“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings” – Salvador Dali
Being highly ambitious is more common than you might think, among people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder; notably Asperger Syndrome.
As you may have picked up on this site, I believe that Bipolar Disorder is the resulting condition/symptom of having Aspergers Syndrome, and therefore I believe the two to be essentially one and the same.
One recurring theme among people with a diagnosis for one or the other condition, is that a large percentage of sufferers are very ambitious.
Many people I have met say they have written, or are writing, a novel, without any hint of irony, and after reading their work, some have been delusional about their talent or lack thereof. Others probably would have been able to get pubished if they had believed in themselves all of the time, and not just when experiencing mania.
It is said by some that the only difference between a Visionary and a person suffering “Delusions of Grandeur” is whether they are a success or not.
The autistic spectrum contains a lot of frustrated writers, inventors, musicians, composers, artists, entrepreneurs, designers and the like. It houses a lot of successful ones too.
I first noticed the pattern of Ambition within people with Depression and Bipolar around 2004. This was before I made the startling connection between the autistic spectrum and depression. I was shocked to learn that a colleague who I thought was devoid of ambition, had always wanted to be a rock star! In fact I was pleasantly surprised to discover he was quite an accomplished guitarist.
Within weeks I found out about more and more people with depression that were extremely ambitious. If you are reading this thinking “Who isn’t ambitious?”, then it is most likely that you are ambitious, but not everyone is.
It is also not usually money that is the main motivation for being successful. While most people will enjoy having money when it is still a novelty, the original motivation lies deep within their psychological make-up.
One theory for why people with ASD are often highly ambitious, is that they have failed at so many things, they feel the need to prove themselves to people. They believe they can achieve something worthwhile, but feel they have to convince the rest of the world. They simply want to show people that they can get stuff right.
When you have made many mistakes in your life; when you have been treated constantly unfairly because people always thought you were being deliberately difficult, you develop a yearning to be successful. At anything. Just to be taken seriously.
Another reason that people with ASD can be hugely ambitious, is that they can have a pragmatic type of common sense. When a person is genuinely talented, they should have the intelligence to know they are talented. They also like doing their chosen craft, so it simply makes sense to excell at it.
Then there’s the classic intolerance, of which most AS disorders are made. Many successful people might not be the determined folks people painted them to be, but they simply could not bear to do anything else!
Add to the ASD mix the everpresent obsessive nature, and you potentially have a recipe for success. An obsession in learning a skill will usually mean that the skill gets learned all the more effectively. So the only thing that remains is to hope that the obsession does not die out.
Autistic spectrum folks can also be fickle and indecisive by nature, so there can be a thin line between success and failure. Whether an activity is pursued or not can often depend on outside influences, such as whether or not their decisions are supported by their familes. But some extrordinarily determined (or obsessed and intolerant), ambitious people have still succeeded in spite of unsupporting relatives.
If our writers, artists and inventors (who are not deluded about their own abilities), do not realize their ambitions, there will always be a nagging, haunting feeling throughout their lives. This is why seemingly normal people have mid-life crises and meltdowns. Something triggers a bout of depression, and this is mentally added to all the previous bouts of depression. Then the sufferer wallows in all the horrible memories they have collected over the years.
But if they just had the courage to take action, and realize their dreams.
What advice do successful people always give to those who are still dreaming of achieving what they have acheived?
“Just do it!” – That’s what they all say, isn’t it?
And yet taking the first step seems so colossal, especially when you have ASD.
– “Just go for it!”