AMBITION AND THE LACK THEREOF – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Ambition

I was never ambitious enough for the current world. I worked hard and well, but I never sought to be a boss. Every time the idea popped into my brain, that little niggling idea that “bosses get paid better” (which isn’t necessarily true in every profession, by the way), I shuddered.

Really BIG bosses get paid very well. CEOs of major corporations, for example. But most of the places for which I worked were little, tiny companies. The bosses got paid better than the workers, but generally, the company was built on the owners’ own money and enterprise with maybe a little investment from elsewhere. They didn’t get rich and they worked terribly hard. They earned their money.

Once, for six months — which was as long as I could stand it — I was the manager for a group of writers at a small (and ultimately bankrupt) corporation. The frustration of telling other writers what to do and not being able to do it myself drove me nuts.

Truth? I valued my personal life more than my work, except where they intersected. I didn’t like management and didn’t want to be anyone’s boss. Most bosses aren’t good at it anyway. The really good ones spend all their time solving other people’s problems.

So I worked. I got paid pretty well but never made that jump to the next level. My ambition pushed me to do the best work I could, but not to make the most money I could.

In today’s world, that’s called “being a loser.”

Is it?

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

36 thoughts on “AMBITION AND THE LACK THEREOF – Marilyn Armstrong”

      1. Guess I am exhibit A for pursuing ambition over my personal life for many years. I think ambition gave me the drive and hard skin to weather myriad “suits” in the TV News biz. My personal life obviously suffered. I didn’t have much time. It obviously retarded my maturation as a responsible husband. So, at age 76, I’m still a work in progress.

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  1. Clearly I am a loser too, Marilyn. I like my job most of the time and do my best to produce work of a high standard. I don’t like administration or dealing with people so I choose to not go to the next level and avoid the bits I don’t like. Instead, I write poetry and books and bake.

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    1. Real admin and “boss” work is not a lot of fun. It isn’t, as people think (if you are a GOOD manager) just bossing people around. It’s figuring out what they need so they can get the most work done. And that can be very complicated and involve more than one person. When I was writing a book, I needed someone to write code for me and created the screen dumps I needed for the book. I needed “the brains” behind each part of the process. I also needed a clear idea of what the project was supposed to do and a “playpen” to test it and make sure that what it was supposed to do was what it actually did (usually, it needed work). I spent a lot of time asking if this was a feature or a glitch. Sometimes, you can’t tell without asking the developer. So my work and my ability to get it done required several other people and sometimes, it needed the big bosses to sit with me and explain the concept behind the project. The best boss I had understood that and as a result, I did my best work for him. But I wouldn’t have wanted HIS job — and I couldn’t have done it anyway. He had the Ph.D. in Higher Mathematics. I didn’t.

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  2. sounds as if you worked on your family instead Marilyn, I heard many of the most successful state, as they get old, bar a few, they all wish they spent more time on family, and when you get to the stage of entering the realm of Spirit, you can state that you put Spirit ahead of the material, and that makes you very wise indeed, amen.

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    1. I liked my family and friends better than I liked work. Maybe if I’d really loved my job — as Garry did for many years — I’d have devoted more of myself to it. But he devoted himself to his job relentlessly for most of his life … and the moment we got married and suddenly, he wanted a home life, they turned on him.

      Some jobs you are either all in, or they don’t like you anymore.

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  3. I was like you. I could have become the manager or ceo but I wasn’t interested. The extra money wasn’t worth the added stress and pressure involved. I wanted to make a difference and I did, with my family, being there when I wasn’t working, involved in their lives, teaching them a better way to be. That was my goal, and I achieved it for the most part. They were shown paths consequences and choices. The rest was up to them. I was appreciated for the diligent effort I made on the job and that awesome. I managed to walk a fine line between being a single parent, holding down a job, and being there for my kids. My son often told me how much he appreciated that citing how his friends parents were…either going to bars and drinking every night, or bringing a new “guy” home for the night, the drugs, etc they lived with, but not with anyone that put them first or cared. So, in that, I rest my case. Being top dog isn’t and wasn’t all that important in my life.

