Creating Success Through Aligned Ambition

Episode 23

This week I’m continuing the discussion of ambition. More specifically, I’m exploring how to align your ambition to create success.

Last week, I shared my story about my early years as a young architect. I was very ambitious, climbing the corporate ladder and setting big audacious goals for myself. I knew that it would take a lot of hard work, dedication, and time to achieve the goal of getting promoted.

Let's continue that story because I never got to the end of what happened to me.

I'll suffice to say that it didn't go as planned. Although it worked out better than I could have ever imagined.

As I said last week, ambition is a beautiful thing....until it isn't.

When we Investigate what's fueling our ambition we can decide if it is getting us to what we want in our life and in our business.

If it's not, we can make a change towards what does.

In this episode, I'm exploring the importance of aligned ambition in growing and scaling our business.

Aligned ambition means building a business based on our intentions, integrity, and authenticity.

These three must give equal importance for us to experience true alignment.

This week, I’m sharing with you the very tough lesson I learned that brought me to the realization regarding the importance of focusing on incorporating all three of these as we pursue our goals.

Here's a quick recap of my story that I shared in last week's episode.

I started my career working for a corporate architecture firm. I immediately realized that I had a goal to get promoted within the company. Getting promoted and receiving a title was prestigious and exclusive. It came with a lot of benefits, including money.

Once I set that goal, I defaulted to doing the things that had always brought me success. I worked harder and longer than everyone else.

I gave everything my absolute all I made reaching this goal my priority.

Getting promoted was what I wanted. I was willing to work hard to have it.

I often found myself prioritizing work over my personal life. I wanted it that bad.

For many, this hard drive and work ethic may have landed them in burnout, and other medical ailments because they've worked themselves to the bone.

Yet, that's not what happened to me.

My story had an unusual twist that I didn't see coming. It left me wondering if this goal was even worth pursuing at all.

It all started with a specific situation that happened to me about three years into my career. At this point, I was doing well inside the corporate architecture firm. I had developed a reputation of being a valuable team member.

I was always going above and beyond and over-delivering.

It was intentional. I wanted to get that exclusive promotion that occurred once a year and given to only a few individuals. I anticipated it would take me about five years to get there. At this point, I was more than halfway to my goal. It was around this time that I finally received some undeniable validation that I was on the right track.

My architecture firm landed a project with a client. They had chosen us because they wanted the project to win Design Awards. The company assembled a “dream team” to work on this project. They offered me the opportunity to be on the team.

At that moment, I remember feeling that my long hours of hard work were worth all the sacrifice.

I was on the team. I remember thinking that this meant it was all starting to come together. The project was validation that my contribution to the company meant something.

They rewarded me with a project that would boost my portfolio. It allows me to prove my value to a whole new set of senior associates. I felt like I had finally made it.

For the very first time, in three years of working there, I felt like my goal was within reach.

It feels amazing what happened next caught me completely off guard. It changed me in ways that I still struggled to describe.

Two weeks later, there was a kickoff meeting for the team members on this project. In that meeting, we would learn more about the project and create a plan for it’s completion.

The day before that meeting, my current project manager came to my desk. He wanted to talk with me about the project. He told me that there had been a staffing change, and someone else filled my spot on the team. I would not be working on the project. Not only that, since there was not a different project for me to work on, they assigned me to work in another division of the company.

It was devastating.

I asked him what happened, why I was no longer on the team, and why a particular person had replaced me. He didn't have an answer. He told me that someone else requested to have this particular employee on the team. They decided to honor that request, which meant that I was off.

He may not have known why they removed me from the team but I knew exactly why.

See, the person who replaced me was a peer of mine. She was somebody I had worked with and that I knew. She was smart, hardworking, and ambitious - a lot like me.

I had tremendous respect for her but there was one difference between the two of us.

While I was quiet, and focused on letting my work speak for itself, she was intentional in making strategic connections that would benefit her.

After the company announced this particular project, I noticed she became very friendly with one of the senior members of the design team.

I didn't think much of it at the time when I made those observations. Yet, when they told me that she would be replacing me on the team, I realized she hadn't spent two weeks being friendly. She spent two weeks marketing herself. And it worked.

She got a spot on the Dream Team and I was out.

At that moment, I had a realization about what my future looked like. If I wanted to move up the corporate ladder, my drive, ambition, and work ethic weren't going to be enough.

There's a system in place, and I believed I had to be willing to work the system to get what I wanted.

