How I’m getting my ambition back

February 2, 2023, 1:25 PM UTC
illustration of young woman standing still with eyes closed as shadows of people rush past her.
What is life without something to look forward to—something to strive for, something new to learn?
Illustration by Anna Parini

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Today’s guest essay comes from Fortune’s success desk writer Alicia Adamczyk, who will share a bit about how the pandemic killed her ambition and how she’s getting it back on her own terms. Plus, Nikki Haley will be Trump’s first opponent for 2024 and Beyoncé’s fans will put Ticketmaster to the test. Happy Thursday!

Reclaiming ambition. Over the past three years, many Americans have fallen out of love with ambition. Or, at least, they’ve fallen out of love with one definition of it: striving to achieve corporate success for success’s sake.

Faced with a crisis like COVID-19, many of us—women and people of color, in particular—started rethinking our relationships to work and finding fulfillment outside of the nine-to-five. 

I wasn’t immune to these feelings. About a year into the pandemic, I found myself increasingly dissatisfied and restless; it was hard not to question what I was doing with my life and what I valued and why. 

This led to a time I’ve come to think of as a creative and spiritual hibernation of sorts. I was still working hard, but I didn’t have any specific goals in mind, personal or professional. I logged off at 5 p.m. and my brain shut down for the day. I wasn’t reading as much, I wasn’t discovering new music and art; I was, for the first time in my life, “simply vibing,” as I wrote for Fortune.

Lately, though, I find myself dissatisfied and restless in a different way. I want to strive for something. I want to work toward a goal. I want my ambition back.  

I certainly don’t want things to go back to “normal,” whatever that was (I don’t think that’s possible post-pandemic). But I am trying to figure out how to reframe ambition and all that it encompasses—creativity, productivity, discipline—for myself. And to embrace the rhythms of my ambition, rather than feel embarrassed or stressed when I’m not inspired or actively ticking off the boxes society foists on me.  

“Our entire economy would be well served to acknowledge that there are creativity ebbs and flows, and the market ebbs and flows,” says Satya Doyle Byock, a psychotherapist in Portland, Ore., and author of Quarterlife: The Search for Self in Early Adulthood. “The reality of being a human being is life is always going to have ups and downs, and we are healthiest when we can stay attuned to those ups and downs.”

This is a privileged conversation to be having, for sure. But I’ve been heartened by the dialogue it’s already opened up with friends, acquaintances, and readers in recent days. It seems a lot of us are rethinking our relationship with work, goals, and self-fulfillment. As one friend told me, “I want to be ambitious again, but I do not want it to be all-consuming.”

I’m writing a few more stories on ambition in the coming weeks. If you’d like to talk about what it means to you, I’d love to hear from you. And read the full piece here.

Alicia Adamczyk

The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Today’s edition was curated by Kinsey Crowley. Subscribe here.


- Conflict of interest. A letter to congress called for an inquiry into Chief Justice John Roberts's wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, noting her role as a legal recruiter might pose a conflict of interest. While a spokesperson for the Supreme Court said that all justices are in compliance with financial disclosure laws, a legal opinion filed with the letter states that her connection to the prestigious judicial office may boost their household income. New York Times

- In the running. Nikki Haley, former UN ambassador and governor of South Carolina, is positioned to be the first Republican challenger to former President Donald Trump in the race for the party's presidential nomination. The race has been off to a slow start as potential candidates avoid a one-on-one match-up with Trump. Washington Post

- Mason ousted. C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, has been ousted after an investigation showed internal dysfunction that stalled company initiatives. Former staffers described Mason as a "toxic leader" who pushed staff to chase unrealistic goals, causing a turnover rate of more than 70%. The American Prospect

- Speaking of toxic. A new study shows that nearly two-thirds of employees have faced toxic situations at work. Women are far more likely to leave these toxic environments than men. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Equal Rights Advocates has hired Melvina Ford as its national legal director. Lisa Buckingham is now president of Ellig Group. Data and Cybersecurity platform Shift5 has brought on Ellen McDonald as general counsel and promoted Amanda Lampert to chief people officer. Monica Long is now president at Ripple, a crypto technology company. Rossum, a document processing platform, has brought on Elena Melnikova as its first chief marketing officer. Stern Pinball appointed Erica Frohm as chief technology officer. At PR agency Hotwire Global, Heather Craft was promoted to CEO, North America; Laura Macdonald was promoted to chief growth officer. Annette Fonte was named senior vice president, business and brand leadership; Veronica Padilla joined as vice president, head of design at Periscope creative agency.


- #SleepWhereYouWork. Esther Crawford joined Twitter in 2020 after it acquired Squad, a video-chat startup she founded. Now, she has embraced Musk's hardcore approach to business by sleeping on the floor at the office and proposing controversial ideas for more revenue streams. Financial Times

- You won't break my Ticketmaster. Beyoncé has at long last announced her solo tour for her most recent album Renaissance. It is the first major test for Live Nation's Ticketmaster, which endured a congressional hearing last month after the meltdown over Taylor Swift's tour tickets raised regulatory questions for the company. New York Times

- 'The Light We Carry.' Michelle Obama is releasing a podcast next month based on the book tour for her most recent book The Light We Carry. It will bring the intimate conversations she had with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Tyler Perry to a wider audience. Associated Press


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“I did work really hard to get to where I am now, and I still am working really hard, every day.” 

—Rapper Ice Spice on her recent rise to fame. 

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