Lisa Markwell: The retention of perspective is a life skill to cherish

FreeViewfrom the editors at i

Share

 

Ambition is good. Ambition is expected. Ambition has never been as important as it is right now, with fewer jobs, less money, more graduates than ever before. Right?

Reading the headlines about Greg Smith, the Goldman Sachs employee who resigned with a spectacular open letter to his superiors on Wednesday, the dark side of ambition was suddenly revealed in inglorious technicolour.

The traditional goals of moving up the greasy pole; earning a higher and higher wage and wielding increasing amounts of influence have never looked so ugly.

Smith doesn't come out of the whole affair with much more than whatever he banked during his 12 years with the avaricious financial company and Goldman is certainly tarnished (for how long is still unclear because money is what talks in the longer term, at least for the firm and its clients).

But what is clearest of all is that to be a "success" at Goldman – and plenty of other places – one's moral compass can get a little (or, in this case, a lot) out of whack.

Goldmans referred to Smith damningly as "only a vice-president" and the only employee in his department of the business – creating the view that after more than a decade at the bank, his career had not progressed as it might have. But a salary of £175,000 and annual bonuses that regularly took that over £1m seem pretty successful to most of us.

It would be marvellous to have a child that wanted to achieve success, but how is that measured? A survey published last week from a university in Indiana suggested that ambitious people earn more money – but they die younger and are no happier. Investing in relationships, whether with family or friends, gets a better return than investing in the markets – if a long and happy life is what's really important, if that's what is your genuine ambition.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of an old friend of my husband, whom I'd also first met in the mid-Eighties. He died far too young, aged just 49, leaving parents, siblings, a wife and two beautiful daughters. The chapel was packed and crowds spilled outside. The gathering afterwards continued for hours as friends shared their fond memories.

The defining factor of the many speeches was how happy he was and how happy he had made others. He had, many mentioned, made all of his career choices based on his desire to work only with friends.

And that crystalised the rights and wrongs of ambition for me.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Queen spoke of respect for all cultures and faiths in her Christmas message  

Decoding the Queen's speech: Was Her Majesty taking a swipe at Ukip?

Jane Merrick
Iraqi soldiers trained by the US were routed by IS’s smaller force  

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

Patrick Cockburn
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015