When considering the true definition of Ambition, let us look to Julius Caesar. The play is a perfect example of how too much ambition hurts us and hurts those around us. Brutus killed a good man and great companion in his quest to keep Rome a republic; in contrast, Caesar was killed by his ambition (according to Cacius) to be a great leader. This strong will and emotion leads us to do crazy things even if we start with good intent. It skewers our conscience, leaving us vulnerable to madness. Still, without ambition, or with a lack of it, like we see in today’s youth, we are next to nothing. Ambition drives us forward, pulling us closer to our goals, allowing us to take the next step further and higher up the ladder. So this Ambition is a tricky, deceptive mistress who is hard to contain. More often than not, a surplus of ambition leads us to our own downfall.
The good ambition
Ambition is not all bad. We must look at a world without any ambition whatsoever to know what a truly great thing it is. Where would we be without automobiles, the telephone, steamboats, even electricity itself. You can make a more common analogy to great innovators like Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. These were all little men and little people at first, but with a little push forward by that human ambition which made them great: turning electricity into controllable energy, the T-bird into the Hummer (more luxurious but a bit of a step back in terms of mileage), the biplane to a Boeing 747, and cable phones into smart phones which we barely even use for calling. Through ambition, athletes break world records, new discoveries in the world and science and space are made. Through ambition we become our best and the world’s best.
When it crosses the line
Now ambition is all good and fun on a small level, but in our strive for greatness, human beings never stay small. Soon enough, being a mailman or window washer isn’t good enough. The main character in the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”, J. Pierrepont Finch is a lowly window washer who wishes to achieve a higher job with higher pay. He slowly rises from Mailroom, to Junior Assistant, to Vice President! In his quest to be on top, he lies about being an alumnus of “Old Ivy”, sticks the President’s boss as head of the mail room, sets up a man with the President’s mistress, and gets the Vice President of Advertizing fired. While he had a noble cause, he did anything and said anything to get to his place at the top, which proved to be Finch’s fatal flaw when he took Bud Frump’s idea and it backfired. Ambition is really a toxin for its user once it begins to harm other people. Like the ancient Roman Empire, too much ambition will not take you down through itself, but rather through the enemies you’ve made through it.
Ah, poor Caesar, to be stabbed in the back by people whom he thought close to him, he was betrayed in a very foul manner. One by one, he saw the faces of his friends, turned enemies, in his last dying breath. When questioned, Brutus and Cacius thought that they were not to blame: Caesar’s own ambition was his downfall. However, what was his ambition? Did he really want to be king of rome, even after turning down the crown three times already. Caesar didn’t seem to want an actual title, but rather, he wanted to be a royal figure, a local celebrity, the biggest fish in the pond. This ambition is not necessarily a murder worthy one, still, it isn’t the most noble either. Many people nowadays strive for this fame, they love it, the power and attention. Many people feel that too many children are being put into the acting system or other talent programs at a far too early age. Most people who fear this fear the thought of these child stars growing up in bad surroundings and losing their childhood, becoming obsessed with fame and keeping themselves in the spotlight. This is, like Caesar, mot a bad thing until like most children they seek negative attention rather than positive attention. An ambition to be famous or beloved is not a great one, because along the way you will keep fighting for it, never stopping to achieve it. Fame becomes your drug, and you feel like you need it to go on, and along the way it will give you some jealous enemies.
Ambition, pushing us to the moon, pushing us to the best, it just pushes us. When we take this push and instead of pushing ourselves push the limits we can fall to the other side quickly. We fall to the side that gains us enemies, flaws, and addiction. We cant stop once we are on the side of ambition which is beyond our control. Yes, let us look to Julius Caesar when thinking of our own ambition. Let us look to him as a lesson, as a caution and as a warning. We must learn from the mistakes of Caesar and his enemies so that we may not be lost in our ambition, drowned by it and addicted to it.