A Question of Ambition












“Being ambitious is like being thin. It’s nice to have in your youth — but hold on to it into middle-age and you’re going to end up with a sour little face. Let yourself go — it’s later than you think” (Julie Burchill)

Ambition makes you look pretty ugly” (Radiohead)

We talk a lot about ambition.

We write a lot about ambition.

We look for it in our children, colleagues, leaders and friends.

We want to work for businesses that show it.

We sometimes confuse it with aspiration.

Politicians and business leaders talk about it a lot.

Coaches, commentators and career advisors also talk about it a lot.

But there’s a big difference between Having Ambition and Being Ambitious.

The first is about talk and the second is about action.

So next time you hear someone speak of ‘ambition’ look at what they do not what they say. Do they live it or talk about it? Do they aspire to it or achieve it?

Do they mean it?

3 thoughts on “A Question of Ambition

  1. And more importantly, what are they ambitious about? So much ambition is linked to personal gain – getting your child into the best school (so what happens to all the other children?), getting the next job up the ladder (even though you know that someone deserves it more than you).

    Let’s look for big, inclusive ambitions – which benefit as many people positively as possible. Those are the people I want to be with.

  2. Easy for a rich and successful Julie Burchill to say that – but if you have been successfull and lost everything, can you no longer be ambitious to be successful again in middle age, or do you have to stay in the gutter?

    1. A very good point Damon. I started with two pop culture quotes that were a bit negative towards ambition. I don’t really agree with the Burchill comment, whilst I think that the Radiohead one can be true with some people.
      We must get together in the new year!

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