Fitness for Ambition


Ambition is a transitional property. Certain qualities feed it while other outcomes result from it, like soil about a seed. Just as with hosting and nurturing that seed, ambition must be activated, not realized.

More pronounced than definitional ambition is a term I made up.

def. fitness for ambition
is dynamically what works for us and against us in the pursuit of ways to make us feel rich and flourish in doing so.

There’s a foundation and a myriad of opportunities positioned on either end of fitness for ambition. It, too, is transitional. Figuring one’s foundation and then transitioning that sense by means of one’s fitness for ambition is the focus of this post. Moreover, activating one’s fitness for ambition will help one make sense of the workplace and improve one’s career.

Desired Result

Let’s start with the desired result of activating one’s fitness for ambition.

Scaling-up is the “myriad of opportunities” I mentioned, the “flourish” portion of the term’s definition.

In my post Scaling-Up Personal Ambition, I defined scaling-up as “the ability to recognize your current resources and opportunities, and then pair them with potentially new resources and opportunities through creativity, new possibilities and strategic fit. Your end result would be growth, improvement, newness, support of others, and so on.”

That’s a brief description of what’s possible through fitness for ambition. On the opposite end of the range I’m covering, there’s feeling rich. Let’s explore.

The Sense Of Feeling Rich

As an idea, fitness for ambition is mine; feeling rich is not. I did not come up with the phrase or its convention. For that, I learned from Dr. C.K. Bray.

It’s been a few years since I read Chris “C.K.” Bray’s book, Best Job Ever!. The biggest lesson for me remains. “…Rich is a feeling, not a possession or an abundance of stuff.” [1]

Book cover graphic used with permission from the author. *Click the graphic or this link to purchase your copy. (Recommend!)

I’ll add to that quote my own impression.

Feeling rich is not self-help nor is it having achieved something – it is unique qualities that are sensorily meaningful only to ourselves.

No one achieves feelings. To that end we might uncover feelings we didn’t know we had. They’re just not some stockpile. To emphasize, feeling rich is sensory, a feeling. We all have feelings. Thereby, we can all feel rich. That’s the real lesson.

Bray gave us an even greater lesson. His book’s subtitle is ‘Rethink Your Career, Redefine Rich, And Revolutionize Your Life’. These attributes–our career, our feelings, our lives–are ours. That means we’ve already got ’em!

Activating Richness Is Your Individual Authority

What a powerful, latent cause. Activating the feeling of richness through fitness for ambition isn’t so out of reach. It’s qualitative.

There is a choice.

We can manage ourselves.

Control is ours.

Feeling rich by the number of dollars in your pocket aside, recognition is subjective. And it’s yours to choose, manage and control.

The sense of feeling rich is YOUR individual power. Even better, it’s YOUR latent cause. When it comes to fitness for ambition, give some serious thought to the combination comprising your individual authority.

Examples Of Feeling Rich

That’s all well and good, but what are some general examples of feeling rich? In fact there are many. Consider if you agree.

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash.
  • Your free time.
  • A new pair of shoes.
  • Delighting in dessert.
  • Love.
  • Moments with family.
  • Making a wish upon a star.
  • A pastime, passion or hobby that you really enjoy (for me, it’s all that goes into Danny Rehr’s Blog).

Applying Individual Authority

This is a business blog. I think feeling rich is mandatory to professional happiness. Without happiness, work feels like, well, work. Doesn’t it?

Here’s hoping you have experienced feeling rich in some daily manner. My focus is on the workplace and one’s career. General happiness is somebody else’s blog.

Individual authority has organizational, professional and personal implications. Some may even conflate feeling and being rich.

Organizational Implications

Personal choices, self-management and sense of control have organizational reverberations in the workplace. To this effect, my recent post, The Employee, highlighted 3 tensions.

Those tensions generate sliding scales that, together, balance every organization’s perspective of its people as resources, and definitions of its employees as people. Ultimately, the review argues that employees are the company. It’s empowering, actually. ‘Same as individual authority.

There is, then, a certain gravity to happiness in an organization’s employees. The Employee also mentioned the conclusion of a longitudinal study of “1,000,000 U.S. Army soldiers over a span of 5 years” by Paul B. Lester, et al.

Clearly, our military study shows that organizations should want happy employees, because they perform significantly better than those who are unhappy. But it turns out that organizations also need happy employees, because happiness is in fact contagious. [2]

First, being rich is not contagious. Don’t you wish it were?!

Second, if happiness enhances performance, then we can logically presume satisfaction, fulfillment, positivity, and balance largely influence one’s disposition at work.

3 things to think about then.

