Personal Ambition and the Concern for Appearances

There is a certain type of person I admire who is also the kind I strive to be. I want to be great in the way I can be great. This is my ambition and I will seek it as long as I am able. Some people will feel fulfilled with an ordinary life, and if so then they have every right to pursue their kind of happiness as I have every right to pursue mine. However, they say that people who pursue lofty and great goals are (objectively) better than those who do not because human greatness is expressed in their achievements. Besides this, people who achieve greatness improve the world in the aspect they have chosen. Is that not the reason why they are admired?

Recently though I realized that this group of people can be divided into two subsets: those who pursue greatness for appearances and those who pursue it to experience the awe of greatness.

Pursuing greatness for appearances is easy to understand. The great are admired and this admiration can be fulfilling in itself. However, this motivation can be limiting depending on the amount of admiration received per achievement. For example, say a certain achievement does not garner enough admiration to be fulfilling, then one will likely not pursue it. Such people will never dare introduce a new kind of aesthetic nor will they be innovators even if they have the talent and abilities. These people seek the accepted kinds of greatness for which they are sure they will be admired.

Regarding the second subset, we must explain what it means to pursue greatness to experience the awe of greatness. The motivation of these people does not come from other people’s praise. They are motivated by the knowledge that they have achieved something great even if other people disagree. They will have no desire to show-off though this does not necessarily mean they will not accept nor appreciate other people’s praise.

Why is the second sub-set better? I suppose it depends on one’s values; but in my case, since I believe that individuals should strive to become their best selves, I’m sticking with greatness for greatness’ sake even if I’m not particularly admired for it.


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