May 23, 2012

Is Ambition A Bitch?????

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress. I succeeded (as you can see here), and then, just when things were getting started, I decided to give that ambition away. Instead of pursuing my dream of auditioning for NIDA, I chucked in the acting and enrolled at university.

I tried to convince myself that I didn't really want to be an actress, and that I just wanted a quiet life in the suburbs*. In reality, though, I think I wanted to bow out of the fight. Acting is fiercely competitive, and I just wasn't up for it, because the thought of not succeeding was too awful. Better to have never tried at all, than to try with all your might, and fail.

Later, when I was at university, something similar occured. I was studying Social Work, and we had to do several weeks of prac. Being all politically correct, as social work students were, we had to 'negotiate' for the placement we wanted with the other students. There was one hospital prac on offer, and I probably had a good chance of negotiating for it, but I couldn't bear the thought of wanting it so much and potentially failing to win it. So I decided not to even try. I picked a far less appealing placement that no-one else wanted, and left the hospital placement to a student prepared to fight for it.

Once again, I pushed that ambition down.

Fast forward to the year 2009 and I couldn't force my ambition down any longer. I'd had a mediocre career for my entire adult life, doing jobs I didn't really enjoy, in fields I wasn't passionate about. Finally, I acknowledged the drive within me.

I started blogging, and then I started writing my book, and once that was published I started writing another. Now I write columns, and I give talks, and I'm going to write a third book, and I want to take this career as far as I can.

But I hate my ambition. It makes me want success so desperately that it leaves me intensely vulnerable. What if I don't succeed? What if I fail? What if I work my arse off and I still don't make it?

I wish I could shake this ambition. I wish I didn't want so much. I wish I could be happy with a normal, easy job, where I could work a few hours every day. I wish I could be content to focus on my kids and my husband, and not be forever striving, pushing, breaking through the next barrier.

But that's not me. I'm ambitious and I recognise that now. I just have to keep at it, with all the exhaustion and challenges and occasional triumph that ambition brings.

And hope that in the end, it will all be worth it.

*okay, I never thought 'quiet life in the suburbs', as that is something you only read in a book, and I'm not a novel, but you get my drift.


  1. Love it - This post helps me breathe again ;-) until of course I get back on that ambition treatmill in like 5, 4, 3, 2...

  2. What you see as ambition, I see as someone who is pursuing their passion. You've found IT. That THING. Very cool.

  3. How I utterly adore this post. And me too ... snap.

    I am SO ground down right now, bone exhausted ... I was putting Rocco in the car yesterday and just wished I was a full-time wife and mother like I used to be in the old days. 

    Before my ambition came a-knocking. But back then, I was always hankering for something more, like I was missing out.


    *eats cake*

    And don't even get me started on success ... the past few weeks I see success as relative. You do one thing and then, now what? Another thing ... and then??



  4. You lovely lady have already succeeded because you have found your passion.
    So many go through life never have found theirs.
    I wish for you now to ride that passion and enjoy the journey it takes you on.There is no succeed or fail on your passion path.There is just new discoveries.xx

  5. It's funny, I don't see myself as an ambitious person (although most people do) but I do think I am very driven. If I want to achieve something, I just go for it because I would hate to die wondering.

    Earlier this year I went for a job that I was REALLY keen on and entered a competition that I desperately wanted to win. I didn't get the job and I didn't win the competition but if I hadn't gone for them, I would have hated myself more for not trying than I did for not winning!
    There are no failures in life, just lessons :)

  6. Lately I've wondering whether ambition has become a dirty word, particularly among women.  It seems to be fine in the corporate world, but when the rest of us express a desire to succeed, or even dare I say, excel at whatever it is that we do, we tend to be shot down, not only by our own inner critics, but by others.  Yes, I have ambitions, too.

  7. Thanks so much for posting this, I've been thinking about my own ambitions lately - the irony being that now I've started to actually fulfil them I'm wondering whether it's worth the freaking effort! - and specifically, the difference between 'ambition' and 'entitlement'.

    Anyhoo, love this post, thanks! 


  8. I'm hugely scared of failure and so won't try / compete if there's a chance I'll fail / lose.

    But, I'm also a typical Type A personality so am constantly driven to 'achieve'... even if it's mediocrity.

    I think you're carving out a great niche for yourself and your writing speaks for itself!

  9. I've just stepped into your world and from what I see, you have achieved so much to be proud of. It takes commitment passion and support and you certainly have all that. All I ever wanted was a good
    man by my side and a job that satisfies the yearning within, when I have achieved both I'll be on cloud nine, as they say Rome wasn't built in day.. Kerri Rocks!

