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Friday 22 January 2016

Fear of finding something worse?

Ambition is rare. No one younger than twenty can have wanted to work in an insurance company or a government department. Yet many do. Intelligent, well-educated people, trundling along.

I had three ambitions. To become a journalist which my father arranged, making me the beneficiary of nepotism. To go out with a friendly girl (nothing more lurid), solved by leaving sad, troubled Bradford, aged twenty-four. Working in the USA took a year's preparation and some luck but it happened.

Why is ambition rare? Possibly because many are disinclined to look hard-eyed into the future. It's understandable; after all the future’s where we will die so who wants, even theoretically, to occupy that territory? The present is more comforting however unsatisfactory.

From my six years' experience in the US, males there were more ambitious than Brits. Almost all wanted to run their own business. Many Brits (including me) would have preferred to open their veins.

Perhaps ambition's rarity is a national asset. We need someone to administer insurance and help operate, say, the Department of Education. Too much ambition might create an embittered group whose ambition failed them. As Eric Idle said, always look on the bright side of life.

Hardline Hope, a novel (11,977 words)
A voice (Lindsay’s mother) that scratched continuously over the years’ surfaces, always at odds, sometimes no more than routine, more often imbued with unnecessary urgency. Further rituals awaited: the intolerant sigh as Lindsay pushed the bike into the hallway, a hand reaching out for the purchases made at the Mini-Market, an eagerness to find discrepancy.

“No tomatoes?” asked her mother querulously.


  1. Ambition, RR? How do we know what life will offer us?
    All my adolescent life I wanted to join the police. At 17 I passed the entrance exam for police cadet (remember them?) but failed the medical when I was pronounced colour blind, a mild red/green defect which would now be completely passed over. Entrance was more stringent in those days, height, weight, chest expansion - now almost anyone can get in! I next aspired to become a teacher, but army service and subsequently marriage got in the way of training college.
    Eventually my "job for life" found me when I became a road safety officer. I suppose this was really a combination of my two previous ambitions since I was involved with training (child cyclists, then motorcyclists and advanced motorcyclists, leading to advanced car drivers and buses and coaches) and involved liaison with police traffic divisions and schools.
    I thoroughly enjoyed it all, retired early from driving the desk I was promoted to, then carried on training bus and coach drivers through my own consultancy until I decided to call it a day at 75. No regrets.

  2. Avus: Not knowing what life will offer is at the heart of ambition; if we did know it would cease to be ambition and simply be fulfillment.

    Your ambition to join the police was not met and your regret, to me at least, is implicit in the qualifying phrases you include (eg, "a mild red/green defect which would now be completely passed over", "now almost anyone can get in!"). As it happened the other occupations compensated but these were not ambitions; they were alternatives.

    Understand I'm not rubbing your nose in it, merely trying to clear up the logic of your earlier life. In fact you started out in that minority I refer to, those that had a clear aim in life. Ask young people if they have an aim and few have; or they say they want to be a rock-star or a premier league football player. Ask them then what they're doing to bring this about and the answer is nothing. What they really want is the celebrity of these activities, not the hard work.

  3. Yes, RR, my failure to enter the police is still a regret. Who knows, I might have become a senior officer, retiring at 55 with a hefty pension. But the stress and strains of the job may have led to alcohol, nervous breakdown or marriage break up, like many policemen I have known.
    However my alternative (which presented itself by a chance recommendation out of the blue) led to a long, involved and very happy career pursuing interests I enjoyed. It also gave a fulfillment that perhaps some lives had been made safer, or even saved by the knowledge I tried to impart.
    Hamlet has a phrase (culled from the Elizabethan philosophers)that "there are neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so".