Follow Your Ambition

music miscellany Apr 01, 2018

Ambition is not just the property of the young and upwardly mobile. It isn’t exclusive to those destined to be superstars. Ambition is a natural part of the human condition.

It is sometimes viewed as prideful, immoderate, immodest, overbearing or selfish. But it is more properly cast in a neutral role: ambition is what you do with it.

When was the last time you thought about your ambitions, gave your thoughts over to your dreams without regard for probability, just enjoying the idea of the possible?

At least once a week, I receive an email from a harp student who is concerned about whether “it’s too late” for her to become the harpist she wants to be. She is nearly ready to give up on her dreams because she fears she doesn’t have enough talent, her fingers are too slow or she’s too old.

Most often, she has been caught up in one or more of three limiting beliefs, false beliefs which can kill even the strongest ambition.

Ambition Killer 1: Accept Your Limitations

Acceptance of reality seems like a wise position. Particularly as we get older, we know that there are things we used to do that we just can’t do any more. We tell ourselves to face facts.

But that kind of acceptance is a sneaky enemy. While there may be levels of accomplishment that seem remote, there’s no way to know where your limits are until you actually reach them.

Blindness would normally be considered a limitation. But the famed Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan didn’t even start playing the harp until after smallpox left him blind.

Your limitations are where you set them.

Ambition Killer 2: This is just a hobby for me.

Ambition in a hobby is a good thing.

Every summer I walk through the exhibits at our local county fair and see evidence of ambition in the beautiful handiwork displayed there. The ambition of the local crafters, gardeners and bakers reveals itself in the great attention to detail, dedication to continual learning, and the hours so clearly invested in the pursuit of the blue ribbons.

The word amateur has its origins in the French and Latin words meaning love. Being an amateur isn’t about being second rate. It’s about loving what you do enough to do it the very best you can.

Ambition Killer 3: It’s too late for me.

Too late to do what?

Perhaps it’s too late for you to be a professional football player, but you can still enjoy throwing the football around. It may be unlikely that you could be a virtuoso soloist, but it’s definitely not too late to play everywhere you want in your community and to grow an army of fans and supporters. It is too late to meet Abraham Lincoln, although who knows what waits in the hereafter.

In reality, the only time it’s truly too late is if you never start.

I love these words of the American actress and singer Pearl Bailey:

A man without ambition is dead. A man with ambition but no love is dead.
A man with ambition and love for his blessings here on earth is ever so alive.

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