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  4. I never wanted to be a boss, but a little more responsibility would have been OK. OK, I got the responsibillity, but was not paid for it, just got the worry to go with it. If I had been 10-20 years younger, I would probably had a better chance, but who wants a golden oldie. I was disappointed.

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    1. I started one place as the fifth of a five-writer group. All four, including the manager, resigned and there was just me. I STILL didn’t get the money for managing, even though as the only writer, I didn’t have a choice about it, though all I had to do was manage me and I’d always been fine at managing me.

      Most of the places I worked I was the only writer, so I did it all from designing the book to overseeing its publication — but I never got paid extra for doing the additional work. Why pay me more? They already had me.

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    1. I was reasonably happy with my life. It got more difficult as I got older because ironically, the more years I worked, the more money they thought I should earn … so I moved from employable to over-qualified, which means they can get someone cheaper to do the work. Maybe not as well, but for a lot less money. You just can’t win.

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      1. When I quit a job they wanted me to train someone to do what I did. This person would be paid $10 an hour!!!???? And I can’t teach what I did… troubleshooting is a thing I do and many times I can’t tell you how I fixed it, I just did. (Templates and software got writers)

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  5. No, that’s called being true to yourself. I never wanted to be anyone’s boss, either. A couple of times I did have assistants, but every time I asked them to do something, I felt bad, like I should maybe just do the damn job myself. I’ve never been able to view myself as being above anyone else, no matter what the salary.

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  6. Is it ‘being a loser?” No it is not. And the mature individual knows the difference. You can be immensely wealthy and not have a damned ‘thing’ of value. I like the quote about “Money is great, but it doesn’t buy you happiness. For myself? I’d like to be sorta moody and a lot richer.” (a joke). Still. Today’s world is also based on how much you ‘got” (have) in terms of money, so there’s that. It’s really terrifying to realize you’re relying on something that might just fail.

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    1. It was all the meetings that did me in. I really hated meetings. You sat there half asleep, waiting for our turn to spend two minutes explaining what was happening — which could easily have been put in an email.

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  7. It us not having ambition or hard work that makes someone a big boss, it is have certain o personality traits that those positions require. Not everyone is cut out to manage other people.

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  8. I spent about half of my career as a manager (i.e., boss) and half as an “individual contributor.” All things considered, I preferred being an individual contributor than being a boss, even though being a boss meant higher compensation. Being an IC, I could focus on my job and getting it done well. Being a boss was more like being a babysitter, a wrangler, a politician, and a teacher all wrapped into one. No thank you.

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  9. I’m old fashioned, I think, Marilyn. I respect honorable work over title and salary, and by honorable, I mean a job well done regardless of what it is. I was a boss for a while and worked long, long hours for a regular-time salary. Just like you, I learned that I preferred to be a non-boss and have a life. All a matter of priorities and nothing “loser” about that. 🙂

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    1. Thank you. I often feel like if I’d been less oriented to family and friends and more focused on work, we might be in a better place now. But I think that’s 20-20 hindsight because I did the best I could when I was working. I don’t think I had that many other options.

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  10. I’m with you, just not cut out to be boss material and money is not what drives me – i can be motivated to work for it but not at the expense of my ‘me’ time and my sanity/home life.

    There are two ways to be sure of having ‘enough’ money in retirement: Win the lottery first prize in your 60’s, or get in the habit of putting enough aside from your paypacket every week from the first day of employment and not touching it till you leave it. If you spend all you earn ( just paying bills even) it does not matter if you are on a boss salary, or the cleaner’s, you won’t have enough at the end. (Like me).

    By necessity, i have learned (way too late) to cut down on ‘frivolous’ expenses instead of relying upon the income i should have had put aside to be able to afford more of life’s ‘essential’ luxuries in my senior years. (The one exception being chocolate! – Ok! 2 if you count the Internet access).

    My Ambition is to do less* – with less. 😉

    (* less of what you need money to do; more of what you don’t.)

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