ambition

For some inexplicable reason, I get Frankie Goes To Hollywood giving my inner ear a tick when I hear the word ‘ambition’. “Whaaaat is it good for…..?” Well…….

A cursory glance at a dictionary (or indeed, Dr Google) finds definitions such as “A strong desire to do or achieve something” and “Desire and determination to achieve success.” 

And dotted around this piece you’ll see a selection of quotes from friends and allies. I used that there social media to ask “what does ambition mean to you, in one sentence?” 

So, where am I with the word?

As is so often the case with my navel gazing, soul searching inner dialogue, it seems to go back to… duh duh duuuuuh… my childhood. It’s almost nauseating how corny that sounds, but that genuinely is where my thoughts arrive from. 

Yup.

A traditional upbringing I was offered. Stable home, stable schooling, stable this, stable that. Which is ironic considering my first memory of ‘running away’ was when my sister bailed out of the family home. She was protesting the fact that putting an actual horse on your letter to Santa was overly, er, ambitious.

We were encouraged to lock in ‘stability’ as an ambition. Do well at school (but university isn’t for ‘people like us’) then get a good steady, stable job. Maybe get a few steady promotions over the next 50 years. Meet a suitable, stable partner for life, a good stable wife/husband. Have 3 or 4 suitable and stable cars and/or children.

Sadly (or not, actually), I was more interested in hearing what John Peel had to offer me when I was a teenager, sampling local cider and mastering rolling a fag whilst cycling were the limits of my ambition.

There was always going to be a clash of cultures……..

But honestly, as an adult, what have my ambitions been?

I never thought I’d find true love for a start, so that was never an ambition. But what do you know, ta daaaaaa, here I am!

Without realising it, I think my main ambition was to never have a proper career. TICK.

But I have *always* wanted to be a writer, a musician, an artist, a poet. I suppose I formed my ambitions based on anything which has a genuine impact on me. Words and music, words and music. 

As it turned out, we can add love to the list.

Does this make my ambition “words, music and love”?

Sort of, but that’s not really the story here. Take love out of the equation – even though I wake up every single day and pinch myself that I get to share another day with the most wonderful human being I’ve ever met. No, love was never an ‘ambition’, it was more like winning the lottery with a ticket I hadn’t realised I’d bought. 

Music and words. Are they ‘ambitions’ though? Not really. I achieved things I never thought I would; played in a band, played my own songs in a band, heard other people sing my songs, I’ve written for magazines (and even started one back in the day), I’ve written for various fanzines (football and music), I had a piece published by Metal Hammer magazine once. 

And in more recent times there’s been so much happening with my writing that I’m extremely proud of. But what makes me really proud. I can’t measure this success, there’s no end game. I can’t see there being any “right, now I’ve achieved that, there’s nothing else to work towards” moments. Because I don’t set any goals. So maybe I don’t have ambition at all. As one popular running podcast puts it, I simply enjoy the process.

Ah yes, running. But what about running? Surely I’ve got running ambitions?

Well yes, for a while back there I was setting myself goals (ambitions?) to run a certain distance in a certain time or finish in a particular position in a race or beat this or that person. And when I achieved any of this, was I satisfied? Of course not, there’s always a different time to beat, a new distance to run, a new person to chase. 

There is a scene in the film Chariots Of Fire where Harold Abrahams has won his gold medal and sits, almost forlorn, in the locker room. When the team quiz each other, they conclude that “he’s won” was the best explanation. His whole ambition had been to win that medal. Having achieved it, the journey was over, finished. What would he do the next day?

Ambition is different for everyone. People are more ambitious or less ambitious. They might be ambitious in some areas of life but not in others. We’re all different and that’s what makes life so interesting. 

I decided to have some checklists for myself this year, so I guess that qualifies as ambitions? Simply a set of ways I’d like to live my life, something to hold myself to account with. Have a gander.

In the mean time, here’s to fair winds as we chase our dreams……..

In Praise Of 2020 (#1)

Making The Grade

“I’m looking for a new hobby, a different challenge. Something I can pick up and put down and don’t necessarily have to go anywhere for.”

Nicky eventual settled on the piano. On the face of it not an obvious choice. Claiming a musical knowledge that sat somewhere between none and next-to-nothing. Then again nor was open water swimming an obvious choice when it was first mooted. Seeing as my amazing (and quite beautiful) lady wife has since twice swam the River Dart 10k, the Bantham Swoosh, the Great North Swim, completed two half iron distance triathlons (as well as the swim in a full Ironman before the bike was cancelled in a storm) and also Swim The Bay (2.5 miles in Weymouth).

At the start of the swimming challenge Nicky couldn’t swim a length of the pool. She used to get sea sick after a short time in the water. Seeing as she is now pretty much a mermaid, there was no reason to doubt she’d master the piano despite not knowing a middle C from a packet of crisps.

After a slow start and a tutor which didn’t quite work out, Nicky found Liz. Liz is a quiet, patient, friendly, considerate and talented teacher and has been just perfect for Nicky. We tend to wear our hobbies in our every day life – bikes hanging on the wall, trainers drying in the porch, kit everywhere, so we had no trouble in convincing ourselves we had room for a piano.

It was all going so well. Nicky would drive to her lessons once a week and come home to practice, practice, practice.

And then 2020 happened.

Face to face lessons were off. Piano gradings were off.

In stepped the internet.

By the witchcraft of mobile phone technology (I’m told they also contain maps, records, newspapers and if you ask nicely, they will tell you everything!), the lessons continued throughout the early spring and summer. Nicky’s phone stood at the end of the keyboard, Liz’s doing the same at her house. Progress was good.

The examining board have also embraced modern technology, Nicky was able to enter a performance grading by way of video.

The recording of the video needed to be continuous, with Nicky playing her four pieces back to back. Out came the little adventure camera normally reserved for running and swimming. We found that having the camera set up on a step ladder, looking over Nicky’s shoulder gave a view of the whole keyboard plus the pedals.

Time for much hilarity, interruptions from the dog, a couple of minor tantrums and a ‘few’ takes! Eventually settling on as recording which she felt most pleased with I then spent two whole evenings trying to figure out how to upload to the exam board’s site.

Perseverance paid off as eventually the status on Nicky’s account changed to ‘pending’.

And ‘pending’ is how it stayed. For one day, two, three, four, more…….

Until….

PASSED!!

I couldn’t be more proud, Nicky takes a challenge and just goes for it. We’ve both realised that the most important part of challenging yourself is knowing why and then we’ll be geared up to work out how. And with the intervention of technology to back up the amazing work that Liz and Nicky have both done, she has realised her goal. Obviously that is just the start of Nicky’s piano journey….

Next project is Christmas Carols!!

Whilst shepherds watch their flock by night……..