Notes from Ambition – Think Tank #1 (Thanks Andrea Pemberton for recording these) by talyarden
April 27, 2010, 1:01 pm
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Question: Does ambition have to equate with money?

Money toward your project vs. money for you.

Money = the way of keeping track, or you can track with fame, status, etc.


Money is a social system – means to an end after you have money it becomes an end.  After you have enough money it becomes an end.

Process vs. end

Does the end pull you, or does the intention push you

Enjoying the process seems healthier – keeping traveling vs. landing somewhere

Is ambition a contemporary problem?

Rich people’s children lack ambition – is it based on need?

Making a mark on society

Capitalism needs ambition – it is fueled by ambition – within capitalists system – ambition is equated with money but within other systems ambition is equated with other things.

Even in American capitalist system:  Olympians working as waiters – poor but ambitious.  Politicians who want power, but know their jobs aren’t going to necessarily bring in the most dollars.

Ambition Session Notes: Is your ambition like your parents or unlike your parents? by talyarden
April 25, 2010, 1:59 pm
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Question: Is your ambition like your parents or unlike your parents?

(Thanks Kim Whitener and Scott Blumenthal for recording these) posted by Tal Yarden

Aspiring not to success but to be inspired and optimistic, failing and going on to the nest thing, “to approach the world with childlike wonder”

“I have the ambition to be like my father and to be exactly the opposite of my mother.”  Mother is the negative – she suffered, cancer, rape, suicidal, stuck in a jobe because she needs the insurance.

The person with ambition has the vision for possibility.

Mother is devoid of ambition.

Ambition as part of the immigrant experience – living with a sense of responsibility for my parents’ dreams for me and the opportunities they gave me.

Missionary parents – ambition to serve (in a liberal sense – building hospitals, schools, etc.)  In China through the revolution.  Dedication to service.

Father’s ambition drove the life of the family.  Mother was the helpmeet, though she was a smart and capable woman.

“I am a-religious…but the principle of service has translated and that’s why I am in the arts.” (producing director at HERE!)

Sacrifice – does the reward equal or outweigh the cost in struggle and discomfort?

“Am I ambitious for myself or for my parents?”

Ambition = achievement  always ambitious to achieve the next goal.

“When I was a kid I didn’t have any dreams like [being a doctor]”

Particularly American goal, kind of ambition, to have a different ambition from your parents, to break away, to have your own ambition.

Priorities are different from ambitions, they affect ambitions.  Obligations too.

“I don’t feel like I have as many ambitions as I use to…  I have achieved what I set out to achieve.  Now I want more security.”

Cost of ambition.

Does ambition have to be risky?  Is that an American notion of ambition? Can it be ambition if the ambition is to be secure and stable?

Stages.  How does ambition change through life?

“Striving for something more than the norm, maybe even more than what is achievable…”

“I never think of ambitions as a pejorative term.  Maybe over ambitious.”

“My ambitions that are like my parents have to do with relationships, but my work is less like their ambitions.”

Tiny things that have been part of my father’s life, and I’ve been swept up by them.”

Do your brothers and sisters divide a long the like-your-mother / like-you-father camp?


Wants to write more fiction, but out of practicality writing grant proposals

Stability, taking care of children and family. Opposed to fulfilling one’s own ambitions?

“I am very much career-oriented and I want my life to be a certain way.”

“the choices, the cost”

“I feel like a lot of who my parents are is middle-of-the-road.”

“they both had artistic ambitions as young people… but then they had children… As a child the supreme goal of life was to be an artist; it wasn’t about making money.”

“I had the karma to be born to my parents, so I have this kind of situation…I am already in a relationship to my parents before I was born.”

No childhood ambition – coming from umbrella of a strong parental influence (pushing for high achievement – large umbrella but not discussing specific possibilities).  Not realizing til adulthood that you could have choices aside from your parents specific ambition.  Ambition tied to service, about sacrafice.

Habits from parents, work ethic, integrity, but ambition comes from his spirit, something larger than his family.  Knowing at a very young age – desire to make his own way – certain obstacles stop it, push it under for sometime but it comes back.

Being pulled toward or pushing to:

– potentiality that one can’t deny

– interior drive as opposed to an external pull.

