Sunday, May 20, 2012

Guestpost: J. R. Wagner - The Price of Ambition

The Price of Ambition 
By J. R. Wagner 

     Are you ambitious? Striving toward a goal? A life-long dream? Have you given any thought to the repercussions of your ambition? How it may impact those around you –those you love. Have you weighed the pros and cons before you jumped headlong into pursuing your own ambitions? Is your family on board? Do they know what to expect? Will your children understand?

     Phew –some deep questions there. Lots of introspection required to honestly answer yourself. There is a good chance that if you are ambitious, your parent(s) were similarly ambitious. Now, think back to your childhood –or reflect upon what you’re currently going through if you are a teen. What was/is it like to be the child of an ambitious parent? Did they/do they meet your expectations? Are they around enough? Do they spend time with you when they are around or are they in a perpetual state of distraction?

     I’ll share a personal example. My father was a very ambitious man. He created a small business and grew it throughout my childhood into a very successful, multi-million dollar company. As his son, what did that mean for me? When I wanted someone to play with –have a catch, shoot some hoops, just hang out, he wasn’t often there. I was lucky enough to have a brother ten years my senior who more often than not filled that gap. Was he at all of my sporting events, concerts or other important gatherings? No –but he made it to enough that I can recall his presence in many of them. He sacrificed much for his family as he grew his business. The most costly sacrifice was (and always will be) time.

    Dad worked 80, 90, more sometimes a week. When he got home, he was spent. He needed to unwind. I wanted to play catch, he wanted to decompress –needed to decompress. I was hurt by the lack of attention at the time but looking back, I understand. Of all the things that didn’t happen because of my father’s ambition, what I felt the most was the loss of a mentor. Someone to guide me. Someone to discuss the important things in my life –girls, school, life lessons that should be imparted from father to son. I missed all these things. We never had a conversation that I believe all parents should have with their children. What is the meaning of life? What should I do with my life? What would you do in this situation? All was lost…or was it?

     Looking back, I believe he answered many of these questions with his actions. The importance of hard work, the importance of following your dreams, the importance of being yourself. He mentored by example. Still, I would have liked to have these conversations but the chance has long passed.

     Flash forward to today. I am a father –an ambitious father. I work a full-time job…more than full time helping manage the very company my father founded. I made a promise to myself that I would see it through these tremulous times and into a successful future. His legacy will not die on my watch. I am also a writer. A very ambitious writer with aspirations of success that will enable me to move into a different career –a career that I love. When I’m not working, I’m writing –working on something that has to do with my impending book release. I am one of the hardest workers I know.

     Now, how will my ambition affect my children? Will they feel neglected? Like they’ve missed out on so many things that could have been simply because I am so caught up in reaching my goals? Am I sacrificing being a good father to chase my dreams? I don’t believe I am. I go out of my way to see that the things I found missing from my childhood are addressed in my children’s upbringing. I include them as often as possible in my book events and often go out of my way to let them know that Daddy is chasing a dream and when they are older, they shouldn’t be afraid to do the same.

     Growing up in the shadow of a successful parent isn’t easy. You internalize the idea that if you don’t reach the same level of success you are a failure. Is this what you want your children to believe if your ambitions come to fruition and you find success?

     Time will be lost as you pursue your endeavors. What is essential is to make the most of the time you have remaining to see that your family is given the level of attention they deserve. Talk with them. Get to know them. Support them as they support you with their understanding when you go away for a weekend of book signings. The price of ambition can be costly if it isn’t regularly addressed. In the end, when you’re writing career is over, your children are grown and you’ve readied yourself to move onto the next world, don’t let regret fester in your waning years. You’re a hard worker. All ambitious people are. Direct some of that energy toward those who need it the most. The dividends are immeasurable.

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