  1. Indeed, feeling rich–unique qualities that are sensorily meaningful only to ourselves–is our latent, professional cause.
  2. Might feeling rich given the work you do positively influence a healthier balance of the 3 tensions?
  3. Work happiness is happy work.

Liberty: Less Is More

Feeling rich professionally is not a blunt insistence. I aim to be professionally rich. We need our staff to be happier in order to be successful. I have to be consistent in feeling richer today than I was yesterday. Another way of thinking about professional richness is not having more, but rather dealing with less.

Interesting, no?

The sense of richness strips away a profit motive-like accumulation of being rich. It’s not about wealth in that way. No. Instead, your individual authority to feel rich is a self-determined liberty through the removal of barriers.

Kathleen Elkins made this case using the conventional sense of richness. She gave an overview of Steve Siebold’s 2010 book, How Rich People Think, in her CNBC Money article, 8 Ways Rich People View The World Differently Than The Average Person.

Quoting the book, she brought to light, “‘The rich see money as a positive tool that has the power to create freedom and opportunity for themselves and their families.’” [3] Of course, the ‘rich’ considered was monetary wealth; however, her point that “Rich people believe money is liberating” is the same as Bray’s, a feeling. Feeling rich.

Imagine the same emphasis in your own career. Freedom and opportunity. Rich is a feeling, yet the implications are even more valuable and distinctively beneficial than mere happiness as described earlier. Imagine what you could achieve.

Having chosen to use the word twice in the last paragraph, I’ll come back to it later. Imagination. It’s important.

Richness Is Active vs. Passive

A lesson about individual authority may be learned from conventional richness, too. Ask yourself. What’s the right approach to feeling rich?

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.

Melissa Houston’s Forbes.com article, How To Get Rich From Absolutely Nothing, explains 7 tips for accumulating and sustaining richness. They are all quantitative, all mindful of graduating to more. Houston’s first tip is “have a positive money mindset.” She asserts “everyone carries a money story…” and that “reframing your story to a millionaire’s mindset is essential for success because rich people think differently.” [4]

Kathleen Elkins’ article, mentioned earlier, navigated the venturesome “mindset” in a slightly more approachable, if not troublesome way. She noted that “the average person believes being wealthy is a privilege;” whereas, “rich people believe being wealthy is a right.” [3]

From Houston, I take away the inference of aggressiveness. From Elkins’ consideration of both parties, rich and average, I get the impression of active and passive positioning, respectively.

The rich see license; the average see resignation. Which approach, in spite of the topic of actual wealth, does the phrase “individual authority” connote to you?

To sum up the application of individual authority, I will repeat. Ambition must be activated, not realized. It’s your game to play, or as Dr. C.K. Bray used to say on his former podcast, “Remember, it’s your career.”

Playing The Infinite Game

Let’s segue from the financial meaning of rich to the elephant in the room. What about actually being rich?

The individual authority to be rich versus feel rich is different. Choice, management, and control still apply, yet the difference in being rich is that one must play a finite game (as opposed to an infinite game, which I’ll get to).

The reason may be simple economics. There is only so much money to spread around. Another reason may be that if being financially rich was easy, then everyone would be rich. Heck, I’ll take a few million dollars right now. Is that the millionaire’s mindset?” I joke, but one has to have more than another to quantitatively be rich, while everyone can feel rich. It’s comparative, isn’t it? Yeah, they’re both rich, but he’s richer. By contrast, has there ever been an argument made yeah, they’re both happy, but he’s happier? Nonsense.

James P. Carse wrote a book called Finite and Infinite Games. The broad takeaway was “a finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” [5] A causal reading of that quote may prompt a thought. Having money allows me to continue my life in the way I want. I’m not arguing that point. There are benefits to having money. When it comes to making sense of the workplace and improving your career, however, I argue that feeling rich is even more valuable. From JamesCarse.com, “finite players play within strict rules, else they cannot say who has won or who has lost; infinite players play with rules, because they must be constantly adjusted in response to changing circumstances.” [6]

Feeling rich is more realistic because it is representative of parity. Feeling rich is yours and it’s mine.

It’s everyone’s opportunity, not a case of the Have’s and Have Not’s. There’s no keeping up with The Jones’s. It’s not about having more or less than someone else. The desire of feeling rich should be sensorily meaningful perpetuation.

Feeling rich by financial means, even or otherwise, is most everyone’s goal, most everyone’s purpose, and attainable in one’s career.

How so? It is the quintessential infinite game.

…But, Carse said “infinite players play with rules…” What are those rules?

Fitness for ambition, the title of this entry and my concluding concept.

What Is Ambition?

To understand fitness for ambition, we need to first address the word ambition itself.

