Comprehending The “Ambition” Monster

Ok, I hope you appreciate the title. Took me the best part of ten minutes to come up with something bordering on interesting. 😆

Actually, I rarely spend two days in a row blogging but the reaction and aftermath of yesterday’s post somehow calls for it. Hopefully, things would get even clearer and I would be in a better position to reply most of the comments there after this post.

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1. No ambition, no compass?

Firstly, I would like to defend my friends. They received quite a bit of stick from the readers and I am partly to blame since I wasn’t quite coherent in my post yesterday. That’s what happens when you want to get stuff off your chest quickly and minimal vetting was done, and well… that was if there was even any to begin with. I was just ranting off…

Let’s start off with a theoretical and the most cliche of examples to hopefully, gain some deeper perspectives.

My friend, who is a doctor, is currently working 15-hour shifts everyday, and maybe lamenting a little about the lack of balance in his life. As financial bloggers, most of us would suggest downshifting, becoming a GP and yes, maybe working a 15 or 20 hour work week as a GP. And that was what the Mrs did.

But what if money wasn’t an issue for my friend (i.e. he’s pretty frugal and comes from a well-to-do family) and he’s working on some ground-breaking research into cancer treatment. His life-long ambition might be to create a cure for cancer one day.

In this scenario, is he wrong to say that switching to be come a GP that would be lacking ambition? Would you encourage him to downshift and do something that is “easier” and “less taxing”?

Christopher (a fellow financial blogger whom I hold in high esteem) actually wrote a post commenting on my write-up. In all honesty, I was quite surprised by his views.

Afterall, this is a man who has accumulated enough to retire on his own terms. But there he is, pursuing a law degree at the age of 40. Spending money to study in a law school when that amount of money could be invested to grant him a higher margin of safety for his retirement. I definitely wouldn’t accuse him of lacking ambition.

Same for AK. He’s obviously not comfortable revealing his identity. And when you consider his passive income relative to his frugal daily expenses, there’s really no need to. There’s really no incentive for him to blog just to earn another extra buck. But he still is and he even organises speaking events to try to help and guide readers. His goal to help others probably encouraged him to step out of his comfort zone.

So when I heard my friend’s comment, it probably got me thinking subconsciously.

Was I lacking ambition and horror of horrors, a compass or direction in my life?

2. Limiting Myself For Sake Of Stability

I ain’t a risk-taker at heart. Because of my upbringing, I crave and yearn for financial stability. And this prudent behaviour spills over to life choices in general. Even the 6-7 month sabbatical that I took was meticulously planned and expectedly, it didn’t have a large negative impact on our finances. Hopefully not coming across as arrogant, but I was quite confident of being accepted into teaching the moment I applied for it. And I knew they took ages to revert.

It’s been six months and it’s quite incredulous that I have not blogged anything about it. Maybe some irrational fear about my identity being exposed to my reporting officers restrained me (talk about playing safe). To keep things short, I do enjoy teaching in a classroom and have performed well enough for my SH and HOD to want me to come back to the school after my NIE training.

Another organisation, another role but the same unhappiness about “a job” is starting to seep in. I think I am pretty good at pretending to be enthusiastic, especially about being a team player at some projects whose outcome I feel is going to be marginal at best. But the mana burn to the soul is fast becoming way unbearable.

Understanding myself better and better, I highly doubt that I can stay in the same organisation for an extended period of time right now. Or that I actually want to belong to any big hierarchical organisation at all. And interestingly, in a perverse sort of way, that’s what makes teaching so suitable for me.

The only reason why I didn’t quit my first job earlier was due to a bond with the organisation. Although the monetary compensation was definitely a deterrent, I really didn’t want to become a bond-breaker (fact: a local bond isn’t that expensive to redeem).

And hey, teaching does come with a 3 year bond. Talk about commitment devices and being cruel to myself. All for the sake of accumulating more money and of course, more stability.  🙄

3. Professional ambitions ≠ Life ambitions

Many readers and fellow bloggers made this point which I truly agree with.

It’s perfectly ok to have little professional ambitions. Obviously, I don’t deny that job titles like being a HOD or a Director would inflate my ego but I think I have gone past this. One simply can’t avoid the responsibilities and corporate bullshit that comes along with that title and that’s not a price that I am willing to pay.

And I do have enough other interests to occupy me. Becoming a better runner, swimmer, writer and husband etc. To have more time on this, I need to waste less on frivolous pursuits like engaging in projects in which the main objective is “showing your sups that you have the ability to take on more workload and responsibilities”.

As for making a living, I know what I enjoy and can do well in.  When the supposed cons of the role can be a qualified boon to me, it’s time to make the move. Furthermore, I have had some positive experience with it in the past.

“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?”

It’s hard to dispute with old wise Warren on this.  🙂

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I guess one of the biggest risks I took was in setting up this blog and spending precious time maintaining it (sometimes during working hours). It’s paying itself back many times and more, judging from the slew of encouraging comments I have received in the past two days.

Thank you everybody!

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14 thoughts on “Comprehending The “Ambition” Monster

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Han Cheng,

      Thanks for your kind words and encouragement!

