On the Lack of Ambition

The old man walked up to me and asked, “what would you do if you could do anything, anything at all, and knew you couldn’t fail?”

I looked at him, thought for a bit, and shrugged.

He looked at me with a curious eye. “How can you not know?” he asked. “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

My face was blank. I really didn’t know.

His face, at first fatherly, grew intense; he demanded an answer.

“I would just live, I guess.”

“Just live, boy? Just live? Have you no goals? No aspirations? Have you not thought about your purpose here on Earth? Have you no ambition?”

I could find no answer.

His brows furrowed. “With an attitude like yours,” he said, “you will never amount to anything. You will die a statistic. Just another one of the billions of souls who have walked the Earth and left no mark.”

His faced relaxed a little, then he continued, “Is that the way you want to die? A statistic?”

I thought about this a moment, smiled, and said, “sir, if I died a statistic, I wouldn’t live to regret it.”

He grew furious and grabbed me by the collar of my shirt. Pulling my face close to his, he said, “Boy, do you not understand? It is people like you — apathetic, selfish people like you — that have made this world such a horrible, horrible place.”

“Sir, what have I done?” I asked, feeling terribly maligned.

“Nothing, boy. Absolutely nothing.” And he walked away.

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