Saturday, June 28, 2008


Something very prominent in the book I'm reading (Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin) is ambition on the part of the characters. Abraham Lincoln is especially ambitious but all the "rivals" are as well.

I was thinking about ambition this morning during my workout while I was watching CNBC. There was a segment on that had live interviews from the floor of the Chicago commodities trading floor. Those guys are ambitious for sure.

Lincoln's great ambition was to be recognized I think. He is quoted in the book describing Stephen Douglas's great achievements and how well known and admired he was. Lincoln says he would rather have that recognition than be a king. He was also ambitious to succeed in his law career as well as everything else he tried. Once he is hired to represent a client and then subsequently the client hires someone else. But Lincoln gets to see his replacement in action in court. He immediately goes home to really study the law and prepare himself. I thought that was interesting. He was astute and humble enough to learn and then to prepare himself so he was better. He had a lot of failures but he never gave up.

Then on CNBC they interviewed the President of McDonalds USA. I bet he was ambitious or he would have never made President.

His name is Don Thompson. He is responsible for nearly 14,000 restaurants. He started out working for McDonalds as an electrical engineer.

This made me think about some comments I've read before on various forums about people who work at McDonalds. Mostly the comments are disparaging of the jobs and usually the people.

I've wondered about those people that make such comments. What I've wondered is whether or not they think that the people who are working at McDonalds are all going to stay in those jobs forever? Do they have no ambition themselves? Do they believe that you start out at the top job in a company or even stay at whatever initial job you get?

Seems strange to me is all. There's nothing wrong with staying in a job you like. In fact that's a good thing. But most people I've known take an entry level position and hope to move up in the company or at least to better and improve themselves. What's so strange about that?

Mr. Thompson didn't start out as President of McDonalds USA. I bet it is not accidental he made President either. I bet he was willing to exercise the discipline and effort necessary to make it happen.

Dad and Mom always said to me that I should do my best at any job I was given. They both respected work and held no job to be beneath them. And if they did it then it was done right, too.

That's ambition - ambition to do your best. Some people have the ambition to serve. Others have the ambition to do this or that.

Ambition can be negative of course. Like Hitler wanting to rule the world and impose his own sense of order on everyone else.

But I think for the most part ambition is a good thing.

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