Monday, September 08, 2008

Ambition

We all pulled up chairs in my parent's inviting breakfast nook, like we did every Monday night. I sat at the end of the oblong oak table, in my normal seat. To my right was my brother, Nathan. At 16 years old he thought he was way too cool to be participating in a family activity. The skid row t-shirt and gleaming silver braces he was sporting were proof contrary.

On my left, sat my work-weary dad. He assumed his standard family night pose: strong arms folded up high over his chest, head rolled to the side, eyelids drooping dangerously close to closed.

My mom gave a short lesson to the family...probably on being nice and not loosing our tempers. She must have known what that nights activity would entail. Hesitantly, she brought out the Monopoly board.

Nathan's previously rolling eyes lit up. I also perked right up to attention. A game? That I could win? Count me in! Maggie squirmed, saw me get excited and followed suit. My dad woke himself up with his own snort.


We began to play.


As is to be expected, my ruthless cunning take-no-prisoners personality reared it's ugly head. I was in control of the game. I had almost all the money in the game, properties on 3 sides of the board. However, Nathan held that one precious jewel out of my Trump-like grasp. He had hotels on boardwalk and Park place.

No matter, I was winning.

Until, suddenly I found myself landing on his hotel laden square. The horror of what had just happened slowly sank in. All my money, power, and most important WINNINGs were for naught. Like a bad dream, Nathan slowly turned toward me and one look at that jeering self-satisfied face was more than this little 8 year old could take.

Without thinking my two little hands shot out across the table, grabbed the unsuspecting edges of the game board. With more force than you would think possible I violently threw board, bank and the whole community chest across the kitchen.

In the stunned silence that followed the overly emotional outburst you could have heard a single green plastic little house drop on the floor.

I have always been too competitive for my own good. Obviously I've frustrated my family with this embarrassing drive, but it goes further. I've let it prevent real friendships from growing. I've let it make me feel bad about myself. I've let it define who I am instead of choosing who I want to be.

Constantly I hear that being ambitious is a praiseworthy trait. That a person will accomplish more by really turning up the ambition and letting that guide them. But I'm not so sure if that model works for me.

You see, the thing I get most ambitious about is being the best and/or WINNING. And it really doesn't matter what I'm the best at. In my mind ambition and competition are intertwined and so mixed together that its nearly impossible for me to straighten them out. This is probably one of my greatest personal weaknesses. So, my question to you is this: Are you able to feel a spirit of ambition without any overtones of competition? If so, how does that feel?

Because I'd love to figure that out.

8 comments:

sarah cool said...

What a good post.

I'm a lurker, coming out to say that I used to deal with this a lot..... and what it boiled down to, for ME, was, I wanted to be better than anyone else - I wanted to be right, I wanted to win... and when I became a Christian, somehow, it really impacted that part of me - beating down my own desire to be right and win and be first, and allowing others to share the glory. Dying to self.

I hope I don't sound snotty, because while I feel like this is one area that I have really grown in, there are sooooooooooo many others that I stumble in, daily. (suck!)

But once this part of me changed - it changed my whole life. the lack of desire to complete changed everything - people weren't opponants, they were friends. i began to rejoice more for others, instead of feeling a kind of jealousy... that was SO freeing, i can't even put it into words.

I doubt my exact issues are yours, but your post brought all of this up in my head, and I just thought I'd share. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, and reminder to be humble.

CageQueen said...

*Sigh* I have the opposite problem. I do not have one competitive bone in my body and it has been to my detriment. I speak from experience when I say it is very difficult to strike a good balance. The first step is confronting yourself and knowing you gotta get a grip, so good for you. I struggle all the time with not being assertive enough, driven enough, etc. Good luck on your journey, that's all I can say.

P.S. Great story, BTW

Shannon said...

For the truly competitive, there is no other opponent greater than themselves.

Anonymous said...

I think what helps me is to realize what situations really merit such ambition/determination and what ones are purely for fun. That way you can still allow yourself to be driven to be the best in the areas that actually matter and yet you're able to just have fun in other situations. Plus, that way you don't make yourself look silly by being the person that is way too competitive in an inconsequential situation like playing a board game or a pick up game of any sport.

Holly said...

I don't know if I am all that ambitious, but holy cow, I can relate to throwing a fit while playing a board game with my family (just 2 weeks ago, sigh).

poodle said...

you should read The Schools our Children Deserve. it's all about teaching kids how to learn things for the sake of learning and be nice for the sake of being nice without the need for that unhealthy competitive drive. you'd love it.

Dan's Mom said...

I'll post to this message since it is the most recent.
The online efforts to help Stephanie & Christian Neilsen made the Today Show this morning. While they didn't mention any blogs other than NeiNei by name, the story did interviw her family (her 2 sisters are taking care of the children), give an update on their condition (critical & awaiting skin grafts) and mention the fund-raising efforts of many blogers.
This is one time ambition to do good has served you & others well.

dad said...

Enjoy the race more than the victory. It makes loosing more enjoyable.