Last week I read a headline that didn’t just make my blood boil, but my internal organs overheat and my saliva steam. It’s partly my fault – the offending words were on the Daily Mail website. Getting annoyed by such articles shows that you’re doing it right. But while it’s important to know your enemy, I was still guilty of giving it the oxygen of page clicks. And of course the Mail Online lives to troll its readers, to create its special brand of “flame bait” that ignites the comments sections below each of its articles and send the reader traffic skywards.
But I digress. To the headline, which read: “Mo Farah, his VERY ambitious wife and the dash for cash that risks tarnishing an Olympic hero”. Quite apart from the fact that Mr Farah, in my opinion, deserves all the cash he likes because a) he’s very good at his job, b) he seems like a very nice man and c) it’s none of our business, and that he’d have to start roasting cats, kicking dogs and eating dolphins before even the slightest shine was taken off his outstanding achievements, what does his wife’s so-called ambition have to do with the price of fish?
My esteemed colleague Stefano Hatfield wrote an editor’s letter in i recently lamenting that “‘ambition’ and ‘aspiration’ had become such dirty words”. I couldn’t agree more, especially in this instance where “ambitious” is used as a pejorative and is shorthand for greed, bossiness and pushiness. Let’s get a few things straight. You don’t win gold medals without ambition. And you don’t marry someone who does without being ambitious on their behalf. And frankly, even if Tania announced that she intended to go for gold at Rio in long-distance running, her ambition would be something I would totally get behind.
Everyone should be ambitious, nobody should feel that they are worth no more than settling for what they have. If your ambition is to have a quiet life, fantastic. A big house? Ditto. Being ambitious is about having dreams for yourself and your family. I want to be called VERY ambitious. I want a badge, no, wait, a T-shirt that says I AM VERY AMBITIOUS in 300-point type. With lasers that strafe the sky and some sort of siren.
I want to get one for my stepdaughter, my sister and my brother. I want my deputy to be ambitious – he’s brilliant and he should be hungry for more. Perhaps Tania would like one. Mo would look great in one. Because ambition is a good look, and not a synonym for grasping or over-confidence. No one can accuse “that paper” of being unambitious, and while it makes my insides simmer, I believe in ambition for all – even headline writers who should know better. It would just be nice if their ambition was to write half-decent ones.