Talent versus Ambition

Ambition doesn't mean talented. Even a novice climber can climb a mountain. Into Thin Air taught us that.

Ambition doesn’t mean talented. Even a novice climber can climb a mountain. Into Thin Air taught us that.

In an interview with Hester Lacey for FT online’s The Inventory, Eric Idle weighs ambition against talent. Sometimes we get these two things confused. We associate ambition and talent with success, but each person’s definition of success is different.Success in today’s world means the ability to make money, and lots of it. Sometimes talented people make lots of money doing what they love to do.

Eric Idle is one of those people, but he seems to have a firm grasp on the difference between ambition and talent. Idle says that ambition is uninteresting, probably because of the numerous untalented people in reality television shows and television sitcoms.

Eric Idle of Monty Python (Picture via wikipedia)

Eric Idle of Monty Python (Picture via wikipedia)

According to Eric Idle of Monty Python, The Rutles and Spamalot fame:
“Talent is always more interesting – ambition is not interesting. If you have  talent, you have to find ways of expressing it but you may not be a success in the world’s terms.”

Take a look at the top ten television shows according to Nielsen ratings and think what is new and different and unique about the line-up of the top ten shows on cable television for February 11 2013.

Prime Broadcast Network TV – United States
Week of February 11 2013
Rank Program Network Rating Viewers (000)
1 BIG BANG THEORY, THE CBS 10.7 17,886
3 TWO AND A HALF MEN CBS 8.4 13,690
6 BLUE BLOODS CBS 7.0 10,730
7 2 BROKE GIRLS CBS 6.9 10,903
7 ELEMENTARY CBS 6.9 10,980
8 MIKE & MOLLY CBS 6.5 10,504
9 60 MINUTES CBS 6.2 9,729
9 HAWAII FIVE-0 CBS 6.2 9,641
9 MODERN FAMILY ABC 6.2 10,046
10 MENTALIST, THE CBS 6.0 9,416
Ok, you’ve got some talented people in that line-up, but isn’t it pretty much the same old same old? The Big Bang Theory is Steve Urkel of Family Matters in college. Hawaii Five-O is, well, it’s Hawaii Five-O but not as good as the Jack Lord version. Modern Family is The Nanny and Married with Children all rolled into one with an emigrant thrown into the mix to keep it current. Pretty much the same story, but told by different people, in different living rooms, kitchens, or bedrooms. Formulaic and predictable. That’s the theorem for ambition really. Stay on the tried and true path and keep on it, with tenacity, veracity and devotion. Talent on the other hand is something completely different.
When Monty Python started new clips with the saying, “And now for something completely different,” that was talented. The group took a look at the television landscape and made fun of it. They painted with dots and cubes instead of brushstrokes. And we, the audience, the viewers, saw something fresh and new.
Talent is about being different and loving what you do.

Talent is about being different and loving what you do.


Talent isn’t always rewarded monetarily, so if your definition of success is making lots of money, then you might be confusing talent with ambition. Talent is doing something that you are good at, doing it for the love of it and even when you are not making money, still doing what you love because you love it. Some of the best writers wrote one or two books, but didn’t make a lot of money, the same holds true for artists and dancers and painters.


One thought on “Talent versus Ambition

  1. These are some great insights, thanks. I loved Monty Python, that show was brilliant. I don’t watch much TV today. However, I catch The Big Bang Theory occasionally and enjoy that — it seems a bit different to me, maybe because of the science nerd twist to it.

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