Excerpts from

  Ambition and Success
Orison Swett Marden

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Book Contents
What is Ambition, The Satisfied Man, The Influence of Environment, Unworthy Ambitions,Ambition Knows No Age Limit, Make Your Life Count, Visualize Yourself in a Better Position,  Thwarted Ambition, Why Don't You Begin?  "All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible." - O.S. Marden

Chapter 1


"Ambition is the spur that makes man struggle with destiny: it is heaven's own incentive to make purpose great, and achievement greater."

IN a factory where mariners' compasses are made, the needles, before they are magnetized, will lie in any position, wherever they are placed, but from the moment they have been touched by the mighty magnet and have been electrified, they are never again the same. They have taken on a mysterious power and are new creatures. Before they are magne­tized, they do not answer the call of the North Star, the magnetic pole does not have any ef­fect upon them, but the moment they have been magnetized they swing to the magnetic north, and are ever after loyal and true to their af­finity.

Multitudes of people, like an unmagnetized needle, lie motionless, unresponsive to any stimulus until they are touched by that myster­ious force we call ambition.

Whence comes this overmastering impulse which pushes human beings on, each to his in­dividual goal? Where is the source of ambi­tion, and how and when does it gain entrance into our lives?

How few of us ever stop to think what am­bition really means, its cause, or significance! Yet, if we could explain just what ambition is, we could explain the mystery of the universe. The instinctive impulse to keep pushing on and up is the most curious and the most in­teresting thing in human life. It exists in every normal human being, and is just as pro­nounced and as real as the instinct of self-preservation.

I believe this incessant inward prompting, call it ambition or what we will, this something which pushes men to their goal, is the expres­sion in man of the universal force of evolution which is flowing Godward, that it is a part of the great cosmic plan of creation. "We do not create this urge, we do not manufacture it. Every normal person feels this imperious must which is back of the flesh, but not of it, this internal urge which is ever pushing us on, even at the cost of our discomfort and sacrifice.

It is a part of every atom, for all atoms are alive, and this upward impulse is in every one of them. It is in the instinct of the bee, the ant, and in all forms of insect and animal life.

The same kind of urge that is in the seed buried out of sight and which is ever pushing it up and out through the soil, prodding it to develop itself to the utmost and to give its beauty and fragrance to the world, is in each one of us. It is ever pushing us, urging us on to fuller and completer expression, to a larger, more beautiful life.

But for this desire to get on and get up, this God-urge, everything, even the universe itself, would collapse. Inertia would bring everything to a standstill.

If we obey this call we expand, blossom into beauty and develop into fruitage, but if we neglect or dissipate it, if we only half obey it, we remain mere scrub plants, without flower or fruitage.

That mysterious urge within us never allows us to rest but is always prodding us for our good, because there is no limit to human growth there is no satisfying human ambition—man's higher aspiration.

When we reach the height which looks so attractive from below, we find our new position as un­satisfying as the old, and a perpetual call to go higher still rings in our ears. A divine impulse constantly urges us to reach our high­est ideal.

"Faith and the ideal still remain the most powerful levers of progress and of happiness," says Jean Finot.

"Did you ever hear of a man who had striven all his life faithfully and singly toward an ob­ject," asked Thoreau, "and in no measure ob­tained it? If a man constantly aspires, is he not elevated? Did ever a man try heroism, magnanimity, truth, sincerity, and find that magnanimity, truth, sincerity, and find that there was no advantage in them,—that it was a vain endeavor?"

Aspiration finally becomes inspiration and ennobles the whole life.

When the general habit of always aspiring, moving upwards and climbing to something higher and better is formed, all the undesirable habits will fade away; they will die from lack of nourishment. Only those things grow in our nature, which are fed. The quickest way to kill these undesirable qualities is to cut off the source of their nourishment.

Mostly, this can be done effectively with a simple choice, a clear moment of decision when you say, “Never again!”

A strong desire, a craving for something higher and better is the best possible antidote for the lower tendencies which one wishes to get rid of. Every faintest aspiration that springs up in our heart is a heavenly seed within us which will grow and develop into rich beauty if only it can be fed and encouraged. The better things in our mind and our heart do not grow and develop properly without care and nourishment. Only weeds, briers, and noxious plants thrive easily.

Many people mistakenly believe that ambition is a quality that one is born with and which cannot be materially changed or developed. Some suffer from an injured ambition of various forms. The habit of procrastination, of postponing, the habit of picking out the easier tasks and putting off the difficult ones, for example, will very seriously impair or deform ones right ambition. Whatever affects the ideals affects the quality of the end result.

Ambition often begins very early to knock for recognition. If we do not recognize its voice, if it gets no encouragement after appealing to us for years, it gradually ceases to trouble us. Like any other quality or function, a person’s ambition will deteriorate and eventually disappear when ignored or unused. God is whispering into the ear of all existence, of every created thing "Look up."

Every sentient thing in the universe seems to be trying to get to a higher level. Everything is in the process of evolution, and the evolution is always upward. The butterfly does not become a caterpillar. It is not the evolutionary law. The caterpillar develops into a butterfly. It is never the other way.

Be careful how you discourage or refuse to heed that inner voice which commands you to go forward, for if you do, it will become less and less insistent - until finally it will cease to prod you. Your ambition will continue to deteriorate and eventually die.

That inner call to go forward, to push on to a higher good, is God's voice; heed it. It is your best friend and will lead you into light and joy.

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