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“Ambition is accessible only to the brave; they alone can discover the treasure hidden within it, by breaking up the sham gems of illusion and intrigue.”

These words of Yoritomo should be known to all those who set out for the conquest of life. They should be inscribed in letters of gold on the frontals of schools where the young make their initial start, which, in most cases, decides their future.

“Ambition,” again says the old philosopher, “should, equally with goodness or any other virtue, form the object of rational teaching.”

“But for that it would be necessary to disengage ourselves from prejudices, which brand it as a fault, which we ought to dissemble.”

“He is an ambitious one,” say the vulgar, “when they wish to discredit the achievements of a man whose aspirations raise him above the commonplace things of life.”

“They do not dream that, in order to form a genuine and productive ambitious man, it is necessary to possess a great number of qualities which people who pride themselves on their modesty will always ignore.”

“What is understood generally by modesty?”

“Is it the shrewd reserve of any ambitious man who fears to display his appetites in order not to be liable to restrain them before having found the means of satisfying them?”

“Is it not too often the sham virtue, which under the borrowed lineaments of humility hides the terrible defect of weakness?”

“Would it not rather be the tinsel in which idleness likes to dress itself up in order to abandon itself with ease to its favorite vice?”

“Modesty can serve as a standard for all the vices, which we have just mentioned; it is the enemy of courageous undertakings, of acts that require a display of energy that ambition or boldness alone can decide on.”

“It is besides nearly always the sign of a want of confidence in oneself. It is again the safeguard of the self-respect of the incapable.”

“Many weak mortals, irresolute, idle, or incompetent, instead of seeking to acquire the qualities which they lack, prefer to declare loudly: ‘Oh, as for me, I shall never succeed in attaining this end, for the good reason that I shall not undertake it. I am a modest person, I am. I have a hatred of fame and renown surrounding my name; I desire only obscurity, and I pity keenly all those who are tormented by a desire to shine! ’”

“They say all this without thinking that the first condition of the being of modesty consists in ignorance of its existence.”

“He who prides himself on modesty will never be a modest man, for the moment he sets out to establish his virtue he acts like a braggart.”

“If he is really convinced of his unimportance, if the diffidence of himself which he has is sincere, we should pity him very keenly, for he will suffer in feeling himself so insignificant, and this feeling will lead him, little by little, to hypochondria unless he inclines to the side of jealousy.”

“Such is almost without exception the punishment of the weak; they have not themselves courage to undertake great things and they do not forgive those who achieve them.”

“There is, however, a kind of modesty before which we ought to bow; it is that of the learned man who, finding his happiness in the quest of knowledge and truth, makes no attempt to gain glory, and waits in the midst of his apparatus and his parchments for it to come to him, while preparing himself to welcome it with no more emotion than an ordinary visitant.”

“This sentiment would be worthy of admiration if it were not so often mingled with an inveterate selfishness, behind which is hidden an indifference toward others, carried to the point of excluding anxiety to cause others to share in the benefit of ones discoveries.”

“This kind of modest man who ignores thus his duty toward others is less useful to humanity than an ambitious man, who, eager to increase his fame, will make known the result of his work to the sound of the trumpet.”

“For, in order to be fruitful, everything in our life must bear relation to others.”

“It is by developing ambition in their breasts that the leaders of the multitude have succeeded first in gaining a hearing and then in carrying conviction.”

“What generous impulse can we expect from a man who has only one desire; to shut himself up in the selfish quiet of a life the works of which he jealously keeps to himself?”

These facts, already true enough in the days of Shogun, assume a fresh significance in our time, when they might become the textbook of those whom we designate by the name of those who have arrived and who are in the majority of cases nothing if not ambitious ones – I was almost going to say the rightfully ambitious.

And why? Ambition, when it excludes unworthy means and spurns intrigue, is it not one of the noblest passions that could be conceived?

National ambition furnishes our projects with wings, which allow them to mount above commonplace ideas; it is thanks to ambition that we experience emulation, which carries us along the Better way.

Without ambition should we have knowledge of those marvelous discoveries, which make our age that of progress par excellence? And it might be said that Yoritomo set forth the splendid incentives given to the ambitious of our time by benefactors keen beyond measure on improvement, when he says:

“It is a crime to destroy in the breasts of children, under the pretense of modesty, that self-confidence which should shine like a star in the hearts of all.”

“It would be more useful, on the contrary, to found rewards for distribution to those who, with a noble end in view, devote themselves to undertakings sometimes called rash.”

“Such are the veritable handmaids of destiny, since, by their desire for the better, they sometimes succeed n discovering an improvement, which ameliorates the lot of other men.”

