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Ambition

  • Ambition, if it were to be savored, let alone achieved, had to be rooted in possibility.

  • Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to 'jump at de sun.' We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.

  • The game of keeping what one has is never so exciting as the game of getting.

    • Zora Neale Hurston,
    • "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" (1928), in Alice Walker, ed., I Love Myself When I Am Laughing ... And Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive ()
  • There are no persons capable of stooping so low as those who desire to rise in the world.

  • The real demon is success — the anxieties engendered by this quest are relentless, degrading, corroding. What is worse, there is no end to the escalation of desire.

    • Marya Mannes,
    • "The Roots of Anxiety in the Modern Woman," Journal of Neuropsychiatry ()
  • One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.

  • ... better is the enemy of good.

  • If ambition doesn't hurt you, you haven't got it.

  • In all efforts there is bound to be some disillusionment. We dream higher than we build.

  • I think that very few people are ambitious in the sense of having a specific image of what they want to achieve. Most people's sights are only toward the next rung, the next increment of money.

  • ... I suppose it is the inexhaustible nature of us that we feel alive only while we search. Man must go on sparring with himself in excruciating unbalance, alive only when he is scintillating like an agitated needle on some huge instrument, tremulous between the agony of desiring and the lethargy of satiety.

  • What we have not has made us what we are. / ... / What we are not drives us to consummation.

    • May Sarton,
    • "Mud Season," Cloud, Stone, Sun, Vine ()
  • To lunch with the important ... that should be the daily goal of those for whom life is not a playground but a ladder.

  • Beware of the man who denounces ambition; / his fingers itch under his gloves.

    • Erica Jong,
    • "Seventeen Warnings in Search of a Feminist Poem," Half-Lives ()
  • My motto — sans limites.

    • Isadora Duncan,
    • in Irma Duncan and Allan Ross Macdougall, Isadora Duncan's Russian Days and Her Last Years in France ()
  • Once you know the difference between all right and exceptional, all right no longer seems good enough.

  • Change is the watchword of progression. When / We tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. / This restless craving in the souls of men / Spurs them to climb, and seek the mountain view.

  • Ambition if it feeds at all, does so on the ambition of others.

  • ... because we are always staring at the stars, we learn the shortness of our arms.

  • Ambition, old as mankind, the immemorial weakness of the strong.

  • ... ambition is a very wild passion ...

    • Abigail Adams,
    • to her sister, Mary Smith Cranch (1787), Letters of Mrs. Adams ()
  • Ambition often over shoots the mark.

    • Abigail Adams,
    • letter (1801), in John P. Kaminski, The Quotable Abigail Adams ()
  • I always wanted to be historical, from almost a baby on, I felt that way about it ...

    • Gertrude Stein,
    • 1946, in Carl Van Vechten, ed., Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein ()
  • If we don't chase things — sometime the things following us can catch up.

  • What better can any of us do than to reach for our own stars ... and know which they are?

  • When we can't dream any longer, we die.

    • Emma Goldman,
    • speech, in Margaret Anderson, "The Immutable," The Little Review ()
  • Don't be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality.

    • Belva Davis,
    • in Belva Davis with Vicki Haddock, Never in My Wildest Dreams ()
  • My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose.

  • I am doomed to an eternity of compulsive work. No set goal achieved satisfies. Success only breeds a new goal. The golden apple devoured has seeds. It is endless.

  • The person who wants to make it has to sweat. There are no short cuts. And you've got to have the guts to be hated. That's the hardest part.

  • This became a credo of mine: Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work.

  • Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong.

    • Ella Fitzgerald,
    • in Bud Kliment, Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of American Song ()
  • An ignorance of means may minister / To greatness, but an ignorance of aims / Makes it impossible to be great at all.

  • And the highest fame was never reached except / By what was aimed above it.

  • Longing, it may be, is the gift no other gift supplies.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • 1874, in Martha Dickinson Bianchi, ed., The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson ()
  • I clawed my way to the bottom.

    • Grace Glueck,
    • on her career in journalism, in Nan Robertson, The Girls in the Balcony ()
  • That nervous energy that makes people like you and I want and go after everything in the world — bump our heads on all the hard walls and scratch our hands on all the briars — but it makes living great — doesn't it — I'm glad I want everything in the world — good and bad — bitter and sweet — I want it all and a lot of it too --

    • Georgia O'Keeffe,
    • letter to Anita Pollitzer (1915), in Clive Giboire, ed., Lovingly, Georgia ()
  • To tend, unfailingly, unflinchingly, towards a goal, is the secret of success.

    • Anna Pavlova,
    • "Pages of My Life," in Arthur Henry Franks, ed., Pavlova: A Biography ()
  • Dreaming is the poorest of all grindstones on which to sharpen the wits. There is only one thing to do: have a fixed purpose and stick to it.

  • Ambition is peculiarly the passion of great minds. It is the aspiration after a sphere of those who feel within them the capability of filling one.

  • ... be the most you can be, so life will be more because you were.

  • Remember that you will never reach a higher standard than you yourself set. Then set your mark high, and step by step, even though it be by painful effort, by self-denial and sacrifice, ascend the whole length of the ladder of progress.

  • You get what you settle for.

  • Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I cannot reach them: but I can look up, and see their beauty; believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.

  • ... if you cannot get what you want, common sense suggests that you should put your mind to wanting what you can get.

  • John went up in the world — made a ladder of his brains and climbed.

  • Ambition will, and should, always outstrip achievement.

  • I'm the breathless woman / I'm the hurried woman / I'm the girl with the unquenchable thirst.

  • People assume you slept your way to the top. Frankly, I couldn't sleep my way to the middle.

  • I long to see everything, to know everything, to learn everything!

