Ambition: Gaining the world and losing your soul ( Part 1)

As I work towards launching and growing a business, I read a lot of business literature on the subject of ambition. I am building a carefully curated list on my Kindle app, Pinterest, Instagram, safari reading list and iphone notes.  My surroundings are so saturated with this literature, that today, I just wanted to take a step out of it and look upon it; not from within but from the outside. To do this allow me to  whip out my all purpose book, second to no other, original, relevant, timeless…you know the one, it needs no introduction; the Bible! 

What I have noticed is that,  ambition and the things we do as a result of it on the journey, have a way of consuming us. Often the message is, ‘Go get!’  But get what? Why? Who are we becoming as go-getters? To be honest the more I maul over these things, the more I realise that it is easy to become a victim of ambition. A great quote from one my favourite authors, Stephen R. Covey, sums it up nicely. “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”

It doesn’t matter how much sleep I give up, how efficient I become or how much money I make. If it’s all leaning against the wrong wall, what was the point in all that ambition. Gaining the world and loosing your soul is a real threat my people. 

Let’s go back to the very  beginning of the word ‘ambition’.  A look at chapter 14 in the book of Isaiah reveals that the concept of ambition goes far back to the beginning. The message of ambition being ‘getting your self to your desired goal at all costs’ is equally as old. 

Isaiah 14:12 – 15
How you have fallen from heaven,
morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
to the depths of the pit.

This right here is an account of Lucifer’s concise business plan outline / executive summary.  Lol! Looking at this verse, you have to admit that this guy was pretty ambitious. He had been watching that throne for a minute, dreaming about what it would be like; being there. That view! That power! No doubt, with some self motivation he decided to take the first step on his ladder. You all know the drill, lol! He was going to work at getting there at all costs. And it cost him his eternity and glory. 

Interestingly, there are a few traits in this text that are not so hard to see in today’s literature on ambition:

  1. Obsession with self.  The devil said in his heart, “I will ascend,…I will raise my throne, I  will sit enthroned,…I will make myself…” But we know how that ended. The devil ended up falling from heaven. “But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.” (Is 14:15) Obsession with self can have many faces in the context of business and career.
  • It can mean not considering the needs  of friends and family at all. 
  • It can mean always feeling the need to be right in all situations. 
  • It can mean doing the wrong things to get where you are trying to go.
  • It can mean pursuing the wrong things all together.
  • It can mean shutting God out.

2.  Lofty and wayward goals. Who in their right mind would eye the throne of God and even make such an attempt ?! And yet ambition has a way of doing this to us. Today’s success literature encourages us to dream big and go for the gusto. Even my favourite christian speakers often tell us if our dream isn’t big enough then, we don’t need God for it. I am not saying this is wrong, am saying ‘Dream big’ is the order of the dreamers in every space!

3. Doing things that are not in your lane. The devil was made to worship God. Not to lead an army against God’s rule or sit on His throne.

Ez 28:14 
You were anointed as a guardian cherub,
for so I ordained you.
You were on the holy mount of God;
you walked among the fiery stones.

He was supposed to be a guardian of the throne. Instead he started vying for the throne. This is easy to do in today’s world. We see so much glory in another person’s lane and suddenly we want to be at the centre of that glory. That glory becomes our passion and ambition and so we neglect the purpose for which we were ordained. 

To be honest, every one of us ambitious people will find ourselves guilty of one or the other of these things in our journey. I wouldn’t be reflecting on this if I hadn’t been guilty of some of these things myself.  So what exactly separates lofty wayward goals from a good vision? What justifies cultivating some relationships and letting go of others in our pursuits? What is that fine line between being envious or being inspired by someone else’s glory?

I believe the answer to these questions is purpose. Purpose contextualises ambition.  Purpose is that wall; it is the why to what. Without purpose, difficulty during the journey can cause us to abort the journey. On the flip side, without purpose, success can cause us to lose sight of who we are becoming . Take a look at this verse of this ‘business man’ (for context) who made it to the top.

Ezekiel 28
By your wisdom and understanding
you have gained wealth for yourself
and amassed gold and silver
in your treasuries.
By your great skill in trading
you have increased your wealth,
and because of your wealth
your heart has grown proud.

Pride set in.

