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Why I can no longer get up early and grind

Eleanor Beaton

Shortly after giving birth to my son Noah (who is now 15 and 6’2 WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!), I figured out that if I was going to be the wealthy and influential woman I wanted to be, I was going to have to do the werk.


So for the ensuing decade, I did the daily rise and grind. I woke up at 4:50am or 5am, drank successive cups of coffee or tea, applied base of pants to seat of chair and pressed firmly.

It worked. Here’s just a small taste of what my rise and grind sessions helped me produce:

  • I wrote 5 full-length business books, all published by major publishers
  • I wrote 2 self-published business memoirs for clients
  • I wrote two novels
  • I wrote HUNDREDS of articles
  • I won 5 journalism prizes
  • I developed 48 communications strategies
  • I wrote 85 speeches for politicians and senior leaders
  • I produced over 400 podcast episodes
  • I wrote 100+ webinars and presentations for myself
  • I wrote 400+ blog posts
  • I had another baby
  • I hired a bunch of people
  • I started another business and served thousands of people
  • I won a bunch of awards in the entrepreneurship, leadership, and export categories
  • I saved a lot of money

Rise and grind — putting in the WORK and always producing to the max of my capacity has been very effective.

And the action was largely fuelled by my AMBITION. The Oxford dictionary defines ambition as a strong desire to ACHIEVE something.

Now here’s the weird part.

I am no longer an ambitious person.

I have dreams. I have desires. I want to grow and challenge myself. I am prepared to make big leaps of faith. But the energy that fuels these things is sooooo different.

I wake up early, but not to grind. I wake up to read, think, go for a walk, or just drink coffee quietly. I wake up to, you know, enjoy this life my earlier, ambitious self-created.

Ambition is a really, really useful source of fuel FOR FINITE PERIODS. Ambition works best when you are playing a FINITE game. (A finite game is like a soccer match — there’s a winner, a loser, clear rules and the game has a beginning and– most crucially, a clear end).

But ambition can be destructive when you are playing an INFINITE GAME — like the game of business. You don’t “win” the game of business. There’s no beginning and end it just goes on and on until you sell your company, transition to the next-gen, or shut it down because you get bored or tired.

So yeah, for about 18-24 months I have been operating largely ambition-free. I don’t feel the need to achieve things or prove anything to myself or others. But I do feel a desire to create things. It’s a subtle but super important difference.

Meanwhile: sales have grown, profits have grown more, and over the last 12 months, we have “produced” at the highest rate of my entire professional career. I’m talking about business assets that will continue to produce significant returns for the business for multiple years with no additional work.

And I have led this from a place of abiding chill. Sometimes I listen to colleagues stressing about driving growth and hitting goals and I feel like they are talking a different language. I can’t seem to locate that stress anymore.

But for a woman who has been largely driven by ambition, not having that low-level stress feels, well, WEIRD. I wasn’t sure what was going on so I talked it over with my mentor and she told me that underneath ambition lies desire.

The Oxford dictionary defines desire as a strong wish to have something or for something to happen.

Ambition is about ACHIEVEMENT. Desire is about INTENTION.

Achievement is about getting and proving. Over-reliance on ambition drives burnout because when achievement is the primary goal, the ENDS always justify the MEANS. You do what you need to do to get the result.

Intention is “creation-oriented” and there’s really no proving energy in it at all. I have found that when intention and desire is your fuel, the MEANS must justify the END and you just don’t burn out.

Can you see the difference?

My 25-year-old self would have NEVER BELIEVED I could create results and growth without ambition….which is why I wrote this blog. To share my experience in the hopes that it gives you food for thought.

I suspect I’ll use ambition as fuel for short-term projects here and there. But now I know there’s a better, steadier, healthier, and more fun alternative (i.e. Intention), I’ll be primarily using that.



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