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Quotations for Motivation #14 --- Ambition

Updated on October 28, 2015

Quotations on Ambition

Be ambitious to put the stamp of superiority, the impress of your manhood on your work, whatever it may be. Let an honest individuality be your trademark, so that there will be a demand for the product of your labors without forcing the market. Spending one’s best energies in devising schemes to get ahead of others is not half as effective, even supposing it were right or justifiable, as the creation of a demand for your labor or merchandise by the superior quality of your methods and material.

---Orison Swett Marden, Success Magazine, New York, N.Y., February 1903.

A worthy ambition is the spur that makes man struggle with his destiny. The surest sign of the genius that can accomplish things—that can bring things to pass—is a divine longing for accomplishment, or yearning to do something and be somebody in the world. This hunger for knowledge, this yearning aspiration, struggling for expansion and growth, this longing which ever looks upward and toward the light—this is the kind of genius which every youth should cultivate. A determination to accomplish something and a firm resolution to make a way if no way is open indicate ability to succeed. But the desire, the determination, and the ambition must come first. It is the thing that we long for, strive for, and are determined to have, at all hazards, no matter what may stand in the way, which indicates the line of our possibilities. In other words, “the thing we long for, that we are.” No achievement can rise higher than the longing and the determination.

---Orison Swett Marden, Success Magazine, New York, N.Y., June 1903.

Few people realize how the ambition affects the life. If that is small and narrow, the life will also be narrow and rusty. Nothing else causes the mind to expand like a constant effort to reach up to something beyond. It is the perpetual effort to attain the ideal that enlarges the whole life. The moment the ambition begins to wane, or tends to become sordid or selfish, the individual begins to shrivel. If you have an ambition for large things and do your best to attain them, you will be a much larger, much more complete man, even if you fail a little below your aim, than you would if you said to yourself, “What is the use to try to do such great things? I shall only make myself discontented and unhappy if I do not achieve them.” I do not believe in being over-ambitious, with inflated ideas of what we can do, but I do believe in doing the largest thing that is possible to us. The best way to get great results out of yourself is to expect great things—to demand great things of yourself.

---Orison Swett Marden, Success Magazine, New York, N.Y., April 1906.

Some men seem to have no success, but it is because they aim at nothing, and hence accomplish their object. Success is the end of one’s choice of action. The end or object of a man’s life is the index of his ambition.

---Smith Baker, Lowell Daily Courier, Lowell, Mass., May 18, 1874.

Ambition is like an automobile. It can get you almost anywhere if you know how to drive it. The world of ambition is full of reckless drivers, and the failures are the persons who just stand and gape in safety zones of disillusion. They never know when they’re going to get hit.

---Edmund J. Kiefer, Buffalo Courier-Express, Buffalo, N.Y., June 16, 1931.

A man may have the ambition for the big thing but lack the ammunition in his make-up to fight for it, and there you have the failure—the fellow who whines that he is forever held down. This man does not measure up to his full capacity—he does not realize his personal responsibility. In other words, he does not realize it is a give-and-take process. He has no singleness of purpose. He wants to be the receiver in the service and transmits nothing himself. He pays no toil to the world, but wants to travel long distances on the road the leads to success.

---Theodore Newton Vail, The Evening World, New York, N.Y., Aug. 17, 1911.

Ambition is a great moral factor if it is attached to something high and then followed, when it becomes the first asset and step toward success. Even if we do not attain our ambition, we are better for having had it. Columbus was trying to reach the Indies when he stumbled on the American continent. Do not shun worthy ambition, but let it take hold of you. When it is fixed to something important, follow it to the uttermost. Besides the physical energy with which man is endowed, we find that he must have intellectual and moral energy. Some persons, in their efforts to make success, spend their time in attaining one particular thing. We must sober and discipline our energy with saneness. The great problem of the use of energy is the problem of how to control it. Too frequently, human beings expend all of their energy until they come to a crisis when they need it in reserve power, and have it not. We do not need to get old before we just that energy. It is not necessary that youth grow into manhood before they acquire convictions.