A lot of literature on ambition puts the focus on us. What we must do now to get somewhere, and almost all this stuff is well founded but still has the potential to offset us. The only way to  throw a wrench into the pitfalls of ambition is to factor in God’s purpose.  

Let’s look at some of the pitfalls of the ‘ambition’ ladder leaning against the wall of God’s purpose. 

  • Obsession with getting yourself ahead  – God’s purpose is and always will be people. ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.’ Phil 2:4 
  • Lofty and wayward goals – God’s purpose is that we spend our lives working towards his pre-ordained plans which then become our goals. ‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ Ephesians 2:10
  • Doing things that are not in your lane. God has endowed each of us with talents to cultivate, while pursuing purpose. ‘…who called his servants and entrusted them with his possessions. To one he gave five talents,  to another two talents, and to another one talent—each according to his own ability.’ Matthew 25:15

Purpose is more important  than ambition, and in the context of God’s purpose, ambition will  have a hard time swaying you or keeping you off course. 

If you are reading this, you are ambitious. What is the context of your dream? What is God’s purpose for you life?

Love you for reading and dreaming.
Don’t stop.

Coco x

A SHORT GUIDE TO GUARDING YOUR HEART

I really love this verse because of what it means in relation to having a good year. It means that it is what flows from your heart that determines your life, not what happens to it. ‘..for out of your heart flows the issues of life.’  Based on this verse it’s not what’s ‘incoming’ during the 365 days, but what’s ‘outgoing’ thats running the show. Many people get upset or excited about the past or future 365, but another 365 days is not a guarantee of better days or worse. Another 365 days, is exactly that; another 365 days!

One thing that’s worth doing, is keeping an end of year journal. For me, this unconsciously began  when I started my blog and youtube channel. I can track ‘my end of year heart state’ all the way back to 2015 because of my coinciding posts. This could be a journal for you, or notes on your phone. By doing this, you will discover some reoccurring things about yourself.  Very importantly you will get an inclination of your ‘end of year heart state’. Where you disillusioned? Why so? Where you happy? 

So what exactly ‘does guarding your heart’ mean? 

I think the answers to that can be found in pondering the different versions of Proverbs 4:23

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. ( NIV)

Guard your heart above all else,  for it determines the course of your life. (NLT)

Above all else, guard your affections. For they influence everything else in your life. (TLB)

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. (AMP)

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. (GNT)

Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life. (The Voice)

These are just a few bible translations worth meditating on. From these we can see different areas of our being coming into play such as the mind, the will and emotions. The verse also suggests that one can be proactive in guarding these areas. Over the years, I have come to appreciate this verse more and more and today, I would like to share what this verse translates into, for my everyday living.

So here’s my short guide to guarding your heart for the next 365 days…

1. Read the psalms; often! I do this as ‘therapy’ to get through real time emotions. The book of Psalms is found in the bible. Many of the Psalms were authored by King David and other contributors include Moses, King Solomon and Asaph. It is a very honest book about human emotions and difficultly. I liken reading the psalms to sitting in on someone’s therapy sessions and being able to relate and learn.  Everyone is prone to  anxiety , discouragement , disappointment and betrayal, and the psalmist expresses these things to his therapist (God) without holding back. It’s also a good book for people who feel intimidated or frustrated by prayer. We see someone clearly expressing himself to God about 101 things. The psalmists lets you know that he did indeed receive comfort and help from the therapist (God). He has both ‘bad sessions’ with complaints and tears and ‘good sessions’ with thanksgiving and praise, until the next session where he comes back to God, asking for help from backstabbers. Haha. It’s actually very real and interesting. And so, whatever happens throughout the year, I learned to approach God, as my therapist. Like the psalmist, I have both bad and good sessions.

2. Find a creative expression. It’s amazing how much joy can come from developing a talent or doing something you have always wanted to do. I tend to try to find mine. In 2014, I started writing my blog and started exercising consistently. It was mentally gratifying. In 2016, I started consciously walking long distances. In 2017, I started my Youtube channel and started to progress my sewing skills. In 2018, I read so many books, that I surprised myself with the total number at the end of the year. Quite naturally, I am a creative person who had a lot of time on my hands which is why every year, there tends to be something new, but this does not have to be the case for you. You just need to start one thing that  feels effortless and brings you joy and spend a little time doing it and building on it.  It will work wonders for your heart.