  10. I didn't know I was ambitious until I was in my 30s, when life circumstances drastically changed.

    Almost 10 years on, I'm just about to complete an MBA after studying part-time for 4.5 years.  I'm not exactly sure why I've done it but I do know that I will aforever be 'striving, pushing and breaking through the barrier'. I'm always afraid of not 'making the grade' but I never let that stop me from trying. But I don't just try, I make damn sure that I succeed.

    That's just who I am.

  11. Yes, yes. This is also why I procrastinate so much. The fear of doing something less than perfectly is worse than the fear of not getting it done at all. I like to think I've got better as I've got older but I've had to work so hard to get past this and I still trip myself up at times.

  12. Kerri, the 'intense vulnerability' really resonated with me. I am quite ambitious, but intensely insecure about the work that I do, and I feel the same way about most things I produce. It's a foreign and uncomfortable feeling for me to put myself 'out there', I feel naked and anxious (even though I have confidence in my ability).

    You are fantastic and deserve to have strong ambition and to feel secure and great about that. Being able to do it without cutting yourself down is another thing entirely.


  13. "You do one thing and then, now what? Another thing ... and then??"

    This is so depressing I'm going to eat all the chocolate.


  14. It took me until post-40 to even believe I could succeed at something. Maybe I just didn't know what that something was? Maybe we're all designed to listen to our self doubt?

    You're a star K-Sack - keep your brilliance coming x

  15. Thats  my daghter to a T! she lasted 1 month at a Uni at a  place for 20! now shes 27 and Uni social work! unfortunately in Ireland! are you perchance a Gemini?

  16. Zen lives at my house, cleverly disguised as laziness. x

  17. Great post. I can relate, I have shyed away from things in the past. As I've got older I've realised the importance of being true to myself.

  18. Yes...Ambition is a bitch! I went to a seminar last night where you were a guest speaker and I found you to be quite an inspiration. I am a recently single mother of 1...which in the grand scheme of things isnt too difficult to deal with...unless you are me....I used to think Im just not cut out for this or that, Im crap at it, why bother even though I want it SO badly...but lately I am bothering I know I can do it and I bloody well will do it..because if I dont, who will? not the other me thats for um, well there isnt another me. Maybe its an age thing but I know Ill something...whatever that is...but the main thing is I just know. 

    I went to a job interview today and I mentioned I went to a seminar where you were guest speaking and the interviewer was oh so impressed and loved your first book (she hasnt read the second yet) so you must be doing something right. Keep being you, I dont know you but you shine through in your posts and like you said 'you write how you talk', accept that you are a total rock star and your zen will follow :) (I really need to take my own advice clearly).

  19. Well, I think your ambition is highly inspirational. I wish I could execute myself half as well as you do, with the drive you have. I think what may be worse is what I have: a passive nature coupled with the same desire to succeed (with my writing, with publishing my memoir) as you. That is becoming effing torturous. Just, y'know.... quietly.

  20. I am with you 1000% here!! No, that doesn't have too many 0s, I mean that many! 

    I, too, wanted to be an actress. Worse than that, I wanted to be a singer. Desperately, with everything in me. I knew I wasn't the world's best singer, so I figured I'd work with my assets, what did I have? Well, I was tall, scarily thin, and not bad looking - I would model. I would get into modelling and use those connections to get into singing. I would study acting at NIDA and try to get in that way. 

    I never got further than the first photo shoot. I was too afraid I would fail. 

    Then they told me I might never had children. Until then I had never wanted them. I was 18. My response was "FUCK THAT! I'm going to be the best god damn mother ever!" So that became my goal. 

    Didn't lose my ambition though. To this day I can't read a job ad without going "I could do that!" 

    Bar my sporting ability (which is akin to a duck trying to sing), I have succeeded in everything I've tried. 

    Try. Fail. Try again. Try harder. 

  21. Oh my God, you're so right. That's me. OK, I've done that... now what? 

  22. As you know, this month my ambition manifested itself as a 'tooomer' in my head (aka, stress headache).  Yes, ambition is indeed a bitch. Self belief, self doubt, motivation, procrastination, desire to succeed, fear of failure, need for sleep, lack of sleep...all rolled into one. Yet another post that made me sigh, sit back and think, "thank gawd it's not just me."

  23. I'm not ambitious at all. In need of cash? Yes. Generally very good at whatever I do? Yes. 

    But not ambitious. And I rekon when I'm at my death bead I will look back and wish I had been that little bit more. 

    You've already succeeded honey. The rest is just icing on the cake....

  24. Ambition, failure, success, mediocrity- everything comes at a price. Living every day with the what-ifs, the fears,  and being okay with today just the way it is, waiting it out or keeping faith in your potential and that the right time will come, all take effort.

  25. Great post. You are such an inspiration you have helped given me some insight on two questions someone asked me recently.. The questions are about what is stopping me getting and doing what I want and what I am hungry enough for (which doesn't mean chocolate!) Thank you very much!!

