Ambition is like a rocket. When it is directed by discipline, it can propel you to great heights. Without discipline, it can cause an explosion. No one demonstrates the need for disciplined ambition more than John Edwards.

Ambition is like a rocket.

When it is directed by discipline, it can propel you to great heights. Without discipline, it can cause an explosion.

No one demonstrates the need for disciplined ambition more than John Edwards.

Edwards was the son or working-class parents who advanced through law school to a successful legal career.

His drive led him into politics where his good looks and storybook resume helped him become a senator and eventually landed him a spot on the 2004 Democratic ticket as John Kerry's running mate.

But his story took an unexpected and unfortunate turn during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. Edwards was one of the top three candidates in the race.

His "Two Americas" platform that carried forward from 2004 made even more sense in 2008 as the country slipped toward recession. He spoke of the different American experiences for wealthy, privileged Americans and those who worked for a living.

The first chinks in his armor made voters wonder which one of those two Americas Edwards lived in. His parents were working-class folks, but his campaign paid for $400 haircuts and trips to day spas. It certainly seemed that his blue collar roots had been bleached lily white.

But his ultimate demise came when it was revealed that he had been cheating on his popular wife - a victim of terminal cancer. That affair produced a child.

All of his personal issues became very public thanks to the National Enquirer. No one in America doubted he fathered his mistress's child.

But he continued to lie, cheat and steal to cover up the results of his actions.

He would never confirm his paternal responsibility and even had another man claim credit for the child and asked an assistant to steal a diaper from the child to help him determine if he was truly the father. He finally admitted this week that he fathered the child.

It is hard to imagine his fall. From candidate for vice president to an approval rating of 15 percent according to Public Policy Polling in five years.

It was the lowest approval rating in the history of the poll.

Jim Rohn said, "Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment."

Edwards' goals were on target. He is a gifted attorney and politician. But he couldn't avoid the pitfalls of opportunity.

His campaign had millions of dollars. What would it hurt to spend a few hundred on haircuts? He was physically and prominently attractive to women outside his marriage. Who would find out if he strayed just once?

His failure is from a lack of personal discipline.

Bible scholar Roy Smith once said that "discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability."

No amount of natural talent can overcome our own ability to self-destruct. Left unchecked, the enemy within always wins the battle.

Edwards joins a litany of people who have incredible abilities but were unable to fulfill potential due to personal failures.

Zig Ziglar said, "It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through."

Without discipline, character, competence and commitment don't matter.

Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.

The opinions expressed in those column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the newspaper.