3. Say less, but be clear and concise in your communication. Communication both yours and others can cause a lot of emotional distress. One can go from sadness to anger to confusion because of a lack of discretion in communication. 

  • Saying less – I once had a good friend ask me about a private matter at a  birthday party among other friends. I call this ‘finding yourself in an episode of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians.’ Interestingly, I found that I knew next to nothing about the private challenges of these people. You can end up going from an audience of friends to a large viewership. Even in your absence, the strangest or most delicate things become a subject in idle conversation. Which if I am honest, we are all guilty of, therefore am not judging and neither am I encouraging living a secret life; but say only what you need to say to who you absolutely need to say it to! That my dear  reader is probably top 3 of my life lessons thus far.  You will always need a support system but don’t be afraid to redefine this, otherwise you risk your heart being overwhelmed by many other emotions than what you started off with. For me, ‘support system’  now means, ‘God and two or three close prayerful friends.’
  • Being clear and concise in your communication – Don’t spend a  a lot of energy explaining yourself over and over. I was surprised at how tiring many of my relationships where becoming. If I said, ‘No,’ some people still felt that there was room to convince me otherwise, again and again and again! Now I focus on short and concise communication. If I say, I am not coming, I will not entertain you calling me every week to try and get me to come. If you find yourself in these situations, like me you probably had a huge role to play. It means people think you enjoy talking and they will apply this judgment  in every situation. It’s entirely up to you to introduce another style of communication in to the equation.

4. Work hard at minding your own business. It’s not that I previously went looking for gossip, it’s that many things tend to land on my plate and I lacked discretion on what to dissect and what not to dissect, so I would end up wasting time dissecting futile things. 

A good example is once when a married friend  told me, the husband’s needs always come before the children’s. My immediate argument was that, young children can’t feed, clothe or teach themselves whereas a grown man can! This argument took up a great deal of our lunch. In hindsight how does a grown woman’s household arrangement matter to me?! Not in one single way. Imagine having three or four of such long winded conversations with different people in a week. How pointless and exhausting! I used to do this constantly. One remark about natural hair would set off a whole debate. It’s things like that, which am consciously moving away from. They take up so much time and emotional space. Sometimes they even upset friendships and this is so unnecessary. I learned the importance of internal nodding and moving on in conversations. Be choosy in what you eat, some things need to stay on the plate! They are not even worth cutting up.

On the contrary if a friend tells you they are in an abusive relationship or need your in put on something serious , don’t gloss over the conversation.

Simple as they sound, these four things have shaped my day to day and resulted into so much peace and solitude, and I hope they help you shape the next 365 days.

Please comment your thoughts on the post, and leave your email in the subscription box to get posts direct to your email.

Coco. xx 

6 LESSONS FROM MICHELLE MONE’S ‘MY FIGHT TO THE TOP’

I wasn’t particularly encouraged by the online reviews for My Fight To The Top. One reader said, ‘There’s not much to learn on business in this book,’ inferring that it was much more of a biography than anything else. To be honest, the lessons are not obvious but that does not make it any less interesting. There is  much more ‘between the lines’ than there is in blatant outline. It’s Michelle Mone’s rags to riches story and while there might not be a million lessons in business there’s quite a bit for any person in business. In her own words, she shares her  personal journey from growing up in poverty in the East End of Glasgow, to building Ultimo, the £39 million pound bra empire.

The book starts off with her childhood days. She was born in the Gallowgate area and grew up in Dennistoun, Glasgow. Being Glasgow based myself, this made the book immediately engaging. I lived in Bridgeton for several years, which is a stone throw away from Dennistoun, and so I could easily ‘map’ her childhood stories. It was tough. Her bedroom was a cupboard and her mother had to take her to the  Whitevale baths to get washed and to do laundry about once a week. Yes, you read right, once a week! Her childhood in Dennistoun is clearly the backdrop of the tenacity and drive in her adult life and business. It was there that she was beaten black and blue by a gang of girls, there she survived a possible sexual assault, there she began her first business selling papers (Daily Record) and employing other kids, and that is also where she got her first job working for a fruit shop. Often in the book when she writes about a predicament in her business, she ‘travels’ back to her days in Dennistoun and borrows particular traits she developed then, and uses them to overcome.

