make money moves
August 22, 2018 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Do you have a positive relationship with ambition (especially in the "working as hard as possible to support the rest of your life" sense)? What helps you cultivate that in a positive, sustainable, healthy way? Especially interested in the perspectives of ambitious women/nonbinary folks.

I've been making this long, windy transition from a live-to-work to work-to-live person. There's lots that goes into that. One thing I especially love is this ongoing back-and-forth with my one friend -- they have been such a wonderful source of like, being excited for me becoming, in their words, a "badass power femme" (not sure if I ENTIRELY live up to that, but can't say I don't totally love it too :p) and I think they are mighty badass themselves.

Anyways, it's a really neat thing that's actually been very transformative for me (as someone who grew up with very negative examples of the pitfalls of being too ambitious, of the "you'll make life all about work and end up being shitty to your family and drinking alone in the garage" variety). I'd like to keep building this up! Any suggestions? I appreciate any type of reading (interviews, essays, nonfic, etc.) or videos, or really any type of media. Think anything from Bodak Yellow to prolific zinesters to, well, I need more examples! Thank you!
posted by elephantsvanish to Human Relations (10 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
In 2013, I had weight loss surgery & blogged weekly about my experience before and after the surgery. One of my blog posts reflected on becoming "more visible" and what that brought up for me which was my feelings about being a powerful woman. After I wrote this, I started owning my power more and more.

---- start of blog post ----
So this week on my way to my therapy appointment, I was thinking about why I went to therapy in the first place -- I had two previous weight loss attempts in the 2000's where lost a considerable amount of weight and then put it all back on. I had identified that I started feeling vulnerable and "too visible". Well, now I weight even less than I did back then.

Everyone that knows me notices and comments. Heck, I notice :). So, I was wondering where the "too visible" feeling went.

I've had this Audre Lorde postcard/quote in my office for at least the last 20 years -- it reads:
When I dare to be powerful -- to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.

I have dared to be powerful. I have spoken up for women, for gay and lesbian people, for people of color. I have a powerful job -- I am a Vice President of Engineering for a multi-billion dollar a year company and manage > 100 people around the world. When I was promoted to a first level manager in 1988, I was the first woman engineering manager on a >2000 person Hewlett-Packard site in Colorado. Later that year, I spoke on the radio in support of human rights for gay people in a studio with a virulently anti-gay "minister".

But, I have not dared to be powerful for myself.

I have not dared to own my power. I'm more in the closet about my power than most of the other areas of my life.

This week, I realized that my desire to be invisible was because I am afraid to be powerful. It is scary -- especially as a woman. You are the target of envy. People won't like you. I grew up in the 1960's. Women were supposed to be homemakers, support their husbands, and take care of babies. They sure weren't supposed to be powerful!

I'm not saying that this made me fat, but I think this internalized self-deprecation was a factor in keeping me fat.

I dare us all to own our power. Me most of all!
posted by elmay at 5:07 PM on August 22, 2018 [23 favorites]

Albert Einstein once said the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest. While that quote might be apocryphal, if financial independence is a goal, it's worth absorbing anyway. r/financialindependence and r/bogleheads might be good places to look if you aim to eventually escape the rat race.
posted by smcameron at 5:33 PM on August 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I enjoy listening to podcasts about people who are good at what they do. One specific episode I listened to recently that inspired me was Jenna Wortham on the Longform podcast. I didn’t know of her work before listening, and I am not a writer, but just hearing her perspective on her work made me want to do more.
posted by wsquared at 7:53 PM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm a 56 year-old straight guy but maybe I can give you an example of a good future based on what I and my four good friends have done? We talk about this same thing sometimes and what we have done to get to where we are now.

Bust your ass in your job. Volunteer for extra responsibility when the chance arises. Ask for feedback from your boss, coworkers and those you supervise. Listen and change.

If you don't like what you do, create things to get a better/different job or change fields. My buddy Todd had a shitty job but wanted to do photography. He saved money and went to a good photography school for six months. He is now a nationally recognized photographer.

Become very very good at what you do and if there is a chance to train or supervise others recognize that is a great learning experience for you.

Busting my ass at work and taking on more responsibility plus training people let me "move up" in my career. Because I was good, and known, I was able to get better paying jobs.

Save money and put money into a 401K or even just an investment account you don't touch. Like smcameron said, compound interest is great. I started out putting $50 a month into a 459 account when I was 26 and kept bumping that amount up over the years, even if I was living on peanut butter and spaghetti sometimes. I will get a pension but when I retire at age 62, I will use that money as part of my income and wait until age 70 to take Social Security. Waiting until 70 for SS will increase my payment by 40% versus taking it at age 62.

Live cheap, particularly for housing if you can. I had roomates or lived in shitty places until I was 40. What I saved in rent I put in the bank. My first house was a shitty duplex and the rent from the other side + having a roomate let me save money to finally buy a nice house with a big downpayment so that I can have more money now.

