Grannymar graciously allowed me to choose this Friday’s topic. Truth be told, I did not choose the topic, the topic chose me. At the end of this post, you will see why.
A joke to start off. A young widow gets remarried and is worried about the health of her couch potato second husband. She sees him lazing around and tells him that he needs a hobby. He replies “I already have one, I collect rich widows.” The wife responds, “Wow for coincidences, I collect dead husbands.”
I am kind of a couch potato though I spend more time on crossword puzzles and at the computer than the run of the mill couch potato does.
Bear with me this rather long post. This is a true story and at the end of it, you may well conclude with me that ‘Ambition’ too, is just an overrated trait.
The dictionary defines ‘ambition’ as:
1. an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment:
2. the object, state, or result desired or sought after:
3. desire for work or activity; energy.
I am and have always been totally without ambition of the first and last categories. All I wanted to do was to earn a livelihood, enjoy myself and be happy. It was enough that I should be independent and have enough money in my pocket for my indulgences. If I could havepossibly achieved that without doing any ‘work’, I would have been the happiest fellow on earth.
I had reached the level of achievement that I wanted, when I was about 18.
I had just secured an honorable ‘second class’ Intermediate qualification. I had done this, by what is now known as ‘distance education’. Those days, it was called, ‘Private Studies’. In our system those days, it was the first hurdle to cross after schooling, if one wanted to go to a college to study further to acquire a bachelor’s degree. I had joined a ‘Tutorial College’, euphemism for an education shop, so that I could spend time with a lady acquaintance who wanted to study, of all things! Quite how I managed to get that qualification is a mystery to me till today.
Since prior to that significant achievement, I had no ambition and was considered to be a good for nothing, this came as a surprise to many and my father in fact, refused to believe that I had achieved this! My mother used all her persuasive charm to cajole me into getting myself a Bachelor’s degree by once again the distance learning route. To keep her out of my hair, I registered for a Bachelor’s degree in Arts. Lo and behold, I once again surprised myself and a whole lot of others by succeeding in getting that degree too! I still do not know how I managed to do so. I am not being facetious. That is the truth.
This time, my father was a bit more careful and waited till proof of some sort was given to him by my mother. That she did in due course, and he was surprised out of his wits. I suspect however, that he was mightily pleased too.
While all this was going on, I was quite content with what little I was earning and quite happy doing all the things that bachelors with some money in their pocket do. I however was shanghaied once again by my mother, into applying for admission into a Post Graduate Course in Business Management. I did so, on the assumption that I will not get selected. I still do not know how, but the selectors, took a shine to me, and gave me admission. Doing this course however meant that I had to go to a residential program for two years and study! I had no inclination whatsoever to do that.
Fate however had other ideas. A lady friend of mine wanted to get married to me, and I was not in any mood to. Things became a bit sticky and I had to leave the town that I was living in for obvious reasons. The admission that I had secured came in handy. I exploited that and scooted off!
Quite how I managed to get my MBA too, is still a mystery. Here too a lot of factors helped like, I could type reports and papers for other classmates and make some pocket money and stay alive. Commissions earned from earlier sales made, kept trickling in. Some kind hearted Professors took pity on me and tutored me so that I could keep my head above water. Somehow, I managed to last the course and get the much vaunted MBA. One significant change that happened after that event is that, since then, my father adds B.A, MBA, after my name in all communications to and about me. My nephews and nieces call me Bamba! What knowledge I have about Management, was taught to me by life and employment.
I applied for openings through campus recruitment, and once again, one prestigious employment as a Management Trainee landed on my lap. I still do not know what the selectors saw in me. The rest, as they say is history.
I surprised myself and once again, a lot of others, and I grew. One particularly vicious Senior Manager who had to leave the company, aptly called my growth as being the result of “lack of alternatives!” Very likely.
That start in 1967 made me what I am today. A retired hippy, content to live off a pension and savings. I am still not ambitious. I do not have any lady acquaintances to goad me into new adventures.
I quote Gregory Vlastos – “We have tried the ways of ambition, of self-aggrandizement, of aggressive opportunism, and we have seen the kind of flimsy success to which they lead; we have tasted the bitter poisons they generate, we have known the conflict, the disgust, the inner division, the outer isolation that follow in their wake”.
I would just replace one word in that wonderful quote. I would change the third word of the beginning to “seen”. I did not try. The whole thing just landed in my lap. I just flowed along the stream of life. Serendipity?
By and large, life has been good to me and continues to be. I am wiser by hindsight. Now you know the inspiration for my tag line.
What has ambition got to do with it? Like the picture of Michael Speller’s sculpture above, it is by and large, a ladder without a top rung!