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Hot Dog Vendor
by Kris Talley. April 13, 2013

What is ambition? Ambition is an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment. Ambition is the object, state, or result desired of something we sought after. It can also be defined as a desire to work or having high activity, energy. Right now I am smiling. What you more than likely heard was the desire to work hard in order to achieve power, honor, fame, or wealth. Is that what the definition said or what me make ambition up to be for our benefit or others detriment? I heard ambition is someone having the work ethic, desire, energy, and willingness to achieve something they desire. 

So where is the rub? (Kris are we not splitting hairs?) I am arguing this world has re-defined the word. We now believe ambition is determined by what you could have been or what we think you should have been. We want to see power. We determine it by fame or your status. We value ambition by the amount of wealth you accumulate. I disagree. What is the difference between a business owner who runs a $100 million dollar company and a hot dog vendor? Ambition? The world would say yes. One dreamed bigger and accomplished more. One maxed our his potential and the other settled. Really? Let me paint the full picture and you tell me if this still holds true. 

What if the hot dog vendor always wanted to be just that, a hot dog vendor? What if from the first time he tasted a hot dog he thought, this is what I want to do. There are so many horrible tasting hot dogs out there I want to create a business where I can serve the best hot dog on the street. The people who visit my stand or my store (whatever I may end up having) would walk away saying that was the best hot dog they had ever eaten. Then the customers would tell all their friends about their experience and how they longed to come back. If that was the goal and the hot dog vendor accomplished it, isn't that the definition of ambition? He did whatever he had to do in order to acquire the result he so desired. He fought of the nay-sayers, “you want to be a hot dog vendor? You will never make it, and if you do, you will be a laughing stock of the business world.”  He worked hard. He put in blood, sweat, and tears into his dream of having the best hot dog in the world. He sacrificed everything. He built a customer base. He made people satisfied over a $1.50 hot dog at lunch. Seeing the customers satisfied faces as they walked away eating a perfectly cooked hot dog, gave the hot dog vendor this overwhelming sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Is this not ambition? You are still saying “no”. Then I ask, “what is the difference between this example and say McDonald’s or any high end restaurant you can think of..?” Something tells you me you think the founder of Morton’s Steak House had ambition. So what is the difference? Their menu’s. Their cliental. The overall size of the business. Do you see how we are re-defining ambition. 

A dad could say to a son, “why did you become a Hot Dog vendor? I thought you had more “ambition” than that son?” Or someone commenting on a successful businessman, “He must have been ambitious. Look at his career: big business, money, his name on the cover of Forbes magazine, nice family. He did it...” Did he? I guess what I am asking is do the results determine ambition or does the person and their dream? The hot dog vendor surely couldn't be ambitious. He could have been so much more, “what a waste”. He could be selling large real estate, stocks, or even opened up a new restaurant chain if he had any drive or earnest desire. After all he sells hot dogs on the corner of 5th and broad. Why do we get to determine someone’s dreams? There is nothing wrong or less ambitious in wanting a single hot dog stand on 5th and broad because this is the business model you prefer and designed.

Now ask yourself what if the “successful businessman” in the example above always wanted to be a hot dog vendor but didn't have the courage (to breakaway from the mold of the world) or drive to start something of his own, although he is wealthy, successful, and famous is he ambitious? Re-read the definition noticing the word “as” and let me know... I argue that like most things, the world has it backwards. One guy did accomplish his dreams. One guy actually had the ambition to chase down his dreams and make them a reality. That is success. That is ambition. 

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