Make a deliberate daily decision/practice to separate work from life. Don't carry your work problems or thoughts into your personal life. Create a routine or deliberative practice that when you are off work, it's done. I play with the dog or we go for a walk and listen to the sounds of the world.

(It's OK to complain a bit to a friend or SO, but realize that that pulls you back into work and work thinking. I use the rule that if I talk about work outside of work for more than 5 minutes, I'm not being present with others or myself.)

Value your friendship with your friend and maintain it. That's hard sometimes. My four friends and I have known each other since high school or younger and there were years where some of us didn't see each other but still kept in touch. Now that we are in our 50's we value each other so much and make a point to spend time together several times a year, whether it is just two or three of us or all of us. And we all have different plans to see each over the next several months across two states and two countries.

TLDR: We four worked hard to have jobs where, in our 50's, we could control 90% of our work schedule, take time off when we wanted to, and saved money to be able to have fun.
posted by ITravelMontana at 8:10 PM on August 22, 2018 [9 favorites]

I find it super interesting that your question equates ambition and financial success. I am ambitious at work and part of a group of ambitious women but, since we’re civil servants, it’s not about money at all. Generally it’s about achieving our full potential, increasing representation of women and other underrepresented groups in positions of power, and then using our positions to further the general good. How do we sustain it? Mostly by finding like-minded women in person, online (generally “Women in X”-style Facebook groups, and through employee affinity groups.

In terms of books, Lean In, despite its flaws, still has outsized influence.
posted by whitewall at 9:42 PM on August 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

This may not be a traditional example, but I'm a nonbinary person who is three years out of undergrad and completely self-teaching myself how to code and learning how to design, and is applying for an MFA in Design despite not having an undergraduate degree in it. I've went through a lot of hell (you can check my old AskMeFi questions) but ultimately, what keeps me going through my mental health crises is my ambition, and my desire to acquire a great deal of skills and resources to help people.

I know other people with chronic illness and disabilities who have achieved extraordinary things in their communities, but have honored their needs and difficulties to maximize their productivity. I, too, have had to deal with massive health fluctuations, I'm definitely not the 19 year old that can do a week of all-nighters and run conferences anymore.

But it has taught me to be very careful and conservative about my ambitions, and knowing that I really need to prioritize and optimize, and constantly take good and serious advice. If I am able to work smart and hard enough, I think I can get through quite a bit, and as long as I recognise my current privileges, then I have no reason to not be ambitious for as high as I want to go. I have helped lots of people for their dreams, and a lot of people also want to help me too.

So you really got to believe in yourself, your values, and how you want to serve yourself, others, and the world. You have a life to make, and while there are so many circumstances, you are the one who pilots it. So why not be ambitious?
posted by yueliang at 9:48 PM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Powerful women inspire me. You should watch the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary. I was talking to an older attorney last week, and she said when she was in college/law school, women weren't allowed to wear pants on campus. Knowing how far we've come and all the work put into it by some women motivates me.

When I'm feeling uninspired, I do a search for "most powerful women" or female CEOs. I read interviews and quotes by them. That's how I read about Indra Nooyi, the Pepsi CEO.
posted by kinoeye at 12:20 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Focussing on the "live-to-work to work-to-live" transition - I did this too, a previous job had more responsibilities and a lot of oncall, I'd even check and respond to emails at all hours or wake up in the night thinking of work tasks. It wasn't worth it - I transitioned to a more hands-on individual contributor role, I never do out of hours support or email and my pay has continued to increase and stress gone way down.

So what works for me to keep that work-to-live focus is to have a full calendar of adventures and leisure / hobby pursuits - so that's what I think about and I work to make possible. I listen to a lot of podcasts at work - good reminder of the outside world, and inspiration for adventures. So yes, well done on making the switch - feels like we can easily waste the best part of our lives as you say, living to work only.
posted by JonB at 1:09 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Mr. Money Mustache is very much a dude, but his writing might be a good fit for you.

Visualization goes a long way for me. Visualizing, as clearly as possible, what I want my life to look like in 6 months, a year, and five years. Further out than that seems too difficult, at least for me. And then think through concrete steps needed to take yourself from here to there.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:39 AM on August 23, 2018

Thank you, these are all fantastic answers. I marked the ones that felt especially powerful.

Re: what whitewall noted, which I appreciate. I would love in the long run to be a mentor figure and play that role for others in my career, and I take every opportunity I can to play that role right now. At this exact moment I feel a specific money focus b/c a primary goal is to get out of a large amount of medical debt. I also decided that, if I want to consider adopting someday, I can't depend on a hypothetical future partner for help and need to increase my access to resources to make that work.

That's all to say, I don't want to lose sight of the big picture or my values, but I want to unapologetically pursue the goals ahead of me right now that involve access to resources, thus me trying to find my voice within this type of ambition.
posted by elephantsvanish at 7:15 AM on August 25, 2018

« Older How do I Mexican Potluck?   |   It's not a retweet .. is it? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.