The Curse of Ambition

Meyler Campbell Connected
23rd May 2019



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The Curse of Ambition by Tim Johns

The Curse of Ambition

By Tim Johns, Meyler Campbell 2015 Graduate

It would be wrong to say that I’ve fallen out of love with platitudinous exhortations to personal betterment. I always found those self-improvement statements of being the best version of me, awakening the giant within, and pushing yourself to the summit to all be rather fatuous. If “excellence is not a destination; it’s a continuous journey that never ends” then I think that I’ll look for a short cut. It’s a lesson I learnt many years ago at Prep school. Once a year there was a cross-country run, compulsory for all pupils. As one of the senior boys, I started well, sprinted across the field and nipped through a hedge and sneaked out of the race. I ambled back up to the village and then sat outside a cafĂ© eating an ice cream until much later the other lads came along and I joined back in. Going the extra mile seemed all rather pointless to me (yes, of course, I was caught, and yes, of course, I was caned).

It seems to me that so much of the workplace is now a maelstrom of restlessness. People seem to be constantly engaged in doing things. Everyone seems to be working too hard and to be far too busy. Personalities and egos compete for promotion, leadership roles, and more responsibility and money. Organisations say that they want a purpose-led, happy workforce, but the reality is presenteeism, internal silos, and increased stress and reduced productivity. It’s a zero-sum game. No-one, it seems, can afford to tell their line manager that they don’t want to constantly self-improve, or that they’re happy not to be considered for promotion. The workplace encourages ambition and not to be ambitious is to be a failure. And often one of the consequences of this is that the people who get to “the top” are not the most talented, or the best suited; rather, they are the ones who want it most and are prepared to make the greatest sacrifices in order to achieve their all-encompassing ambition (but that’s another story for another blog).

 

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