---Rush H. Limbaugh, Southeast Missourian, Cape Girardeau, Mo., May 31, 1929.

Ambition pays, it pushes us along. Ambition is potent in its effect on the price we are ready and willing to pay. Ambition decides our accomplishments in the days ahead. Count out that youth who has never felt the drive of some compelling ambition. The drone and the dullard are but flotsam on the stream of time; too aimless to direct others. The man moved by ambition and who keeps at the task will win in the end. Ambition pays in the respect of others. Reflect on what others have done. Think of their accomplishments. This will give the will to carry on.

---Ernest Duncan Holloway, The Shreveport Times, Shreveport, La., June 7, 1942.

The man who has no ambition to achieve, nor ideals to realize, had better save his money for funeral expenses.

—J. Marvin Nichols, Lake Charles American Press, Lake Charles, La., June 2, 1933.

Ambition is the spark that ignites the motor of determination.

---John Harsen Rhoades, Waycross Journal-Herald, Waycross, Ga., April 1, 1940.

Ambition can live only when the worker has an opportunity for self-expression.

---Charles Stelzle, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Oct. 6, 1923.

Every man I ever knew had ambition, but only a few had application with it.

---E.W. “Ed” Howe, Youngstown Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, July 13, 1911.

When ambition beckons to me, I say to it, “I have ambition; send genius.”

---E.W. “Ed” Howe, Youngstown Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, Sept. 29, 1911.

The man with no aim is soon able to boast of hitting it.

—Henry F. Cope, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash., Oct. 2, 1910.

Ambition is like inspiration; it isn’t worth much unless it’s supported by perspiration.

---Liston Dickson Elkins, Waycross Journal-Herald, Waycross, Ga., Sept. 27, 1943.

You can’t hit the bull’s eye by shooting blanks.

---Liston Dickson Elkins, Waycross Journal-Herald, Waycross, Ga., June 22, 1945.

Ambition is one thing. Achievement is another. There’s a lot of hard work in between.

---Liston Dickson Elkins, Waycross Journal-Herald, Waycross, Ga., Sept. 5, 1945.

An idea isn't worth much until a man is found with ambition and ability to make it work.

---Roy E. Gibson, Nephi Times-News, Nephi, Utah, Oct. 29, 1953.

The worst tragedy is not to be without education, but to be without ambition.

---Roy L. Smith, Buffalo Courier-Express, Buffalo, N.Y., March 28, 1932.

Ambition is a big ship that often gets wrecked because it sails without a compass.

---Elijah Powell Brown, Belmont Chronicle, St. Clairsville, Ohio, Nov. 19, 1891.

When we put the brake on our ambition it’s a sure sign we are going downhill.

---Elijah Powell Brown, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash., Aug. 14, 1899.

Ambition is your power, energy is your engine, and perseverance is your gasoline supply.

---Wilson Sherman Kinnear, The Evening World, New York, N.Y., Dec. 19, 1913.

In ambition lies the secret of your personal growth and efficiency.

---Henry Clews, The Evening World, New York, N.Y., Dec. 17, 1913.

When ambition runs ahead of capacity, give capacity the whip.

---Edward James Stackpole, Harrisburg Telegraph, Harrisburg, Pa., Dec. 17, 1915.

A man’s ambition is just as great as his work proves it.

---Henry Edward Warner, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, Va., Feb. 21, 1921.

Keep your mind awake and your ambitions will not get sleeping sickness.

---John Wesley Holland, Lima Recorder, Lima, N.Y., Oct. 1, 1930.

The ambition to excel is life’s most excellent ambition.

---John Wesley Holland, Livingston Republican, Geneseo, N.Y., April 10, 1930.

The man who has ambitions and never does anything about them might as well never had them in the first place.

