Blog Post #300 Changing your mind and ambition

A William James quote:  “The greatest discovery of my age is that men can change their circumstances by changing the attitude of their mind.”

And a quote from Donald Mitchell: “Ambition is the spur that makes man struggle with destiny.  It is heaven’s own incentive to make purpose great and achievement greater.

Let’s think about ambition and changing our minds together today.

We can be complacent – going day-after-day in the same fashion.  One foot in front of the other. Or we can be ambitious. We can look for opportunities and see where we might fit in.  

But, ambition requires us to change our minds to match the opportunities.

I was teaching high school math in Keokuk Iowa.  We had two children. My ambition came mostly from needs than just ambition.  We ran out of money before we ran out of the month. The last week of the month was “hold on, payday is coming”!!!  

So, how could a high school teacher make more money?  I could moonlight – take a second job. I could work in the summers.  I did like having my evenings at home with my family (Steve was two years old when I left Keokuk, and Becky was a baby).  

With my education, I (probably incorrectly) figured the next move on the education payroll was to be a principal (or, as assistant principal).  We saved and I started a master’s program in educational administration. I remember taking school law, school finance and a school psychology classes.  With this limited background, I opened my placement file and started to look for openings for assistant principals that might left me by without a full degree.  I found and applied for a position in Emmons MN – a small town near Albert Lea. I even got an interview – but no job. But, in that looking around, others found me in the placement files – most notably my undergraduate and master’s institution, Winona State University.  The chair of math called me in early August and ask if I would be interested in a one-year collegiate teaching position. I said ‘yes’.

I could have stayed a high school math teacher the rest of my life, but I have ambition (and financial need) to find something else that could make our lives better.  I changed my mind and focused on higher paying jobs and was ambitious to start a master’s program in educational administration.

Then more ambition, apply for a position in computing education – without a computing major?  Sure!! Move across the country to Oregon for a position? Sure!! Move back to the midwest for another position? Sure!!!  I kept moving up. Would I serve as acting Dean? Sure!!! Would I go back to school for a doctorate? Sure!!

Yes, I had to change my attitude many times and my ambition seemed to grow each time I moved up.  Where the promotion from instructor to assistant professor to associate professor to full professor would generally take 15 to 21 years (seven years at each step along the way), I went to full professor in 12 years (through the grateful patronage of a mentor).  I moved to a private institution, got great experiences (and a lot of money) and now am retired (with a great financial plan).

Where can changing YOUR attitude and having ambition get you to?  Do you have plans? Do you have a vision? Where can you go? How can you get there?

What do you think?  Can you do that? What do you want to do today?  Can you approach it with gusto and make it happen?  YES YOU CAN!!!

Have a great day!!



Posted by Bruce White

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