Faster, higher, stronger – being ambitious

Mon 12 – Sun 18 Aug 2019

Being ambitious isn’t really in my nature now

Don’t get me wrong, I was ambitious once particularly around my career. At one stage I really wanted to climb the greasy pole to top positions which is how I thought I could change the world. I’m too old for all that career stuff now. I still want to change the world but I don’t gag for power the way some people do even into old age.

Being ambitious is not wrong in itself

I think it matters why you are are ambitious, how you climb the greasy pole (particularly how you treat others while climbing), how you feel you should be rewarded, and what you do with power when you have it. Ultimately someone has always got to be in charge.

The way I am currently ambitious for myself is to be happy in my work-life balance, replenish my savings after my sabbatical, build for a nice retirement, and stay relatively fit and healthy.

What I am ambitious for – a good work-life balance

Work-life balance is a topic I often deride as one that takes up too much wasted energy. In many ways, work is inevitable so just get on with it. And I really believe a good work-life balance is as much a mental thing as a physical one. It’s that buddhist mantra about being happy wherever you are. Though clearly this would be challenging living in a concentration camp or a besieged city.

Look for positives at work…

Last week at work was my second one back after the sabbatical. So the positive of another week’s salary banked to revive my finances. πŸ™‚ Work is about looking for positives. And I have done another week of afternoons and a full-day Wednesday.

…bite-size chunks…

My partner asked if I minded going into work everyday? Well, for me, it means a limited-time work burst each day but only one day totally dominated by work. Though this does assume the ability to switch off when not working. Remember, how do you eat an elephant? Answer: slowly with breaks in-between.

…and build in variety

As well as managing work in bite-size chunks, I also cope by varying my work. Last week: sorted a member of my team’s appraisal – another to do plus my own. Caught up with the boss. Internal training session and couple of long meetings. One of the highlights was meeting an MP then talking about how we can work together especially around public perceptions of UK poverty and international development.

But annoying things still happen at work

There are definitely a couple of annoying things being back at work that haven’t changed. Though I need to breathe through the pain and move on. First, meetings being cancelled at short notice (don’t arrange meetings in August!). Second, having back to back meetings. Like on Wed, solid from 12-4 and I had to grab a sandwich on the move – very uncivilised.

Health and Efficiency

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One way I am clearly still ambitious is to try to keep off the weight I lost during my sabbatical – losing more feels a bit too ambitious but perhaps that’s a lack of confidence in myself. The other ambitious thing I want to do is keep up my new exercise routine, make my body look better, and get my jog-run times faster.

Jog-run – 2 of the best ever πŸ™‚


2 jog-runs and both fantastic results. First last Tues morning was my 5K and I got a time just over 30 mins. This equals 6 mins per km which is fantastic. Achieve that over 10K and that would be just an hour. I felt relaxed as I ran and not strained at all.

runners making progress

Sat morning was the 10K. I felt really knacked on Fri night, perhaps a week at work had taken its toll as well as Fri itself resting from exercise but doing lots of walking. Asleep by 10.30. And I woke on Sat feeling really whoozy. With all this, I was not ambitious for my jog-run – perhaps that was why things went so well.

a form of exercise

I felt relaxed and didn’t expect greatness. But came in with a time of just over 1 hour, 1 minute, 15 seconds. This was one of my fastest ever 10K times since I started doing jog-runs a few years ago! And a pace of 6.08 per km with no kilometre stretch being over about 6 & a half mins. As well the final km being a very successful sprint coming in at just over 5 & a half minutes. Plus I didn’t feel too aching or any muscles strained afterwards. πŸ™‚ Right knee hurt a bit but that is normal. Perhaps I can get under an hour. All times can all be seen here.


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Ambitious again to make sure I get to the gym 3 times p.w. And I achieved that: mornings of Mon (instead of a yoga session), Thurs and Sun. Someone asked me why I go to the gym. TBH, it’s about improving my body, helping to lose weight, and because I just enjoy it. With my age and diet I am not going to be a body-builder.

Books and Reading

I am ambitious to read as many books as I can before I die. I love reading not least because it opens up to me worlds and thinking that I have not experienced. It is highly unlikely I will even read all the books I own before I die but might as well die trying. πŸ™‚

‘Rabbit Remembered’ by John Updike

A couple of books on the go last week, you will have to wait till next week when they are finished for details on what they are and how they moved me. But I did complete this novella which wraps up the four novels on the life of Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom. Reading the story of this man’s life was one of the highlights of my sabbatical.

This novella wraps up what happened to the main protagonists in the 10 years after Rabbit’s death around 1990. A revenge marriage, a failed relationship, a long-lost child from an affair, political arguments. I suppose the moral of this book and the other 4 novels is that life simply continues no matter what happens. Bit like somebody who pointed out to me last week that climate change may destroy humanity but the Earth itself will carry on.

Art and Culture

So I am grandly ambitious around maintaining a work-life balance, keeping my weight off, exercising, and reading lots of wonderful books. A lesser ambition is to stay stimulated by art and culture. No art work of my own done, but a great visit on Fri morning to Tate Modern to see the exhibition on Natalia Goncharova.

And what a beautiful exhibition it is. Eclectic, energetic, sensual and colourful art from the first half of the 20th century – pre-revolution Russia and inter-war Paris. Indeed, the exhibition made me think of the wonderful things that might have happened without WW1 and WW2 – no Lenin, Stalin, Hitler or Mao. Highly recommended though I would have liked to see more of her work from later years. The exhibition didn’t go beyond the late 1930s even though she lived until the 1960s.

The Week Ahead

  • Usual arrangement of afternoon work blasts and all-day Wednesday. Next weekend is a long one with the bank-holiday Monday, definitely something to look forward to. πŸ™‚
  • Another appraisal to complete as well as my own one with my boss. Quite exciting to get the 360 feedback of colleagues on me.
  • Catching up with my old colleague Nissa on Fri afternoon. Be good to find out how her family is doing and her own business she set up after redundancy Think Social Tech.
  • Yoga on Mon, jog-runs on Tues (5K) and Sat (10K), then gym on Thurs and Sun. Only 2 gym sessions next week πŸ™ But a massage booked at THT on Fri evening. πŸ™‚
  • Couple of arty things next week. First, the Pet Shop Boys musical ‘Closer to Heaven’ on Tues night. Then Fri morning I am thinking of popping to the V&A to check out either the Christian Dior or Mary Quant exhibitions. I like to rest from exercise on Fri so I am fresh for my 10K the next day.
  • Keep on keeping on with emails, language apps, and trying to be sustainable / carbon-neutral.

And Finally…

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