We grow small trying to be great.

E. Stanley Jones

Beware of ambition!  It's one of the true double-edged swords. . . . depending upon how we define it, it may be one of our great motivators that helps us to grow and learn and become who we're meant to be, or one of our great destroyers that holds us down and turns us into something we never imagined, in our worst nightmares, that we ever would become as human beings.


It is the nature of ambition to make people liars and cheats, to hide the truth in their breasts, and show, like jugglers, another thing in their mouths, to cut all friendships and enmities to the measure of their own interest, and to make a good countenance without the help of good will.


It is the constant fault and inseparable evil quality of ambition, that it never looks behind it.

Ambition is so powerful a passion in the human breast, that however high we reach we are never satisfied.

Niccolò Machiavelli

Noble people compare and estimate themselves by an idea which is higher than themselves; and a mean person, by one lower than him- or herself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar person aspires.

Henry Ward Beecher


The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.

William Shakespeare


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To be ambitious of true honor and of the real glory and perfection
of our nature is the very principle and incentive of virtue; but
to be ambitious of titles, place, ceremonial respects, and civil pageantry,
is as vain and little as the things are which we court.

Philip Sidney


There is another more subtle way in which the innocence
of childhood is lost:  when the child is infected with the
desire to become somebody. Contemplate the crowds of
people who are striving might and main to become, not
what Nature intended them to be-- musicians, cooks,
mechanics, carpenters, gardeners, inventors-- but
"somebody":  to become successful, famous, powerful;
to become something that will bring not quiet and
self-fulfillment, but self-glorification and self-expansion.

Tony deMello


Ambition is a lust that is never quenched, but grows
more inflamed and madder by enjoyment.

Thomas Otway

All ambitions are lawful except those which
climb upward on the miseries or credulities of humankind.

Joseph Conrad

Fling away ambition.  By that sin angels fell.  How then can
humans, the image of their Maker, hope to win by it?

William Shakespeare (attributed)

Ambition is the last refuge of failure.

Oscar Wilde

Most people would succeed in small things if
they were not troubled with great ambitions.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ambition is like hunger; it obeys no law but its appetite.

Henry Wheeler Shaw

It is by attempting to reach the top at a single leap that so much misery is produced in the world.

William Cobbett

What is ambition but desire of greatness?
  And what is greatness but extent of power?

Thomas Higgons


Like dogs in a wheel, birds in a cage, or squirrels in a chain,
ambitious people still climb and climb, with great labor,
and incessant anxiety, but never reach the top.

Robert Burton

Oh, it's delightful to have ambitions.  I'm so glad I have such a lot.
And there never seems to be any end to them--that's the best of it.
Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one
glittering higher up still.  It does make life so interesting.

Lucy Maud Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables


A wise person is cured of ambition by ambition itself; one's aim is
so exalted that riches, office, fortune and favor cannot satisfy him or her.

Jean La Bruyere


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Ambition makes the same mistake concerning power that avarice
makes concerning wealth.  It begins by accumulating power as a means
to happiness, and finishes by continuing to accumulate it as an end.

Charles Caleb Colton

Wisdom is corrupted by ambition, even when the quality of
the ambition is intellectual.  For ambition even of this
quality, is but a form of self-love.

Henry Taylor


If you aspire to the highest place, it is no disgrace
to stop at the second or even the third place.



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The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious.
The desire to reach hearts is wise.

Maya Angelou

Yes, the truth is that people's ambition and their desire to make money
are among the most frequent causes of deliberate acts of injustice.


Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.

Salvador Dalí



The biggest changes in a women's nature are brought by love; in man, by ambition.

Rabindranath Tagore

People who are intelligently ambitious are always looking at the wider
picture.  They look for opportunities to contribute.  They look for
what needs to be done.

Nathaniel Branden
Self-Esteem Every Day

If people hold no ambitions in this world, they suffer unknowingly.
If people hold ambitions, they suffer knowingly, but very slowly.

Alan Lightman
Einstein's Dreams


In their hurry to attain some ambition, to gratify the dream of life,
people often throw honor, truth, and generosity to the winds.

William G. Jordan

Our ambition should be to rule ourselves, the true kingdom for each one
of us; and true progress is to know more, and be more, and to do more.

Oscar Wilde

There was no more dangerous kind of madman than one who devoted
a good brain and a courageous heart to unhealthy ambitions.

Michael Moorcock
The City in the Autumn Stars


Seek happiness in tranquility and avoid ambition even if it be only the
apparently innocent one of distinguishing yourself in science and discoveries.

Mary Shelley


Ambition renders the mind restless.  If the ambition is not realized,
the mind is filled with depression and anxieties.
The ambitious person has no peace of mind.


We have tried the ways of ambition, of self-aggrandizement, of aggressive
opportunism, and we have seen the kind of flimsy success to which they lead;
we have tasted the bitter poisons they generate, we have known the conflict,
the disgust, the inner division, the outer isolation that follow in their wake.

Gregory Vlastos


No ambition is spiritual.  All ambitions or for the sake of the "I am."  If
you want to make real progress you must give up the idea of personal
attainment.  The ambitions of so-called spiritual teachers are preposterous.


Ambition makes the same mistake concerning power, that avarice
makes as to wealth.  She begins by accumulating it as a means of
happiness, and finishes by continuing to accumulate it as an end.

Charles Caleb Colton

Ambition is the first curse:  the great tempter of the person who is
rising above his or her fellows.  It is the simplest form of
looking for a reward. . . Yet it is a necessary teacher.

Mabel Collins


If you pride yourself on your ambition, take a mental inventory of
its ends, and ask yourself whether you desire to attain those
personal ends and forego the opportunities of being happy.

Walter B. Wolfe