Author Topic: Lacking Ambition in 20s?  (Read 8922 times)

roboto

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Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« on: March 18, 2014, 07:41:53 AM »
disclaimer: I might have borrowed that title from lackingambition.com :P

It's the time of the year in my organization where employees shuffle around and get 'graded'. I've always struggled with process of an appraisal on performance because the words that inadvertently gets thrown around includes "climbing the ladder", "prove your worth", "career progression", "sacrifices".

I'm not lazy and looking for an easy way out of good 'ole fashioned hard work, but at the same time I do not feel compelled to throw myself at work, working longer hours or sacrificing more to prove that I am worthy of climbing the ladder. I would like to continuously learn and improve, but retain my 'self time' so I can learn things that is actually my decision to make (as opposed to work where you get delegated things, somewhat limits your learning path).

This seems to be an inappropriate response in Asian culture, especially for someone in their 20's as I am.  Does anyone else here felt this way before or had to white lie their way into an appraisal?

sherr

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2014, 08:01:11 AM »
Well I can't comment on Asian culture, but I can certainly relate to what you're saying. I've always valued having an appropriate work-life balance, and have never really thrown myself into being a workaholic. Sure I'll a do long day at work every once in a while, but not all the time.

I'm fortunate to be in a career / company that values results over how hard you work. I've managed to more or less keep up with my peers by working smart, focusing hard while I'm at work, and not being shy about expressing desire for promotion / a better job. I am valuable and deserve promotion because of the quantity and quality of work I produce, not because of the hours I keep. Can't say exactly if that'll work in your company, but it's worth a try.

apoclater

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2014, 08:08:18 AM »
I'm with you there.  I'm 25 and put on the "young, ambitious corporate type" face while at work, and go home and put on the "phew, it's over" face. 

We just went through performance appraisals as well.  While I did well, I wonder when they'll realize I'm a BSer and I really don't actually want to move up.  I have a perfectly comfortable salary with a reasonable, predictable amount of work. Why take a promotion to be unreasonably stressed for just a little more money?

The only thing that scares me is that I'm a bit young to be this unambitious.  Maybe when I'm 40 and tired of working?  I could see it then.  But at 25 in the prime of my "ladder climbing time", I have to maximize my income to get a decent savings worked up before I move to a lower stress job, maybe in my 30s.

Silvie

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2014, 08:08:45 AM »
I felt exactly the same way. I liked my job but I didn't like the structure of an office job. So, now I work as a freelancer from home. I still have plenty of work, but I start at 10 AM, or I work in my pyjamas, or I take a 3 hour lunch break, or I work until 10 PM, or on Sunday morning, or whenever I'm most productive. This sense of freedom is so rewarding!

At some point during my office job I felt like I was just lazy, lacking ambition, etc. but that wasn't it. It was just the restricted freedom that bothered me.

I'm actually working a temporary office job now and I'm experiencing the same feelings again. I love the company, but I know that 9-5 office jobs are not for me.

lexie2000

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2014, 08:34:13 AM »
Could it be more of a generational phenomenon?  DH and I started our corporate careers in 1980.  We both enjoyed our jobs and we were super ambitious in terms of how many hours we were willing to work because at our pay grades we did get paid for the extra hours.   At the time, our life was simple - no mortgage, no kids, and no debt; so after we gave Uncle Sam his cut, the rest was ours to squirrel away for the future.  I don't remember ever feeling like we didn't have enough "free time".

As for climbing the corporate ladder.  I think it's great until you have to supervise/manage people.  That takes a lot of extra time and effort if you're going to take the job seriously and the higher up you go the more personal time and effort it takes (until maybe when you hit director).  When you hit director you no longer have the personnel headaches (your managers take care of that for you), but you are at the beck and call of the VPs above you.  It's better than manager because of the compensation, but you still make huge sacrifices of your free time.

zarfus

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2014, 11:17:09 AM »
I felt exactly the same way. I liked my job but I didn't like the structure of an office job. So, now I work as a freelancer from home. I still have plenty of work, but I start at 10 AM, or I work in my pyjamas, or I take a 3 hour lunch break, or I work until 10 PM, or on Sunday morning, or whenever I'm most productive. This sense of freedom is so rewarding!

At some point during my office job I felt like I was just lazy, lacking ambition, etc. but that wasn't it. It was just the restricted freedom that bothered me.

I'm actually working a temporary office job now and I'm experiencing the same feelings again. I love the company, but I know that 9-5 office jobs are not for me.

