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Kate Stuewe

Ms. Starry


March 23, 2017


Is there a situation where too much ambition can have a negative effect in achieving one's

goals? Day in and day out everyone need a little bit of ambition to drive them towards their

goals, however there can be a place and time where too much ambition can prove to be more

harmful than helpful. When is ambition over powering? When is it time to realize that ambition

is controlling someones life? When is it okay to use ambition in a wise matter? There are

instances where ambition can be helpful and positive but there are also situations where ambition

can have negative consequences.

Ambition is a powerful emotion and if not used responsibly it can prove to be destructive.

The workplace and in schools are one of the prime examples of when ambition takes control. A

CNN article by Tim Hume titled, Why ambition can make you rich, but not happy, expressed

how ambition can help in achieving ones goals that they believed were going to make them the

happiest they could be, but in reality all they were accomplishing was the desire to be the best

and not making them actually be the best. Tim had described the many young adults and students

going through work and school as, they were not successful in terms of what might be

considered the most important valuables: happiness and longevity of life (Hume 2 ). This quote

adds to the fact that ambition is not the most important tool in life to determine if someone has

made it what in reality the most important factor in deciding if whether or not they have pulled

off everything is how happy they actually are with what they have accomplished in their life.
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Many people do not realize this important understanding and solely focus on the negatives and

what more they need to do, not stepping back and figuring out if they are truly content with


Ambition should not be looked at as always being negative and destructive, ambition can

be a good characteristic when used wisely. This topic was brought up on and

an anonymous user noted that some of the advantages were that it distinguishes us one from

another. It is dreams of grandeur and greatness and that, ambition implies works and discipline

to achieve goals; personal and social without which society cannot survive (Grace 3 )The

commenter brought to life the idea that ambition is not always a bad thing and people can benefit

from it. Ambition does allow everyone to express themselves in unique ways thus

distinguishing people from their peers and allowing them to stand out amongst the crowd.

There are many instances where ambition can make someone do the unthinkable. The

drive to be the best in many way can be clearly seen in John KnowlesA Separate Peace. One of

the main characters, Gene, wanted to be the best in his class in academics. This goal was not

unrealistic it was in reach for someone like Gene. Gene was a very determined kid and would

always strive to be the best, this drive was not mirrored in his best friend, Finny. Finny was the

sports junkie in the school, he could play any sport and was the best in every physical activity

known to man at the school. The friendship was put to the test when Gene realized that Finny

might actually be trying to sabotage his chances of being best in class. When Gene realized this,

his ambitious mind drove him to hurt his best friend in a way that would end up killing Finny in

the long run. In one instance Gene and Finny were atop of a tree branch getting ready to jump

into the water when Gene thought to himself, I was not of the same quality as he. I couldnt

stand this. . . . Holding firmly to the trunk, I took a step toward him, and then my knees bent and
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I jounced the limb (Knowles 59-60) This quote clearly shows how Gene intentionally made

Finny lose his balance on the limb. This caused Finny to fall into the river and break his leg. If

Gene was not full of ambition to be the best in class, and somehow believed that Finnywas trying

to sabotage that, he might have never hurt Finny.

Realizing that ambition can not always be helpful is not a modern day idea, the use of

ambition as a negative attribute can be traced back all the way to Shakespeare and beyond that.

In one of Shakespeare's most well known plays, Macbeth, the main character Macbeth clearly

allows the reader to understand the downfalls of ambition. He proves that when you get a taste of

power you can go almost crazy to try and get more of it. Macbeth is a person who is full of

ambition and used it for good however when he wanted to be the king he used that ambition to

try and get the power in a horrible manner. His mind was clouded by ambition and did things that

he would have never done before. In a scene of the play Macbeth is discussing his reasons to kill

the king, he says, I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only vaulting ambition,

which oerleaps itself and falls on the other (1.7.25-28). Macbeth is admitting to himself that he

has no solid reasoning as to why he wants to kill his own king. He states that it is his own

ambition that is driving him to do the unthinkable and kill the ruler of his country with his own

hands. Macbeth's actions are being driven by his ambition to have the most power in the land and

this ambition will eventually lead him to his own death.

In the long run of your life having ambition is not always a bad thing, however when you

have too much it may cause destruction in your or people around yous life. Ambition is

something that you can use to your advantage in ways that can help you in your life everyday,

but good things must come to an end. Having too much ambition can make someone do the

opposite to what they may have expected, it can cause harm instead of help. So I am going to end
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with this, will you let ambition control you? Will you allow a single word to drive you into the

unthinkable? Or will you be the one who will use the power responsibly and create something

amazing. You are the only one who can control the ambition inside of you.

Work Cited
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Grace. What are the advantages and disadvantages of ambition? forum, Accessed 23 March, 2017

Hume, Tim. Why ambition could make you rich, but not happy. CNN,

Accessed 23 March, 2017

Knowles, John. A Separate Peace. Harvil Secker, 1959. 59-60

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. The Language of Literature. McDougall Littell, 2002, 327-416