---John Merrill Chilcote, St. Joseph News-Press, St. Joseph, Mo., Aug. 14, 1944.

There is a lot of difference between having genuine ambitions and being a mere eager beaver.

---John Merrill Chilcote, St. Joseph News-Press, St. Joseph, Mo., Feb. 16, 1953.

Even ambition can’t catch a whale with a pin hook.

—Charles A. Leedy, Youngstown Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio, March 22, 1944.

A lot of folks have adopted a "nothing ventured, nothing blamed" philosophy of life.

---John Mooney, Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, April 27, 1963.

Most men have ambitions, but they are satisfied with just having them.

—Bert Moses, Lake Charles American-Press, Lake Charles, La., May 21, 1930.

Some men's only ambition is to have no ambition at all.

---Bert Moses, Lake Charles American Press, Lake Charles, La., Oct. 17, 1936.

The chief thing in formulating an ambition is to make it conform to your capacity.

---Bert Moses, Lake Charles American Press, Lake Charles, La., Nov. 10, 1941.

A man should be careful to measure his capacity before determining how far to extend his ambition.

---Bert Moses, Lake Charles American Press, Lake Charles, La., Sept. 14, 1944.

Ambition is accessible only to the brave; they alone can discover the treasure hidden within it, by breaking up the artificial gems of illusion and intrigue. We are speaking of TRUE ambition—not petty, greedy desires that would trample other’s hopes into the dust merely to gain one’s own ends; true ambition—as Browning says, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” These words should be inscribed in gold upon the frontals of all institutions of learning where characters are received in the formative stage, so they will remain forever deeply engraved upon the subconscious mind of everyone who enter and departs those doors. Yes, a true ambition; ambition not only for success, but for service to humanity and as great a contribution to civilization as is possible for one to make. Perhaps one of the greatest axioms of true ambition is this: To reach the highest, begin at the lowest! Vision, however, is an absolute essential in the furthering of real ambition. An often used quotation says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Ambition without vision likewise will perish. The greatest works of art, literature, architecture—yes, even nations, were first visions. Ambitions and visions are of incalculable value to your life and mine. Ambition and Vision—these are the voices we hear in our solitude; these are the pictures we see in our innermost selves; these are the deeds which are accomplished in our dream world, removed from the rush and hurry of the workday world. Truly, Ambition and Vision are inseparably linked together for the making of a life of service, of contribution, of success—the qualities which combine to lift one from the lowest to the highest. There is yes one other essential, however, without which these two will forever remain just desire and dream; that essential is Will—the will to heed ambition’s urge; the will to make the vision a reality. We need the will to do, without the will to work, without the will to make concrete realities out of our abstract hopes and dreams. Will alone, can never accomplish what the combination of Ambition, Vision and Will together can bring to pass. And so, these three—the one dependent upon the other, yet strangely enough each characteristic independent in its makeup—are necessary to bring out the unselfish, successful, contributing life that is, after all, the one great passion of everyone. Happy is that person who early learns the value of each and all of these vital component parts of the earthly portrayal of that which we call life! That forms the set of our way.

---Earl L. “Jack” Sampson, Williamson Daily News, Williamson, W. Va., May 15, 1948.

Ambition is like a strong horse. If the rider has good control of the reins it may carry him to the highest success; if not, it may carry him to destruction.

---American Farmer, Washington, D.C., Feb. 15, 1892.

You are dead as soon as your become ambitious to start a new project tomorrow instead of today.

---Carson City News, Carson City, Nev., June 7, 1923.

There is no substitute for work as a fuel for keeping the fires of ambition burning.

---Daily Herald, Provo, Utah, July 12, 1926.

They are half dead whose ambitions are wholly dead.

---Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 13, 1913.

Ambition is wound up with the key of hope.

---Gunnison Valley News, Gunnison, Utah, Nov. 22, 1928.

Ambition is the spark plug that ignites the oil of effort.

