how to embrace your naked ambition and make your subconscious your bitch



A stunning young dancer named Sabine took me aside after our private dance class – the choreography still in my body, the song still in my head – because she knew that I was into creativity and, as one person put it, “creative consulting”.

We talked about the unique style of class that she was developing. As a member of her target audience I could give her some feedback. Then I said, “You sound like someone who should have her own studio.”

“Maybe,” she said.

When somebody touches on the thing they really want, or is navigating in that direction, an energy moves into her body and lights her up. I wasn’t seeing that in Sabine.

She said, “How important is it to have a vision?”

“Really important,” I said immediately. “And you need to make it as clear and specific and as vivid as you can. You need to see it, hear it, feel it, touch it, you need to write it down, because then you activate different parts of your brain and burn that vision in on a very deep level. You program your subconscious to orient you in that direction.”

Your subconscious determines your life. It’s your subconscious that is constantly absorbing information, mulling things over, and making decisions; your conscious mind makes up reasons and stories to explain those decisions. It’s also your subconscious that determines, of the millions of bits of incoming stimuli that bombard your body at any given moment, the handful of things you will notice versus everything else that you will filter out.

(I just ordered a new car in the color ‘glacier blue’. So now, everywhere I look I’m noticing baby-blue cars. It’s not like there’s been a sudden explosion of baby-blue car owners. My subconscious has decided, for some reason known only to itself, that it’s vitally important that I pay attention to this. So thank you, subconscious.)

What you put your (very limited) attention on, is the stuff that grows and shapes your perceptions, your reality, your life. So when you program your mind with a Vision, it will direct your attention to the things and people and opportunities that can help you make that vision manifest. Fail to program it at all, and your subconscious will lead you where it wants to go: to the couch, or the mall, or the hot guy who’s not your boyfriend, or the leftover cake in the fridge. You want to be ruled by your subconscious about as much as you want to be ruled by your dog, no matter how cute it can act.

“But sometimes you can have a vision about finding your vision,” I added. “Sometimes your mission is to find your mission. You know? Because it’s not like anybody hands us a list of things we really want. We need to figure that out through trial and error.

“It’s like passion.” I was on a roll now. “This thing about finding your passion? It can seriously fuck people up, because they think your Passion is like this gift-wrapped box that is just dropped at your door. It doesn’t work like that. You have to go into the world and you actually have to do shit, and figure out from that what feels good to you – those moments, even those little things, that make you feel strong and energized and most like yourself. And you organize your life to do more of those things. And you go in that direction.

“So you keep following that feeling of being engaged and alive, the activities that give you that. And over time you start to put things together. Maybe you pull something from here, and something else from over there…and you begin to combine them into a unique skillset…until one day you wake up and you realize that you haven’t found your passion so much as started to actually live it.

“I think maybe developing a Vision,” I said, “is kind of like that.”

Your Vision is a living, organic thing, in relationship to you and also to the world. The heart of it remains the same, but the details change and evolve. The world is a rapidly changing place. If it was a car, the bumper sticker would read ADAPT OR DIE. This applies to your Vision as much as it applies to you, and the people who don’t pay attention to where the puck is going (and not just where it was yesterday, or even today) might go the way of the dodo. Or the music industry.

Sabine suddenly said, “I want my own television show.”

“You do?” I stared at her in delight. “Now that’s a Vision! How come you didn’t say before?”

Except I knew why not. It’s the same reason I don’t tell people that I want my own little digital media empire (although one day people will stop putting the ‘digital’ in front of the ‘media’). It’s partly because we fear how ridiculous it sounds, and also because – well, we’re women, and women aren’t supposed to admit to being such naked blazing balls of ambition. It might scare off the people whom we’re supposed to please, and then nobody will ever love us, and we’ll die alone in badly lit apartments with only our cats for company (unless we’re allergic).

“I just think it sounds so stupid,” said Sabine. “Because everybody wants their own TV show.”

“I don’t want my own TV show.”

Sabine fleshed out her dream a bit more – how it brought together her acting background as well as her interests in fitness and spirituality – and what she didn’t want it to be as well as what she did.