From a cosmological perspective, can program your children, but there’s another perspective that the parent-child relationship preexists birth (Buddhist perspective)

Very few people take 100% responsibility for their life

– many things are inherited and continue

– can always reinvent oneself in a new way

filters  -immigrant experience – religion – cultural difference –all the differences in this country – we all share this kernel of the dream  Jewish/Catholic/Polish/Filipino – “follow your dreams”  – create one’s own identity

Happy Thoughts by talyarden
April 24, 2010, 10:34 am
Filed under: Happiness | Tags: ,

“Love is the seed of happiness.” from the Alchemy of Happiness by Al-Ghazali (1058–1111), a Muslim Sufi thinker.

In the Nicomachean Ethics, written in 350 B.C.E., Aristotle says that happiness is the only thing that humans desire for its own sake. He observes that people want riches, honor, health, etc. not only for their own sake but so that they can be happy. He says that eudaimonia, the greek word for “happiness”, is an activity rather than an emotion or a state of being.

“Happiness is like a cat, If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.” William Bennett (former Drug Czar under the first President Bush).  This fits in with something that ethicists call the Pleasure Paradox – see or

“We were not hoping for happiness – And yet we were not prepared for unhappiness.” from Viktor Frankl’s 1946 book Man’s Search for Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate.

So it seems like the pursuit of happiness, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as one of our unalienable rights, may be an oxymoron.  It’s there because Jefferson and Franklin thought it better and more noble than the pursuit of property.  The pursuit of happiness wasn’t meant to be a selfish act but rather the pursuit of happiness for the greater community, for society as a whole.  But if happiness can’t be had by pursuing it according to the Pleasure Paradox then how do we achieve it?  Are we suppose to pursue wealth, security, health instead because they may lead us to happiness?It seems like that may not work either.  The paradox suggests that it’s the act of pursuit that is the problem, that we can gain happiness through the most prosaic activities in life.  Perhaps through self-less action.

Posted by Tal Yarden

Happiness by kristinmarting
April 19, 2010, 7:13 pm
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“You will never be happier than you expect. To change your happiness, change your expectation.”  – Bette Davis

Do you agree?

posted by Kristin

Ambition Think Tank: ideas for sessions by kristinmarting
April 19, 2010, 3:05 pm
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Ambition Think Tank, photo by Carl Skutsch

We had more ideas for conversations than we had time to do -here’s a list of all of our ideas and I have marked the ones that we actually convened  – notes are already or will be posted for each session over the next day or so…..

posted by Kristin

When to Let go of Ambition (convened)

Does Ambition expire? How When Why Where?

Ambition for doing the most good (convened)

The ends vs the means

Is your ambition to be most like your parents or most unlike your parents?  (convened)

Childhood vs Adult Ambition  (convened)

Courage  (convened)

Self Destruction

Immigration (convened)


What is your relationship to Ambition?


Renown or Stardom






True to Yourself?

Does ambition have to equate with money?

Wordspace it Growotski It Shakespeare It

LUSH VALLEY Think Tank #2 – Happiness by kristinmarting
April 16, 2010, 3:49 pm
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Join us for  our second of eight community THINK TANK sessions on Tuesday, May 4th from 7pm -10pm which will delve into the concept of HAPPINESS. These Think Tanks are open to the public and are a cross between Town Hall and Open Space format.  We are looking to have a diverse group of folks at each event – we are looking for clowns, comedians, life coaches, motivational speakers,”happy people”, Kindergarten teachers, new age enthusiasts, therapists, psychiatrists, and anyone else who is interested.  Please come and if you know someone who fits this description and might enjoy this event please forward this invitation.

Please note: this event will be held at HERE’s Rehearsal Space, 75 Varick at Canal Street. Please bring ID for entry into building.

If you would like to attend, please email to rsvp.

Ambition session notes: When do you give up on ambition by kristinmarting
April 16, 2010, 3:38 pm
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Ambition Think Tank, photo by Carl Skutsch

When do you give up on ambition?

notes by Melanie Joseph and Carl Skutsch

When your goals and ambition are working, you don’t even notice

Let go of ambition if you’re beating your head against the wall

In what / when you achieve goals it’s not just the achievement of goals but it won’t feel any different (??)

Everyone is trying to clarify life’s true path

Ambition is tactical and practical, not visionary.  There is a difference between ambition and vision

Success kept coming up in place of ambition

Even Barack Obama must wonder if he’s achieved his ambition and has doubts and fears.

Few people ever achieve their ambition.

Does success achieved = ambition achieved?