---The Journal, Logan, Utah, Jan. 20, 1922.

To be without ambition is to be mentally dead.

---The Journal, Logan, Utah, Dec. 8, 1922.

The right kind of ambition grows so rapidly that it crowds out many weeds.

---Louisville Herald, Louisville, Ky., March 7, 1907.

Ambition without effort is like a jewel of gold in a pig sty.

---Louisville Herald, Louisville, Ky., March 24, 1907.

What is thoroughness? It is painstaking ambition. Thoroughness is the only unfailing guidepost on the road to success.

---Louisville Herald, Louisville, Ky., March 24, 1907.

The self-satisfied are satisfied with little. Self-complacency is the narcotic that ambition has most to fear.

---Methodist Layman's Herald, Parkersburg, W.Va., March 14, 1912.

Ambition is the yeast that causes a man to rise to the occasion.

---New York Times, New York, N.Y., May 9, 1915.

Ambition is the alarm clock that wakes you up when opportunity catches you asleep.

---Prescott Evening Courier, Prescott, Ariz., March 29, 1922.

A man without ambition is as useless as last year's's dog license.

---Provo Post, Provo, Utah, July 22, 1921.

Some people are born with too much push and too little ambition. That's the reason there are so many wheelbarrow chauffeurs in the world.

---The White and Blue, Provo, Utah, Dec. 7, 1914.

Laziness is a dimmer on the headlight of ambition.

---The White and Blue, Provo, Utah, Oct. 4, 1916.

Ambition in its best sense prompts a man to do his best in accomplishing that thing which he feels he best can do. To the extent that this man is led away by acquisitiveness or other forms of selfishness to attempt something which is beyond him, vanity takes the place of ambition, and he enrolls his name among the foolish ones of the earth.

—John A. Howland, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Ill., Oct. 7, 1906.

Ambition is the strongest incentive to perseverance, and difficulties will sink before it where they had appeared mountain high. It is ambition that keeps alive hope and courage.

—Mattie Hughes, Autumn Leaves, Lamoni, Iowa, February 1910.

The attainment of your ambition is largely a question of how much you are willing to pay for it, how long you can wait and fight for it. It is a question whether you have the stamina to turn a deaf ear to the thousand and one allurements which will try to draw you away from its main issue. How much downright effort are you making toward realizing your life's ambition? Upon this will depend your failure or your success.

—Orison Swett Marden, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., May 14, 1920.

A noble aim is more than an ambition preserver; it is also a powerful health and youth preserver. It is a tonic that prevents premature aging. When the faculties are employed in working out a splendid destiny we are happy, contented; the mind is so fully occupied that it cannot rust out or lose its buoyancy. And it is the mind that keeps the body young.

—Orison Swett Marden, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., Nov. 29, 1920.

The chief benefit of ambition is that it makes men work. The desire to get money without work is not ambition. It is covetousness. The hope of attaining fame or public notice without deserving it is not ambition. It is vanity. The longing for heaven by the flowery-beds-of-ease route is not ambition. It is nerve and lots of it. Verily, verily, I say unto you that the man who says he is ambitious to succeed and will not work is a liar, and the truth is not in him. Work is the passport to attainment, and ambition is what fires the furnace in the soul of the true worker. It may take the form of an enjoyment of daily tasks that makes each moment's labor a delight, or the form of a set purpose that enables a man to look beyond the distasteful work of today to the great reward of tomorrow--no matter, so long as it keeps the man at work. The point is that ambition is the power behind the throne of the mind, the alchemy that turns all duty into joy. Ambition takes no inventories of the past. It has its hand upon the present, its eye upon the future.

—Harlan Read, Morgan Messenger, Berkeley Springs, W.Va., Oct. 26, 1911.

