I had an extremely interesting chat with a former boss a couple of weeks ago, which led me to have a deep long think about things. This then led me to have a discussion about this with a very good friend recently – who had also done some thinking about it – and we shared some thoughts about the topic. What’s the topic you ask? Ambition. Whether that is to climb up the corporate ladder and having a lasting and fufilling career or to have lots of money, some of it has to be fulfilled with ambition.
Now, don’t think of this as some sort of career advice, because having only worked professionally in a real job – not some part timey sort of thing – for five years, there’s not much that I can honestly add yet! This is more of an exploratory musing about ambition and drive, rather than any firm target or goal.
Firstly, I can say that I’ve been lucky in my life, where most of my friends are high achievers and had ambitions to attain a certain something for themselves. I look at the connections I have in my LinkedIn profile and everybody is either a senior so-and-so, manager or have their own business aspirations. After surrounding myself with people like that, it’s hard not to imagine that everyone out there has the same kind or level of ambition and desire to get somewhere. I couldn’t be further from the truth.
I was fortunate to be in the right place and time to get a big promotion last year and whilst having a chat with a soon to be ex-colleague – who remains a lovely friend – it dawned on me that there are people out there who are satisfied being in the trenches as it were. Now, I’m not in any way saying that’s bad, wrong or anything like that. I respect people’s choices in life, whether I agree with them or not. But as she said to me that she had never really understood ambition or what it looked like, she found it represented in me. Honestly, I was taken aback. Didn’t everyone want to get ahead?
As I related this story to my friend last week during lunch, he said he’d had the same experience. The reason had always been that our circle of friends were high achievers and we had always been rewarded for it; a good school accepted us for our academic, musical or sports talents and we always assumed that in the real world, we would be rewarded based on talent and hard work. But really, that’s not always the case. There are lots of talented people who don’t get the opportunity to step up, whether it’s because they don’t want to or due to some sort of fear or expectation that they’ll be rewarded by default. I’ve found life doesn’t reward you like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes to space does. You’ll rarely ever be given more responsiblity (and money) by default or pure recognition of hard work. After all, there are plenty of hard working charity workers, carers and others who don’t get Australian of the Year awards while cricketers do.
So, ambition. I think that everyone has some form of ambition. What it’s directed to determines what you hurdles and rewards you might have in your life. Some people have ambitions to enjoy a quiet, peaceful life and to take things easily. I can completely understand that. Others prefer to be busy, to do whatever it is they want to do with their lives. Both are fine for whatever choices in life the individual wants to make as long as there are no regrets or whining about the consequences of both.