In this increasingly chaotic world, it is nice to know that there are still people willing to follow their dreams, and not get sucked into the treadmill of routine and job-security - whatever that is these days!
Our daily news sources, no matter what your favourites may be, are constantly regaling us with tales of the outrageous from Syrian acid attacks, through political shenanigans and so much uncertainty in many countries around the world (French elections today), rampant corruption, and down to United Airlines sinking to the lowest depths of customer engagement, and then on down to the pathetic - such as verbal foul-mouthed and racist tirades from a once revered tennis star who should know better – even though when he was playing he had something of a “brat” reputation.
As a result, there’s actually often enough out there that would make the saner people that still inhabit this planet say “What the hell; I give up!” and go seek some quiet corner of the earth (preferably one that has a likely ongoing supply of water) to live an orderly life.
But happily I know people who still wake up in the morning with a dream in their head; with an ambition to do something that is different. I don’t, in writing this, mean just people who want to better themselves in their chosen profession. That of course is ambition and it is a totally worthwhile cause. Ambition in my view is something that should be pursued by everyone who is alive. An ambition to better their own lives in some way – and look, it doesn’t have to be financially driven or all about status although heaven knows there are enough people around who seem to think that is the only reason to be ambitious. And if they improve other peoples lives in the process then better still.
I know for myself I always held the view, wrongly on reflection, that I was not particularly ambitious. My upbringing was unusual, as people who know me will testify, and I was taught to behave in a certain way that manifested itself in a large supply of insecurity and diffidence. I was unlikely, therefore, to take ambition to an “all-conquering, let nothing stand in my way” level, which is what I used to think ambition was all about. Anyway, to cut a long story short – I got kind of lucky at various points in my career that meant my “ambitions” were being satisfied almost without my being conscious that I had them.
But ambitions aside there are also the dreamers. Not in the woolly-headed sense of not having their feet firmly on the ground, but dreamers who have visions. And again, for clarity, not people who want to become a Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg, but people you will meet on the street, or perhaps at a social gathering of some sorts. I would describe them as “ordinary” people, but they are not. There is something that drives them along a path that is somewhat different from the one they had perhaps intended.
I am lucky enough to have three wonderful children who are all very different. I’m not about to discuss their various qualities here, but our second child falls somewhat into the “ambitious dreamer” category. University degree, talented musician and performer, linguist with varying degrees of fluency in Mandarin and Spanish, and his English isn’t bad, so what does he do? With his husband in Australia he has a café, wine bar and bookshop. No business experience to begin with, but a wish to do something different; to follow a dream. It won’t make him rich but he’s making a real go of it.
I am finding more examples of people like this, the most recent of which has been the revelations of (now former) FT Lex writer in Asia Lucy Colback who, despite having already done a few interesting things has chucked it all up to pursue the ambitious dream of writing a book. If you are able to get hold of a copy of the Weekend FT for 14 April you will find in the Life and Arts section a piece written by Lucy on “why ….”. She writes much better than I do, so explains it more clearly than I could. Oh, and as an aside, if anyone reading this has contact with old war horses from the Second World war who would have seen action in and around China and might be willing to share experiences, do please pass on contacts.
Lucy is an old friend, and I wish her well in this latest endeavour, but as another friend said of the venture “I would say that is a bold move, or as Sir Humphrey Appleby (Yes, Minister!) might have said “very brave” !!
And the point of all this? Never ever think that you are too old or too young to follow a dream, an ambitious dream. If you do it and it fails, you put it down to experience and you go look for something else. If you don’t do it … you will never know!