Any tips on how to get started with freelancing?  (also, what kind of freelancing :P)

Elaine

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2014, 12:58:56 PM »
I know what you mean about apathy at work. Maybe it is generational, I don't know.

BUT- in some ways you are ambitious. You're on this site! You are actively looking to optimize your life, and that's very ambitious. I might not be interested in working 60  hours a week (even though I have no kids, obligations, etc.)- but I do push myself to work out almost every day. I save over 50% of my income. I have a website that I post to 3-6 times a week. I do freelance writing on the side. I aspire to live off passive income. That IS ambitious. It just doesn't look like the idea of ambition that we are fed in media (long hours, kissing bum to get ahead, networking, etc.)

Jamesqf

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2014, 01:21:11 PM »
I saw this a lot, too.  This could apply to a lot of fields, though I happen to do software.  I enjoy it, and - all modesty aside - I am damned good at it.  Why should I want to give that up to 'climb the career ladder', or IOW become a manager, something I would hate and be lousy at?

MsSindy

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2014, 01:47:54 PM »
It could also be the culture of the organization you work at.  When I was in consulting, they have an "up or out" model, meaning you either move up the ladder or you're counseled out.  So we threw ourselves into our work.  But there was always someone who wanted it more than I did, so would put in much longer hours - they got the uber high rating and the couple of extra thousand in bonuses - when I started to look at my hours compared to theirs, I decided that they could have it and I was happy for them (they deserved it.)  I still did extremely well, but had more of a balance in my life.....consequently I stayed at the company much longer than my peers because I had more life satisfaction.

I've moved on from consulting and now work at my client.  They keep asking me to apply for Leader positions and I keep thinking, what for a bump of about 3% salary, no thanks!  As a Leader you are at the beck and call of the Director AND have to manage people.  Now, I just do my own work and go home....life is easy. 

But to address the OPs original post, yeah, I have my game face on and I say things like "if the right opportunity should come along, I would absolutely be interested......" - But my Directors know me, and I think they're aware that it's just a little dance we do and know I'm not really going to pursue anything....but we write it down in the Performance Review anyway, and the HR is happy and doesn't bug us.

steveo

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2014, 01:54:49 PM »
I'm 40 and I feel exactly the same way. I have been working about 20-30 hours per week over the past couple of weeks and I love it.

I have my performance review coming up soon and I will do what I normally do - say I want to move up the ladder when I really just want more money in my pocket and an easier job. I also find the more managing I do the easier the work becomes.

Prairie Stash

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2014, 02:08:24 PM »
Could it be more of a generational phenomenon?  DH and I started our corporate careers in 1980.  We both enjoyed our jobs and we were super ambitious in terms of how many hours we were willing to work because at our pay grades we did get paid for the extra hours.   At the time, our life was simple - no mortgage, no kids, and no debt; so after we gave Uncle Sam his cut, the rest was ours to squirrel away for the future.  I don't remember ever feeling like we didn't have enough "free time".

Didn't you leave your corporate career in the 80's or 90's? I understand it was for a better lifestyle, but how is that really different than other generations?

Its too often people lack corporate ambition, at any age (some people retire early, some people coast along). The easiest short term fix is to get a new job, just the act of looking can help. Typically people get energized for a few more years after they switch jobs, it makes it easier to get motivated again. Some people (like Jamesqf - my compliments to you on your earned success) are lucky, they found themselves great jobs to begin with, the rest of us might take a couple different jobs to find the one perfect place.

Or feel free to coast. Personally, do whatever makes you happiest.

Dr. Doom

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2014, 02:28:40 PM »

Generally managers expect to have one of two types of conversations from their contributors at review time.   
A)   Contributor wishes to become better at what they do (i.e. learn new technical skills, take on more projects) or
B)   Contributor wants to move up the ladder, i.e. increase responsibility, become a team lead, manager, director.

Most managers are OK with either response, as long as you stick to one of those scripts.  The world needs people who actually do the work. 
I personally think it's completely normal and expected to lie a little and say you want to learn more, do more work, increase quantity and quality of your work -- even if you don't.  The thing is, if you don't follow the script, you'll be causing an alarm to go off in your manager's head.   And that alarm will generate conflict.

Put another way, telling your manager "I want to do exactly the same amount of work as last year," is never the right answer.  They need to hear that you want to grow in one way or another.  Stick to the script and you'll get the review over faster.

On a personal note, in my 13 years in my industry I spent a single year at the director level.  Miserable experience.  Don't go into management unless you're certain you want the work and responsibility. 

The thing is, as an individual contributor, you're paid to work.  Life is pretty simple.  You are a for-hire professional and that's the end of the story.

