You deserve a big hug
One of my fencing coaches told me today, "You're one of the people on the fencing team who deserves a big hug at the end of the season for your hard work."
I appreciated this comment. I appreciated it far more than I expected. What I appreciated was not the implicit compliment (nice as that is), but that someone had noticed the time, effort, and thought I put into the team and into improving my own fencing.
Back to ambition
If you take a look at my recent rambling on ambition, you'll find I think it's up to you to achieve what you want to achieve. You're the only person you'll have to blame if you're not satisfied with how you've lived your life, be it a sport that you'd like to excel at, a dream job you want to have, a novel you plan to write. The only person who can get you the places you want to go is you.
I call this drive and determination to do the work needed to do the things I want to do ambition. A friend of mine, though, noted that "ambition" often has negative connotations. It's associated with evil overlords and corporate weasels. And "work," that's associated with external imposition. It's something to be avoided. This comment made me think: Why do I approach work (and ambition) differently?
Fencing coaches give good advice
The most prominent influencing factor that came to mind was my first fencing coach, George Platt. He was a cheerful, positive man, and he explained the difference between achieving success and achieving excellence to all his fencers. Success, he said, is how good you are in relation to the rest of the world.
Success is job promotions and high salaries and winning medals in competitions. Excellence is how good you are in relation to how good you individually can be. Achieving excellence is being the best you can be, regardless of how good anyone else is. And that should be your goal: being the best you can be. Doing what you enjoy and putting effort into the things that are important to you.
Most of us, we'll never be The Best at anything. The hard part is not letting failure to achieve success dissuade us from continuing to pursue excellence. It's easy to be discouraged. It's easy to fall into the trap of "I work, but no one else does and no one appreciates it, so I'm going to stop." It's easy to lose motivation. So in a world increasingly full of lazy slackers, we need to acknowledge the people who do work hard, no matter what results they garner. That acknowledgment may be exactly what they need to keep going.