A keen interest must be manifest in whatever one is doing if pleasure is derived therefrom. Drudgery results if the mind is constantly filled with the thought that the task in hand is the hardest in the world and that the one engaged in it has the hardest job of anybody. One cannot do his best if he thinks in terms of drudgery instead of ambition and pleasure. A goal must be set up and worked to. Ambition, properly placed, will lead to real pleasure in our daily tasks if we train our minds and thoughts properly in relation to our work. Attitude of mind governs the work relation. If we feel a constant grind; if we believe we are accomplishing nothing and have no ambition to stimulate us and spur us on, we shall fall short of attainment. We can work best and serve best who put pep and ambition into our work and consider that we are doing a real service to ourselves and our fellows when we work with our minds and hands and really produce something in the world. If one gets tired and feels like relaxing and resting when the night comes, that is a sign that the individual has put all of his energy into his task, and as he rests and builds up for the next day, his mind is easy and he is comforted with the thought that he has done his best and that each day he contributes something to the world. One must put something into the community and the world if one would draw therefrom something for one's own benefit. Those who fail to do this are drones. They will never accomplish much in the world.

—Emmett J. Lee, The Gazette, Farmerville, La., June 1, 1938.

A person who is satisfied, without ambition and a desire to improve himself, is playing in dangerous waters. His future holds little promise, and most likely he will enter into a period of retrogression. No individual who is content with his present worth, whether those assets be wealth, capital, education, or other resources, can succeed, for success does not stand still. A greater development of a person is made possible through expansion of ideas, and the actual execution of plans, the result of careful study, the product derived from the realization of the fact that the reward of accomplishments come through activity. Stagnation leads to pollution and destruction. ... Without ambition, civilization would crumble.

—Howard D. Strother, The New Era, Eunice, La., April 23, 1937.

A being without ambition is a being without dignity. Ambition comes from the Latin word "ambire," which means to turn around. We should have a great and noble ambition. A man without ambition is not half a man.

—Charles Wagner, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., May 21, 1905.

Some people can never work up ambition. They just naturally die on their own hands--no effort to sidestep the coming punch, no gameness, no ginger shown. ... The man who quits to his own self is the rankest quitter of all. Yet that is all lack of ambition is. ... Lack of judgment is responsible many times for a man's hanging helpless on the ropes. Lots of men try to do too many things without giving one line of work a fair trial. There's only one finish to the man whose ambition is too strong to be confined in reasonable limits. The big wallop will get him and he's down and out without knowing exactly what it was toppled him over. Yes, there is such a thing as trying to do too many things. The fire won't stand many irons if a man schools himself to have the judgment necessary to pick out the one that suits him best, then he's showing the class that defies the knockout punch.

—John L. Sullivan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 24, 1910.

A well-governed ambition is a sight-draft on fortune.

—Roy L. Smith, Tampa Morning Tribune, Tampa, Fla., Aug. 27, 1941.

Ambition can live only when the worker has an opportunity for self-expression.

—Charles Stelzle, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Oct. 6, 1923.

Effort without interest is dulling and yields little; but interest without effort has little permanent value for the mind. ... True interest comes from almost any effort that is felt to be worthwhile.

—A. Lawrence Lowell, New York Times, New York, N.Y., June 15, 1926.

Constant change demands ceaseless activity, and activity is the price of vigor. If it were not so, man would be at the end of his quest, his advance would cease, his power of will and thought decline. He must work on toward an endless goal, knowing that at infinity alone is truth complete. ... The wise man, the earnest man, the man of courage and convictions, strives while living in the present to live for something more; to see an ultimate in his life’s work in harmony with a larger purpose; and to learn from the past wisdom that will enable him to pierce the mists of the future. ... The important thing in the questions we are called upon to meet, whether controversial or not, whether in public affairs, in a profession or in business, is a faith that what we are ourselves striving to do is worth doing and that we are doing it by methods whose integrity will bear the test of time. ... It is a worthy ambition to desire to make in one’s day and generation one’s mark for good, great or small, obvious or unknown, material or spiritual; one cannot, indeed, understand how any man can be content to end his life without contributing more than he has received therefrom. But the desire is not enough, it must also be directed aright. Progress and usefulness means keeping abreast of new conditions, an unending adaptation to new environment, yet always with the same objective, the eternal quest for the true and just, the endless conflict with the ignoble and unworthy.

