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.