At that moment, I felt like I had to decide, was I going to change who I am to get what I want or am I going to honor my values and do what feels right for me?

I wrestled with this decision for a long time.

I had spent years giving my all to prove my worth in everything I could to have this opportunity. An opportunity that will lead to the promotion I really wanted.

How could I have overlooked that some people will do anything it takes to get success?

I knew the answer to this. I had overlooked this because manipulating people for self-gain is in direct conflict with my values.

If getting promoted meant working the system by conniving, manipulating, and creating strategic relationships for my advancement, then my only response is “No, thank you.”

When choosing between ambition and integrity, I will always choose integrity.

That was the moment that I set down the reins of everything I had spent years working towards and surrendered to honoring myself. It felt awful and powerful.

What happened next was a series of events described as divine intervention.

I was an architect without a project. An architect without a project will very soon become an unemployed architect. I started floating around from team to team filling in spots. I was working on projects wherever they needed help.

Then one day, a project manager approached me who I didn't know very well. She invited me to join her team on a project that was coming out of Northern California. It would be fast-paced and involved travel, but she thought I was the perfect person for the role.

I agreed. I was looking forward to contributing in a meaningful way to a project that was my own. What I didn't know when I agreed to work with her and to join her team, is that this project was different from any of the other projects in the company.

It was a top-secret project at the request of the client. It meant we could not discuss the project outside of our team. No one, even the people in our office, could know what we were working on. The project was given the codename “Nexus'' and that's how we referred to it.

It turns out this project was not only in Northern California. It was project-based in Cupertino. The company behind the project was Apple computers. Steve Jobs himself spearheaded the top-secret team.

At that time, he wanted to revolutionize the way people would shop for computers. He wanted to create a space in every mall in America where people could walk in and interact with the Mac computers. The design of the stores was critical to meet his vision.

My firm had landed the role to build the Apple Stores starting in Southern California and expanding across the United States.

I was in a leading role on the team assigned to taking Steve Jobs' vision and making it real. My career changed in an instant.

I was now contributing to a prestigious project in our entire company.

I did not compromise my integrity to get there.

So why am I telling you all this?

As entrepreneurs, as we grow and scale our business, we will be exposed to questionable business tactics that can create the success we desire.

We will see hustle culture glorified. We will see marketing tactics that border on manipulation. We will see other entrepreneurs cut corners and manipulate systems. They will do whatever it takes to achieve success.

We will have to make choices about our own practices and how we run our businesses.

These tactics will be tempting because we can see proof that they work. I bet you can already come up with a few examples of other online practices that you don't like, yet, you are tempted to embrace them because you've seen the results they can create.

In those moments, we will need to decide what we want to do.

Do we want to follow what feels right and true for us or will we fall into temptation?

At this moment, it will not be an easy decision.

As ambitious entrepreneurs, we will be placed situations where we will have to ask ourselves:

•What do I want?

•Why do I want it?

•What am I willing to do to get it?

Each of those situations will provide us an opportunity to ask ourselves if our ambition is in alignment.

Or have we defaulted to the end justifying the means mentality?

Former Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Sheller once said, "going after stability and money can make you a slave to the system. It can make you compromise what you truly believe in.”

Here is a question for you: In order to get the success, the money, the fame, the fortune, whatever it is you desire, are you willing to compromise what you believe?

The thing about this type of ambition, this unaligned ambition is that it feels like we are pursuing more. We always end up getting less because it leaves us unfulfilling in the end.

The good news is that there is an alternative.

We can align our ambition with our intentions, integrity, and authenticity. When we do this, we can achieve meaningful success.

The type of success that leaves us feeling proud, powerful, and completely fulfilled.

However, when success is created from aligned ambition, it may not look how we expect and it may not show up the way we expect it to.

When it does, we will often be completely surprised by what it brings to us.

In listening to the quiet voice of intuition over our intellectual justification, we create the space for life to delight us in ways that we could never have imagined. This delicate balance between desire and ambition is the foundation of making a business and life that we love.

The good news is if you feel like your business has started drifting away from your values, today is a great day to start getting back into alignment and to get it back on track by making different decisions.

True success begins when your business aligns with what's inside of you.

That’s what it means to create a business and life that we love.


Danielle's message is spot on with achieving goals. Not only does she practice what she preaches, but she's your guide to help YOU achieve the best version of yourself! A must listen!


Grow a biz & feel good! Danielle is really skilled at bringing both the actionable steps plus the mindset work so we can feel good as we grow our businesses while being present for our families. I look forward to listening every week!



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