Is ambition going beyond success, going beyond happiness?  Is that when you give up on ambition?

Does ambition ever stop?

What is the connection between ambition and winning?

What is the difference between ambition alone and ambition among a group of peers and/or competitors? Which is more painful? Having an audience to stare, criticize, or support? Beyond alone to focus, or to torment yourself?

Do you give up on ambition when it becomes too painful for you, your family, or those around you?

Fred questioned whether ambition would usually ever be negative for those around you? The idea that a strong ambition always gave those around you benefits.  I was skeptical.

What if you are really good at something, but lack the skills to get there?

Ie – What if you’re a good actor, but lack the aggressiveness to get the roles, get your feet in the door.  Or what if you’re a great writer, but are too shy to push your script/novel/work to push in a way that would make it success.

Is fear the opposition of ambition?

Can ambition and family and friends work together?  Are they incompatible with each other?

Ambition session notes: Doing the Most Good by kristinmarting
April 15, 2010, 8:33 pm
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Ambition Think Tank photo by Carl Skutsch

Ambition for doing the most good

Suggested by Sally Harris, Notes taken by Kristin Marting

Participants: Sally, Paul, Kristin, Richi, Melanie, Robert, a few other friends whose names I didn’t catch

Salvation Army slogan as the jumping off point:

Salvation Army has the stated goal of doing the most good – is that ok to say or not?

Susan Holman Fndn  & St Judes Childrens Hospital most trusted charities – why?

Nonprofits are in competition with each other, but all trying to do best work they can

How does spending and advertising affect public perception of mission

You have a conception of what good is – are there other definitions of good?

Why do you own good  vs someone else’s good?

Salvation Army, Literacy campaign, Cancer Society

People often do bad in the name of good

Missionaries going to Africa

Who is the authority on defining these priorities?

Can you force good on someone else? Is your good someone else’s good?

Relative to your own definition of good, are you obliged to be ambitious about achieving it?

Back to “doing the most good”, taking issue with “Most”– hot button word

When the statement is modified to “the most that I can do”, then it feels ok.

Is Ambition good?

Ambition is a positive value – is that true for most Americans?

Not for most of this group – mixed reaction

Is ambition egotistical?

Having ambition is good – goals and setting out to achieve them

Nature of your goal is the key

Free enterprise as an element of ambition —

If you are interested in serving your self that is good

Do the end justify the means?

Ruthlessness in order to achieve a good – is that ok?

Tainted money to solve problems – is that ok?

How the self is served is always in question

Ambition and religion

Koran says if there are people who say they are doing good, be afraid/ suspicious.

Buddha if a person is on the street telling you how to do your best, this is not the one you are seeking or should listen to.

Oprah = “I did not have such ambition – God had a bigger plan for me “

Calvinist = preordained = you are doing how you are doing because God chose that

Puritan = hard work = achieving what you are meant to by god

Is goal oriented living the unquestionable positive way?

Can you be ambitious without competition?

Better to do your best irregardless of others around –

Subjective perception

Self actualization

I expect if I do my best the money will come and the freedom and good things with that

Your best didn’t hatch that time –then explore the next route

Drive = Ambition

Ambition has an end product – it is for something – it is never where you are

Competition and winning

Winner culture – the leader, the savior, the one winner,

Much more facility to do

Cockeyed ambition

Blind Ambition

Individualist characteristic  = neurosis of competition and winning

No noble calling = compulsive need

Power and control and how do they relate to ambition

If you’re not succeeding its because you’re not doing enough

American  exceptionalism

The most ambitious country at doing good for the most people around the world

Economic machine, military machine

Sense of obligation to take care of those things

Is anyone successful who was not hugely ambitious?

Who is the most ambitious person we know?

Trump, Obama,

Lincoln and Washington were both hugely ambitious

Dr King had vision and was ambitious —-

Was Ghandi ambitious ?

The scope and scale within which Obama is trying to affect change is enormous —

Can you separate Ambition from Capitalism?

In America, it seems like success is dependent on inequity

It means you have more than someone else

Canada vs America

Canada:  ambition = too big for your britches =

Violent revolution in America /  Canada never fought free until 1972 = how is that different?