“Besides, it is well that every effort should be rewarded by an increase in the possessions of the man who has made the attempt and who, by his special qualifications, has promoted a success the good results of which are never limited to him.”

“Justice demands that inventors should derive profit from their inventions, this will allow them to devote more of their time to the pursuit of another discovery.”

It will perhaps be objected that there are some ambitious men who produce nothing. That whose success profits only themselves and who cannot spread around them joy that arises from generous benefactions.

The world is certainly populated with a large number of selfish persons and it will assuredly be difficult to prevent this state of things, but it would be a serious mistake to believe that these people are altogether useless.

Ambition is never without the great desire of attaining everything which gratifies it, and what better means is there of proclaiming its success than to command a large retinue, to give banquets, and to build palaces, or plant spacious gardens.

Even granting that the ambitious man who has attained satisfaction is hard-hearted and neglects works of charity, do not the workmen who labor in providing the trappings of his vanity profit largely by an ambition, which procures for them the means of subsistence.

By the law of human evolution, the money obtained by the ambitious will come of necessity to ameliorate the condition of the humble, in the same way as their works and their discoveries will always succeed in increasing the fund of public knowledge, for only the modest man is able to keep to himself the result of his labors.

He who would master fame or fortune, on the other hand, hastens to make public the most trifling success; true, he sometimes exaggerates it, but the fault is not his alone; it may be imputed to the habit of disparaging those on whom Fortune seems to smile.

“I heard one day,” said the Shogun, “a man whom I knew to be of a serious turn of mind relate that he had spent three years in completing a work.”

“Now I had followed his studies with interest, and I knew that this task had required of him in all a hundred and fifty days.”

“I was, therefore, astonished, and questioned him on the reasons of a falsehood, which puzzled me the more that I knew his habitual truthfulness.”

“Child,” replied he, “do you not understand that if I were to admit spending so little time in perfecting my work people would not fail to find it incomplete or too lightly thought out? It is not sufficient to be capable; we must not shock any one in proving overmuch this capability. For this assertion of a quality, which they do not possess, causes suffering in the envious who do not fail to revenge themselves for it by belittling it to others. It is their method of succeeding in placing themselves in the same class; unable to rise it to the level of people of merit, they try to bring the latter down to their level.”

The ambitious man escapes these cheap devices; he is from the first too full of his projects to give time to insignificant jealousies.

In short, he rarely resents the sentiment of envy, for he is always convinced that he will succeed in surpassing the success of those who are competing for the same goal as him.

Moreover, ambition is a sure and swift means of influence. This is, in the first place, because men have always a tendency to follow the man who draws them in the direction of light and progress.

Again, because it is almost always from the following of the ambitious, that those are chosen to attain honors and fortune.

It forms no part of the program of the successful ones to drag after them the incapable or weak; this is why their influence over their pupils extends the more in proportion as the latter imitate and follow them.

For the ambitious man is not displeased to raise himself near to him one who will step into his vacant place when he shall have advanced some degrees further.

And here is one of the primary reasons for the influence which rational ambition can exert on the men’s minds. The lure of gain or distinction binds men to train of him who is in a position to give such a way to them.

It is in his power to be able to employ this influence profitably for disseminating good and the love of the Better around him; it is in his power to instill into the hearts of his devotees aspirations toward a noble end; it is in his power always to put them on their guard against intrigues which would have the effect of diminishing the beauty of their ambition.

There is between the ambitious man and the intriguer all the difference that separates beauty from ugliness. The first proceeds, with head erect, toward a definite goal that he has long and maturely decided to choose; he disdains paltry methods; he seeks only to attain the end that he has set before himself.

He goes, without concerning himself with the stones on the road, his heart full of confidence, sustained by faith in his star, which he never loses from view, notwithstanding the clouds that hide it from time to time.

He lifts his eyes too high to recognize the vulgar herd of the envious who swarm around his feet, he is content to spurn them with the tip of his shoe; unless, overmuch beset or tormented by their incessant attacks, he crushes them under foot, as we do with an importunate insect, which we try at first to drive away and which we destroy, without ill feeling, simply to rid ourselves of its repeated and irritating stings.

The intriguer, on the other hand, rarely raises himself above the horde or mean desires and paltry jealousies. Unlike the ambitious man, he acts with no other end in view than the procuring for himself of money or pleasure.

No lofty thought ever enters his head longer than the time necessary to turn it to account, while he considers it only under its mercenary aspect, and this accomplished, he passes to a class of ideas the burdens of which is never the same.

