Nicolai Chen Nielsen and Nicolai Tillisch, authors of the book Return on Ambition, believe the key to success lies in integrating career ambition alongside personal growth. They’re on a mission to help ambitious people better understand motivation and the drive for success. Nielsen and Tillisch invite us to explore how to leverage a “Return on Ambition” (the culmination of achievement, growth and well-being). If ambition can drive leaders to do great things, why don’t efforts always equal a guaranteed return on investment?  

To help you achieve your goals, Nielsen and Tillisch suggest there are three elements that make up healthy ambition including Achievement (accomplishment of meaningful personal and professional goals), Growth (learning and development as you pursue your goals) and Well-being (the degree to which you experience personal happiness, purpose, health and connection). These three measurements, when added together, can equal a “Return on Ambition” when they intertwine. What happens if you only focus on one of the three elements at a time – the other two areas often suffer and you risk overall returns diminishing.

The Seven Frenemies of Ambition

When channeled incorrectly, ambition’s friends can become its enemies which might hamper your Return on Ambition. According to Nielsen and Tillisch, the seven frenemies of ambition include:

  1. Convention: Awareness of convention is helpful, but following socially accepted paths to success can mire you in uninspiring routines as you try to meet others’ expectations.
  2. Boldness: The willingness to act swiftly and decisively is useful. Taken too far, it can lead you to incorrect, snap decisions.
  3. Independence: Self-sufficiency matters, but too much individualism can keep you from asking for help when you need it.
  4. Competitiveness: The desire to come out on top can provide extra energy, but ungoverned, can lead you to believe that ends always justify means.
  5. Perseverance: The ability to carry on despite difficulties is a mark of achievement; pushed too far, it can result in burnout and futile pursuits.
  6. Desire: The push to innovate can impel creativity; over-indulged, it can leave you perpetually unsatisfied with the present.
  7. Flexibility: Adaptability matters in group efforts; letting others sway you too easily impedes gaining a clear sense of yourself. 

Leadership Challenge:  The seven frenemies can act as strengths or weaknesses, depending on how leaders channel them. How do you believe awareness of frenemies can help you fend off negative aspects and adopt mind-sets that bolster ambition in your workplace?

Brandon Rouse leads a diverse and growing team of professionals well-versed in the challenges facing healthcare today. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, OK, Brandon’s experienced team represents various technological and innovative medical solutions. ZB RX Medical is a direct distributor of Zimmer Biomet