 

My Fight To The Top, Michelle Mone

Here’s what stood out to me:

    1. Everything can be figured out. How does a woman with two young kids, no fashion experience, no degree or contacts build the Ultimo bra empire? She figured it out! The idea came to her at an evening occasion where after much fidgeting with her uncomfortable ‘cleavage enhancing bra,’ she announced to the table, ‘ I’m going to design a bra.’  From then on, there was much traipsing and calling around stores in USA while on holiday there, looking for bra fillers and manufacturers. Eventually she became the distributor for the in demand ‘chicken fillet’ bras and the ‘bra tycoon’ was born. When she needed to learn how to manufacture her own bra, she took on a job that enabled her to get inside knowledge on how to do that. If it came to her mind, she found a way to do it.
    2. Train your mind to persist and to dream big. ‘Training your mind is vital for success because once you get your mind sorted out, you can do almost anything you want to do,’ Michelle says in her book. Even in the book, she constantly gives herself a pep-talk. ‘Your family needs you. Your business needs you. You need to fight your way out of this.’ On training her mind to see a bigger and better picture , she says, ’I kept dreaming and dreaming. Every night I would wake up and take more notes.’
    3. Business is not the place for a facade and getting to the next level often involves putting all you cards on the table, even the bad ones. To sell her first ‘chicken fillet’ bra samples, she ran around boutiques in London with a suitcase filled with samples. To get her first bras sold in the upmarket Selfridges, she showed up desperate, and unannounced at their buying office on Oxford Street in London and begged them to try on her samples. After somewhat of an emotional breakdown by the pregnant saleswoman, they ordered over six months worth of stock. 
    4. The book is also a great reminder that having money does not solve all your problems. Despite the success of Ultimo, Michelle battled personal problems just like everyone else. Her weight was constantly fluctuating, there was depression, parental insecurities, a failing marriage and a lot of financial pressure business-wise. 
    5. Money can change you for the worse. She became a self confessed diva, citing, ‘Nothing was ever good enough. The hotels I was staying in weren’t good enough and the restaurants I was dining in weren’t good enough. I once asked to change rooms at the Dorchester because I didn’t like the way it was decorated.  I found fault in everything. In the same way, I bought more things because I thought they would make me happier….Very expensive things.’  It took an intervention  from her parents to force her to face the person she was becoming. This leads me to the last lesson.
    6. Hold on to the honest and trustworthy people you have, few as they may be. Between her parents and best friend, she managed to keep her feet on the ground and always circle back to what was important. When it came to business, for a long time, she could lean on the honesty and advice of Sir Tom Hunter.

    She shares a lot of things that do not necessarily make her look good. For example, she manages to make an enemy out of one time close friend, Rod Stewart, by hiring both his current and then ex wife as spokes models for Ultimo, a move which caused a media frenzy. Although this garnered great publicity and sales for Ultimo, it does come across as unscrupulous and calculating.

    The book also details the incident in which she was robbed at knife point plus the decline of her tumultuous marriage, that she alleges, ended in adultery between her husband and one of her most trusted employees. 

    Eventually, Michelle sold all her shares in Ultimo by the end of 2014, but not before being made a Conservative peer by David Cameron, being appointed an OBE for ‘services to the lingerie industry’ and amassing £50 million fortune.

FOR REAL, FOR REAL.

For real, for real…
Forget what they told you, sold you..
This world doesn’t own you, needs to quit trying to mould you.
‘To thine own self be true!’ Why does that always sound new?

Life was given for you to find you, not buy you!
No one knows the true price of you. Not even you!
Look at the stars? Who did their maths?
Taught them to shine? Told them they look fine?

Who sold them their dreams ? How much do you think it cost them ?
Zero! No Dinero.
Doesn’t cost them a dime to dazzle on time.
Look how bright they shine!

I bet when they speak to each other, they say, ‘God made!’
For real, For real , am saying no deal!
No more shop bought dreams!
That’s how I feel.

You can’t tell me the price of me.
That’s a done deal; God made!
Am saying, let all else fade.
That’s the old phase.

Right now, it’s time to blaze.
Right next to the stars that shine,
Am thinking, ‘Me too; God made’.
For real, for real, that’s how I feel!