When Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, addressed the Barnard College for Women in her commencement speech a few weeks ago, I’m sure she was not expecting the backlash she received from the media. Or maybe she did. Maybe that’s what ambitious women do. They provoke emotion to draw attention to the present and encourage change for the future. I love people like this. No, I really do. It challenges me. Makes me think…am I one of these women who blew it? Do I have the opportunity to make a difference now? What can I do to guide my own daughter to seek these opportunities and to be one of these ambitious women Sandberg speaks about.
She really did have some great points, despite the negativity surrounding her speech overall. Which lead me to consider my own level of ambition. There have definitely been times when I lost out to jobs because I did not have that MBA. Times where I sabotaged my own success because I was afraid I would eventually fail. Times were I gave up on beating out a colleague because I actually fear competition. Perhaps I’m not ambitious at all. Then I look back on my life, and think, no, that can’t be all true. I made choices at the time because I thought those were the right ones for me.
I finished college at a top university…the first (and so far the only) one in my family to do so. I bought a house when I was 23. I travelled around the world. I married a great partner. I had good jobs that paid a good salary that afforded me a lifestyle. I took them at the time because I hadn’t really channelled my ambition. I didn’t know what I really wanted out of life, but I knew I wanted to be someone who did something and made a difference. I wasn’t confident for me that meant going to to Law School, or fighting to be the next CEO of Company X. I actually didn’t really know what it meant for me. Until now.
Today, I am 36 years old. Today, I have a wonderful husband. Four children. We just sold our house and I have the ability to really narrow down that dream house in that dream neighborhood because I have created my family. I know who we are now, and what our needs are. Before, we just kind of took it all in stride. But now that we are complete…a party of 6….I can now channel that ambition I have to be an amazing mother and partner into working together as a team to create that. Yes, my husband is the bread winner. Yes he is. And he is doing amazing things with his career. And, yes, at times I am jealous of his courage and independence and the ability to go out to dinner and drinks with the boys and call it work. All the while, I am at home, raising our children and providing a warm, loving, disciplined environment for our family to grow and thrive. At the same time, I can’t help but continue to achieve the one goal I had since I was little. To be a writer.
And, so I do this blog. That, however, is not enough for me. I love to write, but I also love to market things. That was my “work experience” before I became a mother who stayed home. I loved marketing things. Naturally, I want to market my blog, and my writing. Working for the Guru Fitness Company taught me how to do it in such a way that I keep my integrity, my passion and my goals in check. I want to share that with everyone I come into contact with. I am very intrigued with Social Media. I think this is just the beginning of how it will forever change the way we communicate and do business in the immediate and distant future. I want to be apart of that. So I do everything I can to learn as much as I can about Social Media, and blogging, and writing and what this means for women like me. Women like me, who are sitting behind their computer screen, on their keyboard, sharing with the rest of the world their hopes, dreams, fears…and guess what? Many of them were, or are CEOs, CFOs, VPs. Lots of them started their own businesses, or run businesses. Some lost their jobs when the economy crashed. Some chose to stay at home when they started growing their families. Does this mean they lack ambition?
I just find ambition to be so ambiguous. I have a friend who was probably the smartest girl I knew all through high school, college and law school. She held internships at the White House, she worked for the ACLU, and was offered impressive salaries and job opportunities at very prestigious firms in Los Angeles. She took a job in the Midwest so she could be near her fiance. As her BFF, I was devastated. I knew how amazing she was, and couldn’t believe she was giving up all her hard work to be near a guy whom she wasn’t even engaged to at the time. It all worked out in the end…he’s a great guy, they have a beautiful daughter, and she landed a fantastic job at a well known engineering company. Sandberg spoke about how as women, we unknowingly give up ourselves a little at a time…meaning, we start to make decisions along our career path that will eventually cushion us for the blow of having to stay at home when the time comes. For example, maybe we don’t try for partner at the law firm because the work load will be too much for us if we want to be moms later. She states that we are making these decisions as 18-25 year olds who are not even in that position yet. I totally get this. I do. I may have done this myself subconsciously at times. Maybe my girlfriend did too when she made the decision to leave what could have been a celebrity filled life as a lawyer in LA to be closer to her down to Earth, mid-west boyfriend. Maybe she knew that in order to “have it all” she was going to have to make small compromises and sacrifices. So she did. But she still had ambition. She knew what she wanted, and she still went out and got it.
If I were to take that comparison to my own life, I feel like the direction of my ambition is now starting to change. When I think about my goals and ambition to achieve them, I have to congratulate myself. I would consider myself ambitious. I may not posses the competitor trait. I may not want to be CEO of a Marketing Company. But, I did want to have my freedom. My independence. I wanted a family. I wanted a relationship with a “partner” versus a husband who has a wife. I wanted my husband to be the bread winner so I could truly create what I always wanted to. There, I said it. I knew that writing was going to be a long path with little pay. I knew to get to where I was today, to be able to provide my family with things like a beautiful home, great schools, vacations, summer camps…I was going to have to alter my career path a little to get to where I wanted to go. Sure, I had great jobs. I gained wonderful experience, and I learned so much about me and who I want to be in the business world. It gave me the knowledge, it gave me the skills, it gave me the financial freedoms I needed to create my path for me.
Today I am 36 years old. I actually woke up this morning and wondered,
maybe I should go back to graduate school and get my MBA. Then maybe I would have more opportunities available to me, like that Marketing job I lost out on last year. Then, I really woke up. I realized I am exactly where I need to be. I am on the brink of creating an even more amazing life than the one I just created to get here. I realized how excited I am to keep continuing down this road. To continue to create an amazing life for my children, my husband and myself. I am doing exactly what I had always wanted to do. Sure, I may not have gone to a top business school, graduated with a marketing degree, pursued that VP of Marketing position at Company X, and now wondering how I’m going to fit all of this in on top of wanting to start my family. But I have accomplished everything I have set out to accomplish so far. And, I have so much more to accomplish. I can do it now with the vision, the support, the skills, the drive, the confidence…and it’s because, damn it…I have ambition.