Byron's Babbles

Passion At Ambition’s Command

Posted in Ambition, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Lyndon B Johnson, Passion, Power, Purpose, Robert A Caro by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 14, 2020

We teach that having passion is a key to success, particularly when linked with purpose. History, however, teaches us that passion can become destructive. Research in psychology describes this destructive passion as “obsessive passion.” The good passion is “harmonious passion.” My recent reading has given examples of two individuals where obsessive passion drove the individuals to become power hungry.

“His passions were at ambition’s command.” ~ James A. Caro in The Path To Power

In The Path To Power, Robert A. Caro said that Lyndon B. Johnson‘s passions were at ambition’s command. Johnson was obsessed with power and couldn’t get enough of it. The ambition for power and becoming president took over and clouded any purposeful passion for helping the people of our country. Everything he did and anyone he helped was dependent on what he could get out of it, or what power could be derived. When obsessive passion takes over with ambition calling the shots, the person’s self-worth becomes validated by whatever the ambition is. In the case of Lyndon Johnson that ambition was power.

Another person I recently studied who let obsessive passion take over was Elizabeth Holmes, Founder and CEO of Theranos. I read about her in Bad Blood: Secrets And Lies In A Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. She had purpose and passion for a world changing blood testing and analysis machine that only needed a drop or two of blood to run a myriad of tests. Her company wasn’t able to meet performance standards or efficacy. She is still involved in legal actions against her including criminal charges. Her ambition was for success as defined by celebrity, power, and greed instead of purpose for significance. To read more about this check out When Purpose and Passion Turn Into Ambition.

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  1. […] I have blogged about a couple of such cases in When Purpose & Passion Turn Into Ambition and Passion At Ambition’s Command. But how do we change this? By embracing the flaws inherent in all of us. One of our participants […]

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  2. […] Passion At Ambition’s Command […]

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  3. […] of things going on around me and a better leader. In fact, that book inspired two of my blog posts: Passion At Ambition’s Command and When Purpose & Passion Turn Into […]

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  4. […] of this. In fact I’ve blogged a great deal about it. If you want to check out a couple, read Passion At Ambition’s Command and When Purpose & Passion Turn Into Ambition. To counteract this, DTK taught us to remember […]

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  5. Blind Ambition | Byron's Babbles said, on September 4, 2022 at 7:41 am

    […] “I hope our lives don’t get in the way of his ambition.” This was a line from Staff Sergeant (later Sergeant First Class) Zeke Anderson (Terence Knox) to 2nd Lieutenant (1st Lieutenant from the start of season 2) Myron Goldman (Stephen Caffrey) in the great series Tour of Duty. The show that ran from 1987-1990 (58 episodes) examined politics, faith, teamwork, racism, suicide, fragging, terrorism, civilian deaths, sexuality, drug abuse during the Vietnam War. The episode I was watching last night was about the blind ambition (obsessive ambition) of a superior officer giving orders to do things just to make numbers and himself look good. His huge personal ambition was guiding his actions. His ambition kept him from listening to to Zeke, who new what needed to be done. In the end, many men needlessly died. I have blogged about this recipe for disaster before in Passion at Ambition’s Command. […]

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