The trouble with too much ambition

This week I was privileged to be part of another of our Musikscool events, working with 6th formers at Wellington College.  We were setting the usual outrageous challenge:  write an original music CD, record it and use it to raise money for charity, all within one day. We’ve done it several times before in schools, and come away uplifted and exhilirated every time.

This one was different.  The pupils raised just under £10,000 in hard cash through an online donations site (please feel free to add to it!), and no doubt there is more to come.  They produced 5 great tracks (plus one not so great), evidence of which I supply here along with a few photos and a bit of video to give you a flavour of the event.

How do you think you would feel if you had been part of that?  Across this event and the same event we ran last June they have produced a 10 track album and £20,000 in 2 days.  Average age 16.  Inspired?  Uplifted?  Energised?

Sad to report, our team of 15 facilitators and musicians came away feeling anything but.  We were flat, exhausted, burnt out, for the first time I can remember in over 10 years of running this format of event.  I’ve been trying to work out why.

There are number of things which contributed, but I think a lot of it had to do with the target that we were aiming for.  On the previous event at Wellington we had raised £11,800 in one day, so this time round I asked them what they thought was a good target to go for, and after a bit of debate we went for £15,000.  If achieved this would set a new record for us, and we were motivated to chase after it.

The X Factor awaits!

So, we were aiming for £15,000 in one day and got £9,000, and we (or at least I) find myself deflated as a result.  How mad is that?  Asking 16 year olds to set up a business, design and create the product from scratch, sell it and make a profit within one day.  They did so, and we dare to come away feeling disappointed.  We must have lost a grip on reality, I conclude (now that I’ve got over my little glum moment).

Is there a lesson here about keeping grounded, and not repeating the “only way is up” mantra incessantly?  Maybe we should relax our ambition now and then so we can catch up with reality and not have to be so hard on ourselves.  Those teenagers did brilliantly, and any group of any age of profile would say that was an impressive result.  A self administered jug of water over the head has been duly delivered, and I will be more pragmatic in the future.  I hope.

About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at
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2 Responses to The trouble with too much ambition

  1. Will says:

    Could you perhaps try a switch in the way you set your objective (or is it target)? The financial target is of course great for the charities, but it reflects your business focus and sometimes it is good to step out of the business head. Personally (I am embarrassed to say) I have never been able to get excited about cash. If you were not thinking in cash terms what might your objective be?


    • Interesting question, Will. I think that they get a lot out of the insight they get into the business world, and wouldnt want to lose that. But we should definitely consider how we measure some of the other outcomes, of which there are many. Thanks for suggesting this, it will help us to keep things in perspective.


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