But as a manager, you're paid to actually care about the company.  Like, really care.  Come up with ways to improve things, cut costs, create and drive initiatives.  Get upset if employee X is taking too many sick days or has issues completing tasks.  You must become part of the Enterprise Borg.

If that doesn't sound good, be sure to stick to script option A.

roboto

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2014, 09:27:52 PM »

Generally managers expect to have one of two types of conversations from their contributors at review time.   
A)   Contributor wishes to become better at what they do (i.e. learn new technical skills, take on more projects) or
B)   Contributor wants to move up the ladder, i.e. increase responsibility, become a team lead, manager, director.

Most managers are OK with either response, as long as you stick to one of those scripts.  The world needs people who actually do the work. 
I personally think it's completely normal and expected to lie a little and say you want to learn more, do more work, increase quantity and quality of your work -- even if you don't.  The thing is, if you don't follow the script, you'll be causing an alarm to go off in your manager's head.   And that alarm will generate conflict.

Put another way, telling your manager "I want to do exactly the same amount of work as last year," is never the right answer.  They need to hear that you want to grow in one way or another.  Stick to the script and you'll get the review over faster.

On a personal note, in my 13 years in my industry I spent a single year at the director level.  Miserable experience.  Don't go into management unless you're certain you want the work and responsibility. 

The thing is, as an individual contributor, you're paid to work.  Life is pretty simple.  You are a for-hire professional and that's the end of the story.

But as a manager, you're paid to actually care about the company.  Like, really care.  Come up with ways to improve things, cut costs, create and drive initiatives.  Get upset if employee X is taking too many sick days or has issues completing tasks.  You must become part of the Enterprise Borg.

If that doesn't sound good, be sure to stick to script option A.

Q_Train, you definitely hit the nail on the head. Pretty sure I've been in camp A for the past 2 appraisals, but it feels like after some time they want you to express interest in camp B.

That's a lot of good insight, thanks for sharing :D

roboto

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2014, 09:33:51 PM »
I felt exactly the same way. I liked my job but I didn't like the structure of an office job. So, now I work as a freelancer from home. I still have plenty of work, but I start at 10 AM, or I work in my pyjamas, or I take a 3 hour lunch break, or I work until 10 PM, or on Sunday morning, or whenever I'm most productive. This sense of freedom is so rewarding!

At some point during my office job I felt like I was just lazy, lacking ambition, etc. but that wasn't it. It was just the restricted freedom that bothered me.

I'm actually working a temporary office job now and I'm experiencing the same feelings again. I love the company, but I know that 9-5 office jobs are not for me.

Probably not everyone is cut out for the 9-5 regiment, and it's great that you've got that figured out! Some people get stuck trying to make themselves fit into the corporate mold and is unhappy when it doesn't work.

Are you in the creative industry? Most 'creatives' I know can't stand the regiment, much less walking around with a tie around their necks. The creative industry also allows for more freelancing, which seems to fit what you have described above.

In the business arena I guess restricted freedom is the norm (i.e. you have to show up in the office, attend weekly/monthly meetings, push paper to other departments), yeah some innovative companies are trying to break out of that cubicle life, but I don't see a movement happening anytime soon.

roboto

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2014, 09:41:51 PM »
I'm with you there.  I'm 25 and put on the "young, ambitious corporate type" face while at work, and go home and put on the "phew, it's over" face. 

We just went through performance appraisals as well.  While I did well, I wonder when they'll realize I'm a BSer and I really don't actually want to move up.  I have a perfectly comfortable salary with a reasonable, predictable amount of work. Why take a promotion to be unreasonably stressed for just a little more money?

The only thing that scares me is that I'm a bit young to be this unambitious.  Maybe when I'm 40 and tired of working?  I could see it then.  But at 25 in the prime of my "ladder climbing time", I have to maximize my income to get a decent savings worked up before I move to a lower stress job, maybe in my 30s.

I'm definitely with you on the fear, although maybe I don't put on a hard enough game face to fit in the 'young, ambitious corporate type' :P Ambitious yes, corporate probably not so much. Part of the reason why I posted the thread is the same POV - "More stress/hours for a little more money".

Do you feel the pressure to climb the ladder because now's the time? Is the intrinsic motivation because you want the cash cushion to either FIRE or transition to an easier job or because everyone is preaching that you need to make the most of your youth and milk the cash cow? Just curious.

