“Ambition” means the systematic pursuit of achievement and of constant improvement in respect to one’s goal. Like the word “selfishness,” and for the same reasons, the word “ambition” has been perverted to mean only the pursuit of dubious or evil goals, such as the pursuit of power; this left no concept to designate the pursuit of actual values. But “ambition” as such is a neutral concept: the evaluation of a given ambition as moral or immoral depends on the nature of the goal. A great scientist or a great artist is the most passionately ambitious of men. A demagogue seeking political power is ambitious. So is a social climber seeking “prestige.” So is a modest laborer who works conscientiously to acquire a home of his own. The common denominator is the drive to improve the conditions of one’s existence, however broadly or narrowly conceived. (“Improvement” is a moral term and depends on one’s standard of values. An ambition guided by an irrational standard does not, in fact, lead to improvement, but to self-destruction.)
— Ayn Rand
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