Ambition is defined by my MacBook’s Apple Dictionary as “a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work; desire and determination to achieve success.” [7]

That’s great, but what does one do with strong desire when all the desire in the world doesn’t generate opportunity? I really really really want to be rich. Will that make me gobs of money? Is ambition something else when achievement is not the outcome? (See my most recent post, Failure, for alternative perspective on this topic.)

There must be more to ambition than desire, determination and hard work. What it is will likely surprise you.

Let’s learn an insight to ambition through what may be the purest form of definitional ambition in business – entrepreneurship.

The Unfair Advantage

Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba co-authored a terrific book called The Unfair Advantage: How You Already Have What It Takes To Succeed. I’ll quote them twice.

First, as startup investors, they concluded. “Success in the startup world is not awarded to the hardest workers. It is awarded to those who develop and use their unfair advantages.” [8]

Then there’s the definition of unfair advantage, the central theme of the book.

“An unfair advantage is a competitive upper hand, and your set of unfair advantages is unique to you. It’s more than a unique selling point; it’s a fundamental leg up over the competition, and often it’s one that is not ‘earned’ or worked for.” [8]

Book cover graphic used with permission from the publisher. *Click the graphic or this link to purchase your copy. (Recommend!)

Deeper Dive Into Unfair Advantage

An unfair advantage is a sampling of fitness for ambition. And a coveted example of an unfair advantage is first-mover advantage.

Fernando F. Suarez and Gianvito Lanzolla defined this phenomenon in the following way, “a firm’s ability to be better off than its competitors as a result of being first to market in a new product category.” [9] First-mover advantage is not a success-maker every time, nor is it the only unfair advantage one can have. Still, it’s a well-known example of unfair advantage. How about drilling down further still with an example of first-mover advantage?

There is perhaps no more popular technology review channel on YouTube than the one featuring ‘MKBHD’, the pseudonym for Marques Brownlee. (A link to his channel. Great content. I am a subscriber.) Even he admits to first-mover advantage resulting in his 15.9M subscribers and near 3.1 billion video views to date. [10]

For WIRED in July 2022, Brownlee answered the question “Why is Marques Brownlee so popular?”

That’s a good question. I think it’s a little bit of skill and a little bit of luck combining with opportunity. I started making videos a very long time ago. And it sort of had the opportunity to build up since then. So it didn’t just become popular; it didn’t explode onto the scene. [11]

(Watch the clip here with permission from the publisher, WIRED, via Condé Nast.)

Imagination: Where Individual Authority To Feel Rich and One’s Unfair Advantage Meet

Photo by Ümit Yıldırım on Unsplash.

Unfair advantage is an intriguing concept.

It takes some imagination to discover what are one’s unfair advantages.

Moreover, imagining is a form of perceived control. We can imagine anything we want. It’s our thoughts, our ideas. Much the same as feelings, we all have an imagination. And, much the same as feeling rich, our imaginations fall under our individual authority to choose, manage and control.

Keep that in mind as I point out.

The Invention Cycle

Tina Seelig of Stanford University wrote a book in 2015 entitled Insight Out. In it, she introduced the Invention Cycle.

It’s a simple framework that has ties to what I deemed the purest form of definitional ambition in business – entrepreneurship; only, I will not get into the full-fledged entrepreneurial aspects. Consequently and for my purposes, the cycle is more linear.

In a talk she gave at Stanford University in 2014 (when she called the published “Invention Cycle” an “Inventure Cycle”) Seelig said the Invention Cycle is built of four segments.

  1. Imagination.
  2. Creativity.
  3. Innovation.
  4. Entrepreneurship.

Imagination can fuel creativity which may lead to innovation that may be sourced through entrepreneurship. In her own words:

Imagination, I define, very simply, is the ability to envision things that don’t yet exist. …Creativity, then, is applying your imagination to solve a problem. …Innovation, then, is applying your creativity to come up with a unique solution. So if I invent a peanut butter sandwich, that’s creative but it’s not innovative. Innovations are when I push through and come up with things that are actually new to the world. Entrepreneurship, then, is applying our innovation to bring those ideas to life, to bring them to fruition and to the rest of the world. [12]

Seelig’s Invention Cycle, when employed concurrently with discovering a sense of richness and one’s fitness for ambition, leads to the decision to activate that fitness for ambition. When? In between innovation and entrepreneurship. Why? Personal ambition is unique to all of us. Whatever is our fitness for ambition based upon what makes us feel rich will be unique to us as well. If Seelig’s Invention Cycle were to somehow replace fitness for ambition, then activation would be manifested by entrepreneurship.

Since entrepreneurship goes beyond the scope of this post, I have chosen to apply the majority of Seelig’s Invention Cycle and flatten it to become a linear process (with the outcome being activation and assessing scale-up opportunities).