      Nice travel blog you have running over there. =)

  1. AK

    Hi 15HWW,

    Alamak. No wonder I sneezed so hard earlier. So, it was you! ;p

    I enjoyed this blog post a lot more than the last one. The last one sounded like a soldier who got lost on a recce mission. This one sounds like a solder who has found the marching rhythm, confident and even a little strident. I feel happy for you. 🙂

    Frankly, for a person my age, in terms of career and even financial achievement, by some yardsticks, I would be considered a failure. I used to be somewhat troubled by this. Am I still troubled? Well, not as much as before and what does this mean? I am only human, of course. -.-”

    All of us will find our center in time to come. I like to believe this. Those who don’t might end up in Buangkok Green. This is another reason why I enjoy this blog post more than the last one. I have not visited anyone in Buangkok Green before and I don’t want to start. ;p

    Good choice of quotation from Warren Buffett to end your blog post with. 🙂

    P.S.
    B from FFF said before that AK hardly ever leaves comments in other blogs. LOL. It doesn’t mean that I don’t read other blogs. So, please continue to spend precious time maintaining your blog (sometimes during working hours). I will be visiting again. ;p

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi AK,

      I was actually quite apprehensive about including you and Chris as examples in my write-up. Wanted to include a note about my audacity at the end but ran out of time (had to rush out for lunch). Hope I didn’t do both of you injustices!

      AK a failure? If your readers come across this, they might find it hard to look into the mirror for the next few days. LOL

      Hopefully I wasn’t near ending up in Buangkok Green at any point in time. Your comment could freak out the Mrs, you know? =p

      On a more serious note, yes, I am still exploring, still adjusting. Minor tweaks to both the philosophy and lifestyle is inevitable, with realistically half a century still to go in the road ahead.

      That’s one of my favourite quotes since coming across it almost a decade ago. Finally, I have got enough guts to do it.

      B isn’t wrong since from my own observation, I probably can count using one hand the amount of comments you leave on my blog. But well, I was once a silent reader of many blogs for many years. So who I am to erhem… “gripe”? =p

  2. Christopher Ng

    The muggles of Singapore society has many ways to cope with the cognitive dissonance brought on by the financial independence of their peers.

    Before I received my acceptance letter from SMU, I was already unemployed and declared my retirement to friends and relatives. The so-called “well-meaning” folks took this opportunity to pounce on my family . The tactics they used were similar to those of your friends although it was phrased in different ways – financially independent folks lacked ambition.

    Why should someone like me quit my job and become “worthless” to society ?

    My acceptance into Law school was like a timed nuclear bomb which silenced by critics. I’m not out of the game, I just wanted to learn the rules of the game before I got back in again.

    I’m confident that what you have planned would be way more awesome than I have done for myself and look forward hearing about it !

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your kinds words and sharing again. Pardon me for AGAIN using you as an example in my blog without first gaining your permission. Ooops…

      Even without law school, I am still quite sure you will still be giving more “value” to society compared to many others through your blog and books. Once in a while, I still re-borrow your books from the library and re-read them again to refresh concepts and gain new insights. Yeah, that’s the truth. Not trying to flatter you. =)

      Hope to catch up with you soon! Still remember almost two years ago when I finally let my guard down and revealed my real identity to you and Alvin!

  3. LP

    You’re a free spirit! I’ve never been employed before and I’m proud to say that! My ambitions are self determined and follows the principle of being better now than I am the previous year. I think you’ll make a great freelancer as well 🙂

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi LP,

      Perhaps one day you should try to become employed? LOL

      Then maybe you can better understand some of our gripes. =p

      Thanks for your encouragement and confidence. As I’ve said, you are really one of the most generous and kind people I have seen around.

  4. singaporemm

    I must say that I completely do not miss the corporate rat race ever since I left it. 😛

    Although, being a stay at home mum was part of the reason I went a little crazy. Now that I’m doing something relatively ‘productive’, even if it’s teaching tuition at a relatively low rate and doing some work stuff a few hours a day, keeps me happy ‘professionally’, enough to spur me to have a renewed interest in other hobbies.

    I think that everyone needs to do something we consider ‘productive’ in some sort of capacity, but productivity means different things to everyone, and also changes at different stages of life. Right now, that little bit of work is productive enough for me, but I also considered going to law school (the 4 year commitment is a big no for me.) So I guess even as you are FI, after a few years you may get bored of tutoring, and take a job in a field which you enjoy, etc. Ambitions are not set in stone. 🙂

    Another thing to note is that beyond FI perhaps, there really is no ‘life ambition’, unless you’re aiming to do something big, such as curing cancer, winning a nobel prize, devoting your life to charity, etc. I don’t think many of us have giant overarching goals for our life. My own life ambition ends at trying keep myself alive. 😀

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi singaporemm,

      My ambition is keeping myself happy and interested in life. =)

      Something lofty, isn’t it?

      Spending only some hours at work in the house is pretty suitable for me, too. You have something great going on there and I am going to learn from you with regards to growing food!

  5. ZJ

    I like the part where you mentioned you have enough other interests to occupy yourself other than impressing your bosses. I am very much like that. No matter how hard I fight it, I cannot help placing more emphasis on personal projects compared to professional growth. For the longest time, even til now, I feel guilty about this. I feel like I’m not “go-getter” enough, that I’m a slacker just because I am not enthusiastic about running the rat race, working 12 hr days. I still struggle with this now, there are good and bad days….

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi ZJ,

      What you described sounds like myself from a year ago.

      Setting up a blog probably kept my sanity in check and not sure if something along that line would do good for your situation.

      Anyway, hope you find something sustainable to allow more good days than bad!

  6. W

    Please keep up the good work! I have been following your posts and I do enjoy reading them. Sometimes it helps me to see things from another perspective.

    1. My 15 HWW Post author

      Hi W,

      Thanks for your kind words. Glad you found them useful and that you enjoyed reading them.

      All the best in your financial journey. =)