  26. I found out after I left my roles in education after 40 years that I missed the "doing" and the "being" of my job. I have my identity tied up in my need to take part in matters educational, learn new things, meet more people and partake of life as I love it. Being retired has not dimmed any of this "ambition" as it's part of my being. Yet, Kerri, I am often filled with little or zero confidence & I wonder why I want to succeed..then I review my thoughts & realize I am who I am...and go with what I have. Bloody lucky to be educated. bloody lucky to be pretty healthy. bloody lucky to have met someone like yourself who I never would have encountered with becoming a blogger!
    All love and congrats to you Denyse xx

  27. I hear you.  My first book is just  being published and writing it took an imense amount of time and drive to complete.  I felt so proud of myself when it was done and thought, 'phew, that's it, I can focus on my family now'. What I didn't bank on was how much work there is AFTER finishing it. Aaaaahhh!  The promotion, the articles, the blogging etc.  Time away from my kids, which is NOT what I want.  I feel like my ambition to write a book has become a monster and I sometimes wish I had never done it.  Do you ever feel like that?  I try as much as I can to limit it so I can remain present with the kids.  Tough though!

  28. Been a lurker for a while and this is my first time commenting, and I'm gonna get heavy :) I'm not sure it's ambition that's the problem here. That's kind of subjective anyway. One person's ambition is another person's mediocre. And there are plenty of people who want to achieve highly in their endeavour (whether it is motherhood or corporate raiding) who are not stymied by fear of failure. So ambition isn't their problem. If you want to find some peace with it, I'd be looking at why you are afraid of failing, and whether you are capable of being satisfied, and if not, why. Why do you need to achieve? What are you looking for? Who are you doing it for? Because as others have pointed out you have already achieved so much. You should have a sense of satisfaction at some point. (Or maybe I'm talking completely out of my arse.)

  29.  Yes, I can see your point re ambition vs goal. I thought about it so much when writing I couldn't even remember what ambition meant anymore. But I'm not sure about ambitious people not being satisfied, because I consider myself ambitious and I do find satisfaction in my achievements. I don't think I'd stop though; I'd find the next thing to achieve. But it doesn't cause me angst. Which perhaps comes back to the fear of failure thing. (Don't get me wrong - there are some things that cause me GREAT angst due to fear of failure, but they just aren't the things I am ambitious about, fortunately). And I'd love to read your book and I will - looks like a corker :)


  30. Interesting reading but it sounds more like self-confidence that’s
    a bitch more than ambition. I know that mostly true self confidence eluded me in
    my early days. I was a homely kid that was crap at school who always thought
    everyone else was right and better. I joined the navy at 17 and grew up fast
    one day an old Chief Petty Officer called me aside and I knew I was going to be
    in trouble and responded with “yes chief what’s wrong”? Actually he was going
    to give me a pat on the back for using initiative and saving a mornings work.
    Yay me! However he had noted my lack of confidence and gave me some advice he
    said ; nearly everyone doubt what they do and that if you’re going to make in
    this man’s outfit you need confidence. That takes time, age and experience
    until then you have to pretend, when you walk into a room just look like you’re
    saying “here’s my balls kick them out if you can” and one day you will forget
    your pretending. I tried it and it worked I never lost my balls but I have been
    faking it all my life, even now when new things come along I fake it.        

  31. Hungry for chocolate.... most definitely!!! I have always had the dream of writing a children's book and getting it published.

  32. I am doing starting a twitter account...which Ive  just done..yay me!!! ta muchly miss Sackville for your encouragement...and I am SO loving reading everyones responses and views on everything...i never knew blogging could be so much fun..  and enjoy your retreat, sounds divine!!

  33. xxxx (not like I give this much thought AT ALL...)

  34. Yes ambition is a bitch, particularly when you are not sure that you have it or not. I think I have it, but then I wonder if I don't. Looking for work can be rather soul destroying and it is an issue I will probably cover on my own blog in the near future. I'm a blogger, but I need another job, and I believe that I don't want to do just anything. But what? Is it too late to change your 'career' when you are in your mid 30s?

  35. Great post- I can SO relate to it (as you know). I often have days where I think "I wish I wanted to be a hairdresser" rather than try and write novels that people want to read and have something worth saying... it feels like that would be much easier. Then again, if I was a hairdresser, I'd probably be tying myself in knots about doing the best perm in the business or beng lauded for my kick-arse foils.
    There is no denying ambition. May as well use it instead. You do. xxxxx

  36. I can completely identify with this post, all those awful roles and no real career to show for it. And now I have started writing too in the  hope that this is it!  Love your writing style and am inspired that you are living your dream!

  37. Thanks Kerri.  I greatly appreciate you saying that :-)


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