Sunday, August 3, 2008

Generativity is Better Than Ambition

A note from for Monday August 4 2008

Welcome to brand spanking shiny new week with which to kick off August.

Wasn’t Wade Davis just wonderful in Friday’s video offering. His presentation certainly touched some chords with many of you. He does bring beautiful language to us as he gives us a wonderful look at the world beyond our own neighborhoods.

To get the week off to a fine start we go to one of our favorite, and very regular, contributors. As we all approach the most vibrant marketing season of the year, you’ll find that Philip’s offering today will be worth saving.

Generativity is Better Than Ambition

By Philip Humbert

For almost thirty years I’ve been looking at how high achievers (the winners in life) get so much done. Motivation, talent, hard work and seizing opportunity are all part of it. So is planning, but I’ve been thinking that maybe the true winners in life do have a “secret.”

Now, clearly there are no secrets to success. The principles and fundamentals have been around for thousands of years and they are available to anyone who searches for them. But winners do “see” distinctions and live differently than other people. They produce more and better results. How?

I’ve been playing with the concept of “generativity.” I believe the word was coined by Erik Erikson and a few other people have used it, but for me it’s defined as a joyful creativity that flows (or over-flows) from an eager curiosity and the courage to experiment. It grows out of immense gratitude and has elements of energy, playfulness and even recklessness in it. It makes people rich and makes the world a better place. Here’s how I’m “playing” with this idea.

Imagine a spectrum that runs from the crudest form of “drive” on the left, through a healthy, “normal” ambition in the middle, to “generativity” on the right.

On the left, the crudest forms of motivation would be described as an obsession powered by “lust” or “envy,” even “revenge.” Some people are driven by a fear of loss or the need to “get even” with people who have “more” than they do. Sometimes they seem to “burn” with anger or greed, or an unhealthy desire to “succeed.” This may drive them to achieve great things, but at what terrible cost? In it’s worst forms I think of people like Adolf Hitler or Charles Foster Kane in Orson Wells’ classic movie, Citizen Kane.

In the middle of the spectrum, I’ve been imagining the healthier drives we call “ambition.” These people are responsible, eager, often creative and certainly they work hard. I want to be crystal clear–ambition is a GOOD thing! It gets us up early, it challenges us to work hard. It teaches us to set and achieve goals and ambitious people always achieve more of life’s “good things” than their less ambitious colleagues. Ambition works and it’s a good thing.

My problem is that too often “ambition” still comes from a sense of “lack.” It has an element of fear that things won’t work out well. Ambition has an element of the “personal”–we are usually ambitious to achieve our own success. Ambition has a sense of being “driven from behind.” I would rather be “pulled” by a vision or desire that’s in front of me!

That’s where generativity comes in, on the right end of this spectrum. I’ve noticed that the most successful people I’ve coached seem to create success not because they’re “ambitious” but for the sheer joy of it. They have an energy that delights in the challenge. It has a fearlessness, an eagerness to “try stuff,” to “see what might work.” Generativity comes from an enormous gratitude that they are already the richest, luckiest, and most blessed people in history, and they have a burning desire to create or build something new, something bigger and better for the world to enjoy.

Generativity is about “sharing the wealth.” It’s about building the next Microsoft, or writing a better novel, or opening the best Italian restaurant in town because it would be “fun.” It has a passion or a cockiness to it, a sense that we already have so much we “can’t lose” and “my town (or my world) needs this.”

I encourage you to play with this idea of generativity. I think it includes but wonderfully transcends mere ambition. It goes beyond goals and ordinary “success.” It doesn’t “drive” us to achieve; it “pulls” us to “play” with opportunity and see what we can do. It wonders just how far we can go and what’s really possible. It’s in no hurry, it’s never impulsive or rushed, but curiously, it does move fast. It has more fun and gets more done than ambition ever could.

Let us know here at The Wealthy Attitude what you think about generativity and what it might achieve in your world.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: