Saturday, February 06, 2021

What is your Return on Ambition?


The genre of self-help continues to evolve as authors begin to realise that some forms of self-help can be customised for folks with a specific personality. For the majority of readers who have a GREEN personality, books like The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes will suffice - GREEN folks are too lazy to make a change to their lives so all they need to is to imagine the outcome and it will magically happen. The Secret sold like hot-cakes because GREENs are a dime a dozen.

That creates a problem for folks who have a RED personality, those who aggressively read self-improvement books because of some imaginary axe-to-grind like myself. So Nielsen and Tillisch's Return on Ambition gets the market segmentation right by writing to book that caters only to those people that don't seem to have the capability to slow down.

The basic premise of the book is that ambitious people tend to destroy themselves because they focus solely on achievements and ignore equally important aspects of success like personal growth and well-being. This, I can relate to - when I was studying Finance part-time, I also updated all my IT qualifications simultaneously and developed hyperactive-thyroid in the process. An old secondary school pal tried to pace me (even I know that's suicide) and almost had a real heart attack in his early thirties.  

The main premise of the book is that well-being matters because you need good physical and mental health to go further in life. Personal growth is also important because there is no point becoming obsolete on the way up.

The book then goes on to look at all the typical double-edged swords that end up trapping ambitious people. One frenemy is the desire for Independence. Ambitious people love working alone because it gets work done faster, but it only with teamwork that people can go far. Another frenemy of the ambitious is Boldness, ambitious people take oversized risks which can lead to business failure or bankruptcy.

I'm not too impressed by the overall solutions and interventions from the authors. It reads like a therapy manual. I suggest you buy the book if you are really interested in solutions.

The only useful rule of thumb recommended by the authors is that ambitious people reflect upon their lives. That's always difficult for REDs who are often too busy correcting the mistakes of their subordinates or plotting world domination. I slowly found myself going once again back to FIRE as the primary means of finding some white space to contemplate their lives. 

Without the proper amount of cash-flow, I'd still be fighting FIREs in a data centre today.

For its flaws, the book is still a good addition to a person's library because it states the problem quite well with examples that are relatable to the reader. The solution looks too much like hiring a management consultant to deal with your personal life, but I already am too deep into the cult of FIRE to really accept alternatives to Fuck You money as a solution for all personal ills.

Finally, I want to share my opinion on the kind of self-help book should you read based on your personality?

RED - Return on Ambition, any part-time short-cut book that summarises an MBA program, management books by Jack Welch, Good to Great by Jim Collins.
YELLOW - Any Zig Ziglar Sales Manual, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People 
BLUE - Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham, The Art of Computer Programming by Donald Knuth, Capital of the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty 
GREEN - The Secret, Rich Dad Poor Dad, anything by Harv Eker, 50 Shades of Grey, Invisible Trade, any book by Enid Blyton.

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