Most rugged individualism = laws are geared this way – protect individual over societal needs

Rights Talk book by ??????/ =

tort law affects the way we make the choices we make

Protecting the rights of the individual over the greater community good

American vs Canadian laws


How did the homesteaders/ settlers get the land – they took it = their gun,

Ownership promotes responsibiltiies

Tragedy of the commons – the land is abused and taken advantage of

Uganda no one owned land until the British came- tribal wars started after land ownership took place

Texts to look at in relation to Ambition

Macbeth    ==  it is the ambition that destroys you – it is his regret that destroys him – not “ man enough to own up to what he’s done.

The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand = through selfishness, you do the most good –

Crimes & Misdemeanors – Woody Allen —

Tenets of the American Dream

Own a house?

Your children will do better than you

Sense of entitlement

Freedom to do or freedom from

Hard to see the frame in your own culture  = easier to see in other cultures

The doxsa = realm of what we take for granted

Opportunity vs freedom

Pursuit of happiness

Does it require ambition to be happy?

Aspire ==== Hope

Individuated = ambition

Ambition session notes: Immigration by kristinmarting
April 15, 2010, 8:29 pm
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Ambition Think Tank, photo by Carl Skutsch

Ambition Think Tank photo by Carl Skutsch

Immigration   – Notetaker:  Clyde Valentine

Ambition   desire   obsession




1st generation

2nd generation

American dream

Tradition – Family-Home

What people want?

Points of contact?



That’s why they call it the American Dream – You have to be asleep to believe it.


Personal or Universal

Immigrants conflate ambition

Romanticizing of culture…



What’s left behind?

Ambition  : wikipedia definition : Desire for personal achievement



Time/patterns define the process…



American Empire

Feed into the myth and dream..

Ambition = Ladder


Race as Institutionalization

Truth is the myth

Geography deterring sense and place

Personal v. universal

Ambition and its outward expression

Native v. immigrant

Ambition does not equal success

Immigration as a point of failure

Having to move out of necessity





-collapse of a dream…



ambition what does it serve?

It’s complicated!






Giving up vs. gaining

Ambition Session Notes: Childhood vs. Adult Ambition by kristinmarting
April 13, 2010, 6:58 pm
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Tal & others at Ambition Think Tank, photo by Carl Skutsch

Childhood Ambition vs. Adult Ambition

Notetaker : Marc Bovino

do childhood ambitions drive us as adults?

are they at work subconsciously?

do childhood ambitions become adult ambitions because of the influence of the “american dream”?

or does the American Dream take away from our Childhood Ambitions?

how is the endless possibility of childhood honed down to an adult ambition?


Tal: Always loved the books with the character Tin Tin, a boy reporter who would go on adventures

Consciously used that fictional character to shape his life

Eventually became a documentary film maker for a while in direct response to Tin Tin

Now sees this same tendency in his son. Son wants to be a superhero.

When do we transfer from wanting to be superheroes to wanting to be lawyers…

clearly some of us never do

Lucy: Began studying chinese in college. Thought it was a new interest.

Father finds a picture of her at age 5 trying to draw Chinese characters.

Cheryl: always wanted to travel/ explore as a child.

fulfilled her childhood ambition completely.

Man #1: Always wanted to be an actor. Parents encouraged him to pursue it.

Pursued it until he became a father. Now pursuing the kind of person

he would like to be for his son to look up to and not necessarily what

career. pursuing the realistic as an adult. pursuing the ideal as a child.

We talked about desire to be a certain way (like a good person etc)


Desire to be something…. like actor, surgeon, lawyer etc.

as a child you want to be something as an adult you want to be a certain way

We discussed the idea that at 50 you can look back and see that your life path

was actually determined by the decision of a stoned 16 year old.

You can actually pin point the decisions back to a teenager.

How dangerous that can be to allow your teenage self to determine your “adult” life.

Gabby also discussed the difficulty of voicing her childhood ambitions because

in a way she would be betraying her childhood self if she didn’t accomplish those things

the difference between growing up vs. changing who you are.

We talked about at what age people seemed to lose their childhood ambitions and then

readjust those ambitions for their adult life. Everyone seemed to have different reactions to this.

We also discussed the phenomenon of adjusting ambitions as a child to fit in:

Like if getting good grades made you a nerd, then you’d adjust accordingly

Also discussed stating ambitions that you thought you were supposed to have:

ie. 4th grade English essay about who you’d be

and the response was something you didn’t really want

like married, 3 kids, a house, a job by 23.

Yana discussed the image of her as a child trying to pick up all her toys at once

and ultimately dropping them and crying. Ambitious child.

when does the desires of childhood become ambition?