Silvie

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2014, 07:18:44 AM »
I felt exactly the same way. I liked my job but I didn't like the structure of an office job. So, now I work as a freelancer from home. I still have plenty of work, but I start at 10 AM, or I work in my pyjamas, or I take a 3 hour lunch break, or I work until 10 PM, or on Sunday morning, or whenever I'm most productive. This sense of freedom is so rewarding!

At some point during my office job I felt like I was just lazy, lacking ambition, etc. but that wasn't it. It was just the restricted freedom that bothered me.

I'm actually working a temporary office job now and I'm experiencing the same feelings again. I love the company, but I know that 9-5 office jobs are not for me.

Any tips on how to get started with freelancing?  (also, what kind of freelancing :P)

Find something you're interested in and/or good at, and tell everyone about it. I am a translator, and even during my master's program, I told everyone I talked to I'm a translator (nevermind I didn't have my degree yet) and oh guess what: "It would be nice to have my website translated into English, could you do that for me? Sure! Oh, you did a really good job, I will tell my friends about you."

 That's how it works. Network, network, network. When I just started, I took on pretty much any text to gain experience. Now, a few years later, I translate mostly marketing and tourism texts and more English to Dutch than Dutch to English, because that's what I prefer. I have friends from uni who never get any freelance translation jobs because they don't network at all. They just sit and wait for the work to come to them. It doesn't work that way, at least not at first. For me, it does now because I know many people and they give my name to others who need translations. I literally don't have to do any acquisition and the work comes to me!

Also, get business cards and a simple website. It's easier for people to remember you if they have your card. And a website is important just to have an online presence. Occassionally I get a request from someone who filled out the contact form on my website. I always ask how they found me and they usually say via Google.

And last but not least: don't give up your job yet. I worked freelance on the side for over 2 years before I was in the position to give up my day job.

Good luck!

apoclater

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2014, 07:59:38 AM »
I'm with you there.  I'm 25 and put on the "young, ambitious corporate type" face while at work, and go home and put on the "phew, it's over" face. 

We just went through performance appraisals as well.  While I did well, I wonder when they'll realize I'm a BSer and I really don't actually want to move up.  I have a perfectly comfortable salary with a reasonable, predictable amount of work. Why take a promotion to be unreasonably stressed for just a little more money?

The only thing that scares me is that I'm a bit young to be this unambitious.  Maybe when I'm 40 and tired of working?  I could see it then.  But at 25 in the prime of my "ladder climbing time", I have to maximize my income to get a decent savings worked up before I move to a lower stress job, maybe in my 30s.

I'm definitely with you on the fear, although maybe I don't put on a hard enough game face to fit in the 'young, ambitious corporate type' :P Ambitious yes, corporate probably not so much. Part of the reason why I posted the thread is the same POV - "More stress/hours for a little more money".

Do you feel the pressure to climb the ladder because now's the time? Is the intrinsic motivation because you want the cash cushion to either FIRE or transition to an easier job or because everyone is preaching that you need to make the most of your youth and milk the cash cow? Just curious.

I would say I feel pressure to climb the ladder due to organizational factors, moreso.  I came out of a leadership development program and was expected to be a star in the organization and I'm realizing it's really not for me.  The stress is fairly high and frankly I really don't like the work much.

I guess if I'd graph jobs I'm interested in on an X/Y axis, I'm looking for the one that optimizes to the point where high pay meets low or reasonable stress.  I'm currently making ~$70k per year but would be completely happy taking a pay cut for lower stress and lower responsibility.  What I'm most looking for is a way to "leave my job at work when I leave work"--that's not really possible with year long projects.

There are other pressures like you mention as well--I personally want to become FI as soon as humanly possible, and making the money now seems like the best time to do it.  My hope is to get to $200k net worth by 30 and then "downshift".

Out of curiosity, what's your plan?  Always like to hear 20-somethings talk about their FIRE plans.


zachd

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2014, 10:58:10 AM »

Well, I am from the generation that invented being apathetic about your corporate job.. Generation X.. there was even a book or two written about it (uh, Generation X, Microserfs)
  It seems the younger generation (millenials) are perhaps even less interested in busting their ass for something they don't really care about. Good for ya'll.  The reason anyone probably doesn't care about their job is because it's not really what you love to be doing.

But those who are younger and on here at least have a leg up.. don't squander the money you are making now and you'll be in a much better place to do want to do sooner and keep doing what you love to do longer because it won't matter as much how much you are making if you are living frugally.  I found that out the hard way I have opened a record store and it was my dream job but eventually I was just about broke and now I'm back doing software which for the most part sucks.  Yes I have to lie about all the things I plan to learn and then the reasons why I didn't learn them and all that.  It's a stupid charade. 