    • Marie Bashkirtseff,
    • 1878 , in Mary J. Serrano, trans., The Journal of a Young Artist ()
  • What am I? Nothing. What would I be? Everything.

    • Marie Bashkirtseff,
    • 1876, in Mary J. Serrano, trans., Letters of Marie Bashkirtseff ()
  • I desired the fate of figureheads / Which leave port early and return late / I am jealous of the return and the departure / And of the wet corals tied about their throats. ... / Since, from the depths of danger, one returns more beautiful, / Returning with a face burning and fabled.

  • [To the editor of the Harlan, Kentucky, Daily Enterprise, as a kindergartener:] I know everything that goes on in this town, and if you give me a job so will you.

    • Maxine Cheshire,
    • in Maxine Cheshire, with John Greenya, Maxine Cheshire, Reporter ()
  • ... the very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.

  • The highly ambitious person, in spite of all his successes, always remains dissatisfied, in the same way as a greedy baby is never satisfied.

    • Melanie Klein,
    • "Our Adult World and Its Roots in Infancy" (1959), Envy and Gratitude & Other Works 1946-1963 ()
  • When people say less is more, I say more is more. Less is less. I go for more.

    • Dolly Parton,
    • in Leonore Fleischer, Dolly: Here I Come Again ()
  • It's not the having, it's the getting.

    • Elizabeth Taylor,
    • in Joseph Papa, Elizabeth Taylor, A Passion for Life: The Wit and Wisdom of a Legend ()
  • But I have noticed this about ambitious men, or men in power — they fear even the slightest and least likely threat to it.

  • Ambition is destruction, only competence matters.

  • To the truly driven (which one has to be to survive in the high stakes, competitive world of show business), lack of opportunity means nothing. The TDs always think numbers are for everyone else and don't involve them.

  • Why is it that most people aspire to little more than comfort?

  • She had learned the self-deprecating ways of the woman who does not want to be thought hard and grasping, but her artifices could not always cover the nakedness of her need to excel.

  • ... unfulfilled ambitions are torture to those who suffer them ...

  • Aim at a high mark and you'll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect. Finally you'll hit the bull's-eye of success.

    • Annie Oakley,
    • in Brenda Haugen, Annie Oakley: American Sharpshooter ()
  • What we truly and earnestly aspire to be, that in some sense we are. The mere aspiration, by changing the frame of the mind, for the moment realizes itself.

  • Ambition, that lawless Thirst of Power which inspires in some Mens Breasts such unwarrantable Designs, we easily perceive the Approaches of, by those restless Wishes which rob our Nights of Sleep, and Days of Ease, whenever we chance to see a Person greater than our selves.

    • Eliza Haywood,
    • "The Tea-Table: or, A Conversation Between Some Polite Persons of Both Sexes" (1725), in Alexander Pettit et al., eds, Fantomina and Other Works ()
  • On what strange stuff Ambition feeds!

  • Children, you must remember something. A man without ambition is dead. A man with ambition but no love is dead. A man with ambition and love for his blessings here on earth is ever so alive. Having been alive, it won't be hard in the end to lie down and rest.

  • I'm tough, I'm ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.

    • Madonna,
    • in "The Ten Who Count the Most," People ()
  • I have the same goal I've had since I was a little girl: I want to rule the world.

    • Madonna,
    • in "The Ten Who Count the Most," People ()
  • To desire to be what one can be is purpose in life. There are no exterior forces. There are only interior forces. Who squanders talent praises death.

  • In very truth it is the unattained which gives zest to the commonplace and brims the cup of our daily life with keenest joy.

  • ... generally speaking, we are all happier when we are still striving for achievement than when the prize is in our hands.

  • I might have been born in a hovel but I determined to travel with the wind and the stars.

  • If you have a great ambition, take as big a step as possible in the direction of fulfilling it. The step may only be a tiny one, but trust that it may be the largest one possible for now.

  • I used to think I had ambition ... but now I'm not so sure. It may have been only discontent. They're easily confused.

  • A tree reaches below the surface to gather strength for stargazing.

  • If you settle for what you've got, you deserve what you get.

  • No pleasure or success in life quite meets the capacity of our hearts. We take in our good things with enthusiasm, and think ourselves happy and satisfied; but afterward, when the froth and foam have subsided, we discover that the goblet is not more than half-filled with the golden liquid that was poured into it.

  • Once you've been number one, you can never be satisfied with less.

    • Chris Evert,
    • in Molly Jay, ed., The Winning Woman ()
  • No star is ever lost we once have seen, / We always may be what we might have been ...

  • To want is more than to attain.

  • Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. / Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.

  • Impassioned characters never attain their mark till they have overshot it.

  • You can have anything in this world you want, if you want it badly enough and you're willing to pay the price.

  • Nothing in life is as glorious as reaching beyond capacity.

  • If you want to launch big ships, you have to go where the water is deep.

  • [Speaking as a Brigadier General of the U.S. Air Force:] What I wanted to be when I grew up was — in charge.

  • Do you know what my ambition is in life? To be without ambition. As far back as I can remember I've been absolutely hag-ridden. I'd like to attain the state of mind that the Indians call Nirvana. That, for me, would happen if I were free of ambition.

  • All my life I've always wanted to be somebody. But I see now I should have been more specific.

  • It's not that I lack ambition. I am ambitious in the sense that I want to be more than I am now. But if I were truly ambitious, I think I'd already be more than I am now.

  • Woe to thee, wild Ambition! I employ / Despair's low notes thy dread effects to tell ...

  • How difficult the task to quench the fire and the pride of private ambition ...

    • Abigail Adams,
    • in Charles Francis Adams, Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams ()
  • Ambition is exhausting. It makes you friends with people for the wrong reasons, just like drugs.

  • I can do anything I want, but I can't do everything I want.