Youthful Ambition and Lifelong Goals

In 8th Grade, I was voted most likely to succeed for mock elections. It happened again my senior year of high school. My “first word” was actually a full sentence. When I was two or three years-old, I was learning words, phrases, spelling, math, and grammar while my brother was learning it in school. I started picking up information much earlier because my parents would practice with him while I was in the car and while at home. In my formative years, I was promoted a year early to third grade and given the chance to be promoted again from sixth to eighth grade. My parents declined because I wouldn’t have been socially prepared. Thank God they didn’t. I wouldn’t be where I am right now.

I don’t share this seeking praise of any kind or to highlight a tremendous academic history. Trust me, Chemistry classes were and still are my worst nightmare and as time has gone by, my strengths have come to lie virtually anywhere excluding math. I share all of this to say that it instilled in me a youthful ambition; a disposition that compels me to prove that I worthy of the praise and insights others have so graciously bestowed upon me over the course of my lifetime (grand total of 23 years). The idea that I could do great things was reinforced consistently and for that I am deeply thankful.

This youthful ambition has pushed me to take risks, fail and make mistakes often, shun success or become self-defeating in times of self-doubt or uncertainty. It has also granted me some great successes – becoming a published author, being the youngest recipient of the Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication Fellowship and building an international philanthropic partnership all before 25. In an interview for Vanity Fair, President Barack Obama and Doris Kearns Goodwin discuss topics including past presidents and their decisions, temperament, and ambition. President Obama shares that “…when you’re young, ambitions are somewhat common – you want prove yourself.” He continues on to say that these ambitions can develop for a variety of reasons and stem from a variety of circumstances.

Upon completing the article,  I spent several days reflecting on why I have certain goals, dreams and plans. Are these plans rooted in youthful ambition or are they part of my values system and passion for making the world better? Who is the inspiration for pursuing the goals I’ve set for myself? What are my reasons and what circumstances helped create the reasons? The last five years have been filled with success, failure, uncertainty, consistent goals and changing plans. My youthful ambition is still present, but it is decreasing as time passes. I’m becoming more decisive and particular about the work I take on or the goals I set for myself.

“But as I got older, then my particular ambitions started cohering around creating a world in which people of different races or backgrounds or faiths can recognize each other’s humanity, or creating a world in which every kid, regardless of their background, can strive and achieve and fulfill their potential.” – President Barack Obama

The President and I share this sentiment for creating a better world for everyone. What differs is age and experience. In some cases, my youthful ambition has been rooted in a desire to prove myself, but more and more I’m beginning to realize that the commitments I make, the values I espouse, and the actions I take are rooted in something much deeper. At my core, I hope to make a better world for those suffering from great tragedy, injustice, and trauma. I will have to determine how to best do that in the coming months, but I know that this is where my heart lies.

Here is the link to the full interview on Vanity Fair’s website:


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