John Wilson

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The Ambitious Among Us

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“You’re too smart,” his high school teacher told him, “to be so dumb.”

That critical feedback in his freshman year changed John Wilson’s life. It took being called dumb for teenaged John to realize that there was a smarter future for him.


John’s Vicious Cycle

The presumptions of his youth were influences on what became a system of cause and effect. No money. No opportunity. No future. Pointless ambition. Those expectations were negative and repelled more positive influences such as education, promise and potential.

Early on, that environment challenged John’s consciousness of options, freedoms and the future. He was unable to envision a destiny beyond what he already knew.

Up: A Perspective

Think about ambition.

Words such as desire or motivation come to mind. We envision the start of an uphill climb.

Ascending an incline doesn’t necessarily mean climbing a mountain, though.

John had an uphill climb for certain. His was not up a mountain, figuratively speaking, but rising out of an entrenchment. 

The goal was not to summit. He simply wanted even footing. In a word, John just wanted opportunity.

But opportunities were not often available.

Limiting Factors Replaced By Ambition

Friends’ families acted differently. It wasn’t out of jealousy that John dreamed of their lives; it was the fact that they existed in a different environment, one with anticipation if not extensive clarity.

Ambition kicked in…

Forum for the Future (2018). 6 steps to significant change.

Observing his friends’ families and intervention from his teacher led John to recognize a contrast. His ambition led him to adopt his own intelligence; likewise, his grades went up. John eventually got into college–the first in his family to do so–and worked hard afterward to establish a new lifestyle. He married and had two children.

Ambitions of Others

Ambition for John in his adult life has become a two-fold experiment to prove over and again.

First, he has an expectation of a new convention: a norm for his children that is different than the norm in which he grew up. He’s willing and works hard for that different starting point. Listening to him speak about opportunity for his children is hard with the otherwise inspiring look on his face. He is determined. No doubt, so too will be his children when they are faced with opportunities John’s ambition has created for them.

Second, where John has found balance in his life, he remains open to new uphill climbs. His family has led him to new challenges, shifts in his career, and new opportunities in which to succeed.

Forum for the Future (2018). 6 steps to significant change. [online] YouTube. Available at: [Accessed 5 Dec. 2018].

This article is sponsored by…

Published by Rehr Consulting

Danny Rehr is a graduate of University of Portland’s Pamplin School of Business where he earned an MBA with a concentration in strategy. He now operates Rehr Consulting, a strategy and continuous improvement consultancy focused on small businesses in the service industry of Southwest Washington State. He loves coffee and fountain pens.

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