The desire of distinction never haunts the dreams of the intriguer; he reduces everything to the narrowness of his aspirations and entertains no project that does not lend itself to his base sentiments. Is that to say that we should despise money and seek after poverty?

“ Not so,” said Yoritomo, “for the poor man exercises little influence over the multitude. Again, most achievements demand considerable application and loss of time, and we could not lavish it in this way if we were obliged to take thought for the earning of our daily bread.”

“It is, therefore, well to find resources which will allow the pursuit of an end without being compelled to give it up in order to provide for the necessities of daily life, and which will also save us from compromises of conscience which the greatest leaders of men must sometimes endure, when they do not possess that advantage, indispensable to him who does not wish to diverge from his course: assurance as to the primary needs of life.”

“This should be the first aim of the man who wishes to win honor, fortune, or distinction. Before rushing forth on toilsome paths on the chance of meeting such, we should be sure of the possibility of pursuing them and not risk missing them because the necessity of providing for our daily wants compels us to pause just when we had hoped to attain them.”

We cannot but admire once again the wisdom of Yoritomo, who once more is found in agreement with the greatest thinkers.

Theognis said: “The man who is broken down by poverty can neither speak nor act; his tongue is tied and his feet are chained.”

It is only too true; downright poverty is a disadvantage, for it often compels those who suffer to pay court to the fortunate ones of this world. In any case, it is a hindrance to all undertakings, which require sustained effort and peace of mind, which can only be obtained by those certain of the morrow.

But, you will say, everybody cannot be rich, and many, becoming so, have known poverty; is it not then an insuperable obstacle?

“Poverty,” he said, “is a hindrance only if it consists in absolute want, and in this case it is usually the result of idleness or of mismanagement of our affairs.”

“We should not reckon as poor the man who earns a scanty livelihood but whose peace of mind cannot be changed by the suffering resulting from the lack of necessaries.”

“Such a one can, when he has fulfilled the duties of his station in life, devote himself to the aspirations of a lawful ambition.”

“Rarely does he enjoy independence, for in order to live he has to accept many humiliations or spend a considerable portion of his time in quests which have as their object the insurance of his livelihood.”

“If he is sincere in these efforts, he will not long remain poor, for he will soon find employment, no matter what, and if he is endowed with ambition he will quickly succeed in distinguishing himself in it.”

“From that time, poverty will be for him nothing but a specter of the past, for he will work to better his position and he will soon become one to be envied. Poverty is only allowable if it is voluntary, which is to say, if it is the result of a decision, which prefers that condition to another more brilliant but less independent. Nevertheless, riches are the key of many marvels and they are above all the key of many influences.”

“Not only is the man of great possessions in a better position to make those whom he patronizes listen to his words, but the prestige of his success surrounds him with a halo of influence, which if he is wise, he will use to better the lot of his neighbor.”

“We do not receive kindness from an empty hand; we have nothing to expect from a man tormented by care for the morrow. What words can fall from a mouth sealed by hunger?”

It is true that fortune, considered simply from the point of view of riches, is not an exalted ideal, but we must nevertheless welcome it as the consecration of success and as a power of which the wise man knows how to dispose for the good of his fellows.

It is a means of exciting interest and of influencing the multitude, for the people will always be disposed to listen to the advice of a man who has had the ability to acquire great possessions.

It is then in the power of the man who has been able to acquire this power of money to make use of it for establishing his beneficent influence over the minds of those who are disposed to trust in him.

After his other successes, this last will not be a matter of indifference to the man who, while monopolizing the empire of the purse, will be proud to endeavor after the authority of the empire of the mind.

Thanks to the prestige which his riches confer on him he will be able to spread the rays of influence as far as the boundaries of the attraction of thought, and as it displays itself above all in action he will gather around him a band of brave and intelligent men, ready to imitate him in spreading abroad the ideas which he ahs inculcated in them and to speak as he has taught them.

“Do not wait for the desired object to come to you, but rise up and set out to look for it; when you have found it you will undertake its conquest, and when it becomes your possession you will gather together your friends to make them share in your good fortune and to tell them by what means it has befallen you.”

In acting thus, he will follow the teaching of Yoritomo who said:

“Ambition is a gate opening on magnificent gardens, but the fortunate ones who have entered it should not pause there; they will pass beyond the entrance in order to survey the road and to make a sign to passers-by, pointing out to them the way.”

And this profound psychologist adds:

“A discovery brings no real joy to its finder until he can announce it, and we should rejoice at this almost universal law, for it is the cause of an improvement evolved by ambition, the happy influence of which awakens the instinct of conquest dormant in the breast of every man worthy of the name.”


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