who touches life in the largest number of the largest and highest points.
Don’t start out in life with a false standard; a truly great man makes official position and money and houses and estates look so mean and poor that we feel like sinking out of sight with our cheap laurels and our ill-earned gold.