—A. Lawrence Lowell, New York Times, New York, N.Y., June 21, 1926.

Have an aim in life. Have ambition–true ambition to make something of yourselves. The man that has no aim, that has no ambition, will not make much of a success in life. Without aim you would not hit many birds in shooting–there would be too much random firing about it. So if we allow our minds to drift and do not make an effort to reach the objective we have labored for, our lives will have been failures. An aimless person is a pitiable object. Do not get discouraged if you fail in what you have undertaken, for sometimes failures have been a help to those to whom they come. Make up your minds that you will make something of yourselves. Sometimes I have seen men thirty years old who have not yet made up their minds as to what they want to be–they have been waiting for something to turn up. You can’t afford to do that. At once set up some ideal and then work for it, and when you work for it, and when you work for it with a will you can accomplish so much. ... Your ambition should be useful in your own community. Go forth and make a mark in the world. You have the equipment with which to carve your way and I hope you will make good use of it and succeed in life.

—Anthon H. Lund, The Journal, Logan, Utah, June 10, 1915.

Slavery to routine may kill ambition.

—Grove H. Patterson, Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis., Feb. 10, 1930.

The thing that's worth doing is worth loving and the thing that's fit for men to work at as an ambition in life is worthy of heart ambition and demands that.

—John E. White, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 25, 1901.

Does lack of ambition indicate poor intelligence? Not necessarily. More often it indicates a lack of incentive.

—Joseph Whitney, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., Oct. 30, 1953.

Progress is propelled ambition.

—Gloria Young, Baptist Standard, Dallas, Texas, March 5, 1931.

“A sidetrack is all right for an empty car, but the main line is essential to the delivery of goods.” There is much condensed in those few words. When you allow yourself to be sidetracked, you have gotten to the point of being devoid of ambition. You are without energy; you are empty. Keep out on the main line to a destination. Keep the faith that is in yourself sealed. God forward to your ultimate aim, loaded down with the responsibility of achieving and proving worthwhile. When you cease to go on, you will be fit for nothing other than a sidetrack, with the other empties.

—Frank Francis, Ogden Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah, Nov. 22, 1925.

An inordinate and uncontrolled ambition can ruin you. Any ambitious person needs a bridle while the fellow without ambition needs the spur.

—J.H. Funderburg, Lake Charles American Press, Lake Charles, La., Nov. 18, 1939.

Discontent is ambition with its engine gone.

—W.A. MacKenzie, Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla., Oct. 21, 1922.

Accomplishment is beautiful solely because it offers ambitious feet a higher stepping stone to greater altitudes of effort.

—W.A. MacKenzie, Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Fla., June 28, 1923.

What sort of ambition should you have? The ambition to know your own powers--to know their limitations and to work accordingly. The force we call ambition is a feeling not only of restlessness and desire for change and achievement, but especially a moral impulse to do good. We want to do something, and that desire to do something, if it is based on desire to be useful to other people, may be properly called "ambition." The successful ambitious human being is the one that makes the best possible use of his or her powers today!

—Carlysle H. Holcomb, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, June 26, 1954.

Intelligent ambition is not some legal angel of the future beckoning us to grab wildly at greatness. Intelligent ambition is a surveyor going carefully ahead of us, plotting the territory in which our ambition and temperaments will stand the best chance of achieving happiness and/or working successfully.

—Glenn Frank, quoted in Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, June 7, 1926.

Ambition is the fine art of passing the buck to yourself.

—Bert Moses, Lake Charles American Press, Lake Charles, La., Sept. 14, 1939.


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