Posts Tagged ‘Ambition’

TEDx Humber College

You may remember me mentioning that back in June 2011, I did my very first TEDx talk. The topic was ‘Finding Your Voice’ and in the early hours of this morning, it has finally been put up online.

It’s quite an emotional thing seeing this thing through to the end. To watch myself speaking on stage is bizarre enough in itself but the fact that I’m also confessing my fears and speaking entirely from the heart, make this a bit terrifying.

But this is how I felt nine months ago and after watching it, it’s not so different than how I feel now. I think these fears are pretty universal so please watch and if you like, share.

Here’s my TEDx talk.


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Before I left school in Toronto, I remember a good friend mentioning to me that he had considered making the move to London when he graduated but had decided that it was better to start out in Toronto as a big fish in a small pond (more or less) than to go to such a big city where you’re a complete unknown. At the time, I told him casually that the idea didn’t bother me and my heart was set on the UK. I barely thought twice about the comment.

The other day, I thought about this conversation again and came to the realization that I actually love being a small fish in a big pond. I always have and I’ve always thrived in that position. I love the challenge of being the new person. I love making first impressions and meeting new people. And I love learning. I’ve always been happiest in a company where everyone else knew more than me. I look up to everyone and trust everyone. I’ve ashamedly acted impatient and cranky in positions where there were newer people who knew less.

I’ve been here in London for only two and a half months and have just been hired into my third position. And although I’ve technically been moving up the ladder in terms of permanence and responsibility, I’ve actually just moved departments each time. I’m still sitting in the most junior position in my new job. I’m happy with the situation but I do wonder what this contentment means. Now that I’ve noticed my small-fish-big-pond preference, how will this affect my career as I get older? Will I move up into management roles? Am I built to lead? Frankly, the idea scares me at the moment.

I may tell myself that being the new person is a challenge but maybe I’m just avoiding the real challenge of expectation and responsibility. I did feel like there were expectations of me in Toronto. There were none of me here. I met a lot of incredible people last year who said a lot of kind things about my potential. I told myself that moving half way across the world was taking a big risk but maybe the real risk would have been sticking around and trying to live up to those expectations. Maybe I’ve just been playing it safe.

Perhaps being a small fish is less about being humble and more about a lack of confidence. I’m hoping I’m just the kind of person who takes a while to get comfortable and confident enough to be the big fish, but that eventually, I’ll get there. I’ve always thought that may be the case but have never really been anywhere long enough to test the theory.

What kind of fish are you most comfortable being?

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Are you the type to take on more than you can handle? Do you feel overwhelmed and slightly behind each and every day? Two months ago, I did a TEDx talk where I used the line,

“Take on as much as you think you can handle, and then add one more thing. You’ll learn that you’re capable of much more than you thought possible.”

I do tend to live by this, and I will readily admit that I have realized, many times, that I am capable of more than I was giving myself credit for, but I’ve also sometimes wavered from my opinion that this is the best way to live. There is something to be said for constantly pushing yourself and setting the bar high, but over these past few months of pushing, I’ve realized there’s got to be something to learning to let go and breathe.

How do you learn where to draw the line between ambition and neuroses? I know a lot of very successful, brilliant and busy people who still seem to find plenty of time for family, vacation and a social life. Meanwhile, I’m only doing half as much and feel as though I’m struggling to keep my head above water. Every time I try to relax and have fun, I still feel the nagging guilt in the back of my mind telling me there’s work to be done. What’s the secret to letting this go? If there is one, I’d like to hear it. My suspicion though, tells me that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

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