Good morning, Monday. I spent a long weekend in Asheville, NC and was taken by surprise at just how smitten I was by this little mountain town. More on that later this week. But today I wanted to talk about ambition and how the notion of that word has shifted as I’m closing out another decade.
For many years, I worked in ad agencies where climbing the requisite ladder was expected. I don’t know about you, but I never felt comfortable with the muckety mucks. I loved being recognized for the work that I did, but I didn’t want to sit in long planning meetings, structuring projects, and angling for position. It had little appeal then, and even less now. So why was I so fixated on what I thought success looked like? Because from my vantage point back then, it was all about getting in with the right people, having cocktails with the in crowd, and obsessively thinking how to always go one step beyond where I was.
I watched so many of my brilliant friends ascend that ladder, but I always felt stuck in middle earth. Sure, I made it to a bit of a status position- I was called on for my expertise and point-of-view. I was working with and for some of the best minds in the business. But was I on the same track as they were? Not particularly.
Because for me, ambition has very little to do with the corner office. And everything to do with having the freedom to be creative. And to have the time to work on personal projects and go to the gym at 10 am vs. 5 am. And working with people I respect and who in turn have my back. It's not about showing up to an office tower but more about showing up for me. For what really makes me feel nourished and above all, sane. I have always wanted to do my own thing- whatever that means, though I suppose that means now more than ever, working on my own terms.
And lately I’ve been joking that I’m no longer ambitious. But it’s not that at all.
Because when you go to a place like Asheville and run into the former oncologist who is now making pottery in a clay-soaked sweater, it makes you think. Or it makes me think about what a lifetime of work looks like now. Did all of that angling get me what I wanted? I guess in a way it did. Because it showed me what I didn’t want.
That’s not to say I’m still searching for ways to own my own destiny and work a bit more on freedom and time well spent. So that in a few years maybe I can go to a place like Asheville and just be creative for the heck of it. That’s what being ambitious looks like for me right now. I’m thinking about a future with less ladder climbing, and more taking the time to enjoy the very beautiful view. Work isn't everything, ps. Why do we give it so much space in our brains? Hint- there's all kind of work to do- not just the making money kind. I've noticed maybe my life's work has less to do with what I do with a living and more to do with how I feed my soul?
With so much talk of burn out and anxiety gone wild, I wonder if many of you are rethinking what success and ambition look like in a world gone mad and grossly out of balance. Whatever your version, I hope you’re happy and fulfilled doing you. I pulled a great card this morning from my tarot deck that was all about mastery, and I do feel like I’ve reached a level of mastery that allows me to see the world from a spectacular place. I’m hoping to bring that vibe into 2020 and beyond to help guide me whenever I’m feeling defeated or down.
Cause that’s what’s up this leaning in or leaning out or looking forward work/life kind of Monday in midtown of all places. Yours, in happy trails and ambitious undertakings. After all, being happy is the most ambitious thing I can think of XO