Why Ambition and Strength are (Sometimes) Overrated

Those who know me well know that I’m a pretty ambitious person. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember; from pre-school days of asking my mom to write poems for me because I couldn’t yet, to college days of balancing six courses and two internships in one semester.

Yep, I’m that person. #sorrybutnotsorry

Flash forward to today and I’m more fulfilled than I’ve ever been. I’m a female entrepreneur loving what I do as an independent content marketer, consultant and brand strategist. The last few years have been a wild ride with many bumps and unexpected turns, but I wouldn’t change a thing about how I got to where I am today.

Now, allow me to clarify that by NO means was I perfect then or am I perfect now. Just ask any of my internship directors or professional mentors and they will gladly share some cringeworthy and downright laughable stories about my journey towards professional growth and development. I guess what I’m trying to say is that because I knew my strengths early on and had loads of ambition, I thought I was (for the most part) set in life. Don’t we all think it’s that easy at 21?

Now, five years and plenty of twists and turns later, I know that my ambition and strengths indeed have taken me to great places…but not exactly to where I am today.

Being ambitious and knowing your strengths is a combination that will enable you to play your field and quickly emerge as a viable candidate in many diverse areas of life. In many ways, however, these traits won’t always be enough. For example, knowing my strengths wasn’t enough for me when I found myself in places of vulnerability. It wasn’t enough when I found myself curious about the unknown. No matter how ambitious I was, I couldn’t productively work my way out of awkward stages of discovery or times of introspection.

I came to terms with this during one of the most uncertain times of my career. I had just parted ways with the corporate world and was trying to identify next steps, and my trusty power combo wasn’t coming to my rescue like it had so effortlessly before. My ambition was stirring but kept falling flat, as I had no direction yet in which to point it. My strengths were there, but I had no platform to use them.

It was during this craziness that something beautiful happened. I learned the value of giving into uncertainty. I experienced the fulfillment of taking leaps of faith. As I started my business, I was forced to approach life in a way where I genuinely didn’t know if I was doing well or not. I was adopting a spectrum of new tasks and responsibilities; some that aligned with my strengths, but many which I never fathomed I’d do. Each day was new and uncharted. It was exciting and scary all at once.

It was during this time that I came to understand the importance of embracing the uncertain and stepping into the unknown, and how that dynamically shapes you a leader.

Looking back, I’d say that my ambition and the ability to know my own strengths helped significantly in my career advancement. But those things didn’t shape me into the leader I am today nearly as much as my openness to embrace what I didn’t know. If my experience has taught me anything, it’s the importance of understanding your strengths, weaknesses and normality. It’s the importance of embracing the uncertain, knowing that you’ll likely be wiser, smarter and even happier than you were before. I believe this is the difference between purposeful and successful leaders and those who feel uninspired (or worse, overwhelmed) by the work they do. It allows the former to dynamically recognize, prioritize and respond to change, while it tends to trip up the latter.

Allison is a Freelance Content Marketer and Author of “The Everyday Woman’s Guide to Entrepreneurship.” She helps disruptive brands drive extraordinary outcomes as a writer extraordinaire, and in her spare time consults female entrepreneurs as a personal brand strategist. She loves helping women discover their innermost power and confidence, which is what she believes to be the most effective drivers of sustainable change and long-term success.