What others have said is all true though.  If you want more money or a promotion you will have to play the game. But even easier would be to work a while at one place then go somewhere else you will get more pay faster like that.  You will probably get burned more slowly also.  Of course it can be difficult to want to change but probably esaier for younger people.  I need to change jobs but I keep saying "I'll stick it out a few more months..."

William

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2014, 10:13:49 AM »
If you're ever lacking ambition it means you're in the wrong job, plain and simple.

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2014, 11:12:27 AM »
If you're ever lacking ambition it means you're in the wrong job, plain and simple.

What? Why? What ever happened to lacking ambition for lacking ambition's sake?!

mxt0133

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #20 on: March 21, 2014, 12:57:59 PM »
If you're ever lacking ambition it means you're in the wrong job, plain and simple.

What? Why? What ever happened to lacking ambition for lacking ambition's sake?!

I read that more in a broader sense and that if you are lacking ambition it's almost being not excited about life in general.  I think that if you find yourself not being excited about getting up in the morning and looking forward to your day.  That you are not living your ideal life.

ERE1414

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #21 on: March 21, 2014, 02:46:54 PM »
I'm with you on that! I'm 24 and I'm self employed as a Tutor/Nanny. I work about 25 hours total (including commute) and I love it! I've always been "smart" but I find it so hard to motivate myself to get a "real job". I value my freedom way too much.

My friends work jobs that cost them 50+ hours / week of their lives and I just can't do it. I like to sleep in! I feel more healthy than them, as I'm up and moving during the day and have time for myself.

I'm now considering going back to school to teach at a community college. I think that will give me a good balance between time for myself (from my research work week is 30 hours and only 10 mo) and work. Plus, teaching is something I genuinely love doing and doesn't feel like work. Now just have to try to avoid student loans!

Best of luck to you!

spoonman

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #22 on: March 21, 2014, 10:20:51 PM »
I tend to enjoy what I do and the challenge of solving new problems.  But I work with superiors that don't know how to take no for an answer.  The management style is still very much about command and control.  Stupid deadlines, unrealistic expectations, and a general old way of thinking has turned me away from the company.  I no longer believe in the mission.  I'm just gonna do what I have to do for the next 5 months, then I'm gonna quit and never set foot in the corporate world again.

My dividend income will give me the freedom to pursue activities that I actually believe in.

steveo

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #23 on: March 22, 2014, 12:43:54 AM »
I tend to enjoy what I do and the challenge of solving new problems.  But I work with superiors that don't know how to take no for an answer.  The management style is still very much about command and control.  Stupid deadlines, unrealistic expectations, and a general old way of thinking has turned me away from the company.  I no longer believe in the mission.  I'm just gonna do what I have to do for the next 5 months, then I'm gonna quit and never set foot in the corporate world again.

I fucken hate that management style. I work as a project manager and one of the line managers is constantly calling me up to make sure the staff are working the right number of hours. Of course too many hours is cool but too few is a big problem. The thing is I've been working about 20 hours per week the past few weeks and if she expects me to manage staff so they work 40 hours a week its not going to happen.

chasesfish

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #24 on: March 23, 2014, 06:04:43 AM »
I think the comment about stress/compensation/time hits this post.

Everyone has to decide for themselves where the proper trade off is between income and stress.  I've gone through this thought process a couple of times in my career and I think I'm at that point.

William

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #25 on: March 24, 2014, 01:01:49 PM »
If you're ever lacking ambition it means you're in the wrong job, plain and simple.

What? Why? What ever happened to lacking ambition for lacking ambition's sake?!

There's NOTHING the OP has an interest in?  So all he cares about is waking up, eating, going to bed?  I feel he must have a passion for something.  He should exploit that passion by getting a related job.  Then he will passionate at a job.  Passion and ambition are synonymous. 

roboto

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Re: Lacking Ambition in 20s?
« Reply #26 on: March 25, 2014, 07:18:17 AM »
If you're ever lacking ambition it means you're in the wrong job, plain and simple.

What? Why? What ever happened to lacking ambition for lacking ambition's sake?!

I read that more in a broader sense and that if you are lacking ambition it's almost being not excited about life in general.  I think that if you find yourself not being excited about getting up in the morning and looking forward to your day.  That you are not living your ideal life.

That's one way of looking at it. On the other hand to infer from the POV of someone who is easily contented (not exactly me, but I have lots of friends who are such), lacking ambition could mean they are happy with what they already have/is doing and do not have any desire to do more.