Besides, the rules for feeling rich is a continuous framework, an infinite game defined by our individually-unique fitness for ambition.

Breakdown of Fitness for Ambition

A reminder, fitness for ambition is dynamically what works for us and against us in the pursuit of ways to make us feel rich and flourish in doing so. Let’s break it down.

Dynamism

The dynamic aspect is pertinent to what makes us feel rich. One sense of richness versus another may require different advantages and restraints. An example, writing this blog makes me feel rich. So too does drinking coffee. I need time to write; whereas, access to specialty coffee is key for my coffee. The advantage of time versus the restraint of access to a product do not coincide and therefore are dynamic variables.

Advantages

What dynamically works for us (in the pursuit of ways to make us feel rich and flourish in doing so) are our advantages – our unfair advantages (including luck), self-awareness, education, experience, resilience, talent, desire, etc.

Restraints

Then there are restraints, or what works against us (in the pursuit of ways to make us feel rich and flourish in doing so). Yes, what restrains us triggers our personal ambition, which is the aggregate of our personality, character, motivations and aspiration; and our personal strategy.

def. Restraints
are an ambition currency spend of energies and mental capacity that may otherwise be readiness factors to benefit fitness.

Here’s a list of restraints to consider – fear, constraints from the past, acclimating to an environment, graduation from the past, external approval, and luck that establishes disadvantage.

Of note, and in a way, restraints may at times be more important than the advantages. They are the features that disallow ambition’s transitional property – from getting us from knowing what makes us feel rich to using fitness for ambition in its entirety to assessing scale-up opportunities.

The pursuit of ways to make us feel rich and flourish in doing so

Writers Elkins and Houston afforded us insights into what richness does for one’s personal ambition. They wrote about the implicit strategies invoked by richness, e.g. freedom and opportunities, a certain (“millionaire’s”) mindset, a right or a privilege.

These are allusions to imaginatively and creatively packaging advantages and restraints. Note the combination of terms used. Some are Seelig’s. Some are my own. Feeling rich is the foundation that must transition to a myriad of opportunities, to flourish.

Ways to do that are predicated upon an individual authority and latent cause, imagining, discovering our unfair advantages and all other advantages and restraints. Fitness for ambition is a dynamic pursuit.

[1] Bray, C.K. Best Job Ever: Rethink Your Career, Redefine Rich, And Revolutionize Your Life. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2016, https://books.apple.com/us/book/best-job-ever/id1089126737, Accessed 10 July 2022.

[2] Lester, Paul B. et al. “Top Performers Have A Superpower: Happiness”. MIT Sloan Management Review, 2022, https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/top-performers-have-a-superpower-happiness/. Accessed 7 July 2022.

[3] Elkins, Kathleen. “8 Ways Rich People View The World Differently Than The Average Person”. CNBC make it | Money, 2016, https://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/11/8-ways-rich-people-view-the-world-differently-than-the-average-person.html. Accessed 28 July 2022.

[4] Houston, Melissa. “How To Get Rich From Absolutely Nothing”. Forbes.com | Forbeswomen, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/melissahouston/2021/08/11/how-to-get-rich-from-absolutely-nothing/. Accessed 28 July 2022.

[5] Simon & Schuster, Inc. “Finite And Infinite Games | Book By James Carse”. Simon & Schuster | Books, https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Finite-and-Infinite-Games/James-Carse/9781476731711.

[6] Carse, James P. “Finite And Infinite Games”. jamespcarse.com | Books, https://jamescarse.com/books/finite-and-infinite-games/. Accessed 28 July 2022.

[7] “Ambition”. Apple Dictionary. Apple, Inc., Accessed 15 July 2022.

[8] Ali, Ash, and Hasan Kubba. The Unfair Advantage: How You Already Have What It Takes To Succeed. St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2020, https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-unfair-advantage/id1584662439, Accessed 14 July 2022.

[9] Suarez, Fernando F., and Gianvito Lanzolla. “The Half-Truth Of First-Mover Advantage”. Harvard Business Review, 2005, https://hbr.org/2005/04/the-half-truth-of-first-mover-advantage. Accessed 28 July 2022.

[10] “YouTube | Marques Brownlee | About”. YouTube.com, https://www.youtube.com/c/mkbhd/about.

[11] WIRED. Marques Brownlee Answers The Web’s Most Searched Questions | WIRED. 2022, https://youtu.be/vchifPjqzZ4?t=46. Accessed 27 July 2022.

[12] Stanford eCorner. Tina Seelig: The Inventure Cycle. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50k3fv7yR-w. Accessed 29 July 2022.


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