Ambition Has No Expiration Date

Ambition Has No Expiration Date

“Keep away from those who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you believe that you too can become great.” – Mark Twain

People under 40 tend to think that as you get older your ambitions wane. I was once 40 and I thought the same thing. Until I grew older and hit 50. Then I hit 60. And my ambitions changed, but if anything, they intensified. Then I hit 65 and the intensity had grown even more intense. Compared to my younger ambitions, while very different, my current ambitions are much more focused. My resolve is far deeper than it was when I was younger.

There are many reasons for that, I suppose. Not the least of which is the realization that time is moving quickly through the hourglass of life. “If not now, when?” is a question rolling around in many older, gray (or bald) heads.

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ambition is hard, but lack of ambition is harder.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

Pain. Struggle. Sorrow. Adversity.

Everybody experiences these things. Daily. If you don’t think so, it’s only because you don’t know. And I don’t either. Mostly, we’re quite consumed with our problems. We notice others when their problems seem heavier than ours.

The lessons of life (and wisdom) are taught to us through all these difficulties. For some, it crushed dreams and ambitions. For others, it fuels them, causing them to grow even larger. I wish I fully understand why some of us choose to surrender and others of us choose to fight even harder. I could likely help many more people if only I could solve that riddle, but I’m not smart enough to figure it out. I only know that each of us has a choice to make when trouble comes. We can hide (like cattle) or we can run directly into the battle and fight (like buffalo).

“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

It’s a tall, tall order to keep ourselves on a short, short leash. Self-control. Restraint. Temperance. Self-discipline. These are hard, but possible things. You’ve got the power over yourself just like I’ve got the power over myself. “I can’t help myself,” is what fools say because it’s completely inaccurate. It’s an excuse. It’s a statement of surrender where people basically declare, “I’ve decided to be a victim.”

I don’t know how old you are, or all the stuff you may be battling. And I don’t know all the opportunities you can see – much less the ones you can’t. We’ve all got unseen opportunities.

I once considered 40 old. Funny how it morphs over time. As we grow older, our definition of old keeps moving. 😉

With decades of experience in fighting dragons, I’ve got different ambitions than I once had. Things that seemed important then – and honestly, they were important – are no longer as important, if at all. Part of that is growth and increased wisdom. Part of it is circumstance. When you’ve got small children you’re pursuing some things. When the kids are in high school, approaching college…you’re chasing something very different. When the kids leave home, get married and start having kids of their own, it changes even more. And with those changes in situations and circumstances come drastic changes in ambition. For me, they haven’t lessened, but they’ve changed.

Here are my financial ambition-fueled terms: sustainable, predictable, reliable, modest, practical, and probable. 

Turns out almost all my ambitions could be described using those same terms.

It wasn’t always that way. Not in my 20s, 30s or even 40s. And largely, not even in my 50s.

But let’s address something you may have experienced similar to me – times when ambition was simply to survive. To just get through the present storm. It’s less about chasing sunshine, but more about getting out from under the hail storm.

Here in north central Texas we get thunderstorms. In fact, we’re having one as I prepare for this episode. Thunder. Wind. Rain.

I’m not thinking about sunshine at this moment. I’m thinking “here’s another thunderstorm” and wondering how long it might last. I’m inside and safe, but I’m selling one of our cars. I just listed it last night and now I’ve got to figure out when to book appointments for people to come see it. I don’t want to do that until this storm passes. My ambition isn’t centered around sunshine, but around letting this storm (and rain) pass first. If I weren’t selling a car, I’d likely embrace this storm though ’cause I rather like a good storm every now and again. 😉

Just today I saw this headline – When older couples break up, it’s not always about conflict. There’s something else going on.

I only paid attention to it because I’m older…and we’re an older couple. No risk of us breaking up, but I was curious. And it speaks to the ambitions we may or may lack in our most sacred relationships – our marriages.

The article says…

“Oftentimes, what we see among retirees is ​that ​it’s typically not about conflict,” said Galena Rhoades, Ph.D., a research professor in the University of Denver’s psychology department. “The reason for divorce is lack of positives.”

Older couples, by contrast, ​tend to ​confront different challenges. With their kids grown up, they may struggle to reestablish their identities as independent from their role as parents. Shifting into retirement mode can also throw a wrench into the relationship.

“There’s a link between transition and distress,” Rhoades said. “Going through any stressful event or change, like retirement, means changes in how couples interact with each other.”

For older couples facing a malaise, there are ever-evolving alternatives to divorce. Opportunities to redefine the relationship abound.

My ambition in my marriage has no expiration date. If anything, I’m way more ambitious today than ever. For some simple, but profound reasons.

  1. I cherish my wife more than ever. That’s not new, but it has certainly deepened over time.
  2. Faith and love have grown…as we’ve both grown older, together. We made vows to each other before God, and we have a clear understanding of God’s demands for marriage. After all, He instituted it. One man, one woman, together for life. That’s our conviction and our commitment.
  3. I said it in the episode about strong men, but it bears repeating because of social media. I put my wife on a pedestal – sometimes not as well as I should, or as well as she deserves – but I have never put her on display.
  4. We are the most important people in the world to each other. We love our family, but our number 1 priority is each other. It’s necessarily so and we want it to be that way for our tribe. We don’t want to be our son’s most important people. That should be (and is), his wife. Love isn’t a competition. There’s enough to go around. It’s a matter of priority though and devotion, based on that priority.
  5. If it is to be, it’s up to US. Rhonda and I are the architects of our marriage and our life together. Incorporated into that is our individual life. I don’t decide for her. She doesn’t decide for me. However, each of us owes the other due consideration for how our choices impact both of us. Life isn’t a self-centered ordeal. We’re in this together. All the time!

Time can dampen or fuel an ambition, but the best ambitions don’t expire. Ambitions like having a great marriage! Or helping the people you love. Or leaning toward wisdom!

Randy Cantrell

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