We talked about how she could start posting short videos on Youtube and building out her online presence (she already has a massive local following for her dance and fitness classes). We talked about her blogging. We talked about how TV is merging with the Internet until one day there won’t be a distinction between them. The question isn’t whether or not she can have her own show – but whether she can develop an audience to watch it. That takes some charisma, yes – fortunately she happens to have it – but also work and time and persistence and strategy and an ability to get through the days (or weeks, or months) when you’re convinced you’re a total loser and nobody cares and you might as well sit on the couch and watch soap operas and eat Chef Boy-Are-Dee from the can. (Don’t do this.)

And then we left the studio and went out into the street and hugged goodbye and talked about getting together when I am in her town or she is in mine.

“You need to start being honest about your ambition,” I said (making a mental note that it was time to get honest about mine).

And that, I think, was my big takeaway from the conversation. It’s not enough to figure out what your Vision actually is (and this is a task in itself). You have to get honest about who you are and what you want. You have to declare yourself. Otherwise you’ll get lost in your own smoke and mirrors, since we have an unnerving way of becoming the thing we thought we were only pretending to be.

Do you have a Vision, or a partial Vision, or are you piecing together a Vision from hunches, daydreams and glimmerings, your interests and strengths? Are you honest about it? With yourself? With others? If not, why not?

….and if you liked this post, well hell, I think you’re fabulous and you should totally sign up to be on my List — it’s that box up in the corner asking for your email. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


May 18, 2011

13 comments · Add Yours

Oooh.. new Bloggy-blog. Nice design upgrade! I like the Rorscach blot. So I just want to say this post really stirred me up this week (in a good way) – so much so that I blogged about it. I’ve been struggling to be sharp about my vision and to be confident saying it out loud. This inspires me. I know I’m being all fan-girl here, but you’re one of my favorite writing bloggers right now. No one else really comes at it from the angle you do. So thanks!


Being honest about what we want and then taking that giant leap to share with other people is scary. It seems we always question ourselves, our intent, our worth (well, some don’t but they don’t seem to have the ability to think beyond themselves). I have glimmerings of what would make me happy professionally and creatively, but knowing how to get there is something that can only happen by piecing the clues together, talking with other people who are in an enviable position and then taking the small steps to get there. I read your posts and you are like a life coach, sometimes. Thanks.


I think a lot of people are a lot closer to knowing what they want than they realize. The clues are in the ideas that keep recurring. Admitting to those ideas can be hard because we’ve been trained against possibility, and before the vision can form, insecurity turns us back from the territory.

I call that reverse inspiration.The presence of insecurity means you’re on to something.

The monsters of the underworld don’t want you to take risks. On the surface, that turns into safety.

And that’s no way to live!

Great post. Thank you for your insight.


Tim Ferriss of “The 4-Hour Workweek” said something along the following lines: people think they’ll be happy with a million dollars in the bank, but that’s not a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It’s a means to an end. So, what is the end? What is the thing you really want? Here’s how to find out:

Imagine that you have that money now, right now, today. So now that you’re rich, what gets you out of bed in the morning? Is there any way you can get that feeling without waiting maybe your whole life (or forever) to achieve the goal of $1 mil? How can you achieve that feeling NOW?


I don’t want my own TV show either. Which got me thinking, what is it that I DO want? I’m very busy, got lots of projects in the works, but you made me stop and wonder, where/what are they all leading to? So now I will pause (after I finish writing this comment) and reflect, and then plan, and then implement, because all of that implementation first just seems like busy work without an ultimate goal in mind. Thanks for a thought provoking post, Marco


Great food for thought this morning. Of to go do some visioneering :)


@Peter Crowell “Reverse Inspiration”. Good to have a name for the nemesis.


Thanks for that lovely post!



I’m so glad you explained how the subconscious shapes your actions rather than referencing some mystical “law of attraction.” Your writing balances critical thinking with eloquence and artistry– a rare find!


Hello there miss-media-empire-super-smartypants!

Having spent the last six months deep diving into Carl Jung’s Red Book (visions galore! source of all his big theories that we take for granted), I’m sitting with your idea of making my subconscious my bitch.

Jung wrote a lot about the Unconscious, which we do not make our bitch, but who knows things – lots of things – that our poor little brain can’t yet handle. An interesting distinction to consider.

I’m way into taking all kinds of steps to uncover, define, refine and feed that Spark (whatever we call it) so we activate our vision and don’t end up on the couch with too many cats licking out of the open can of dinner on our lap.


What a way to move the psyche into action. Thank you for kicking my brain into gear. New project for this evening…finding out if I am who I think I am and what it is that I truly want; more importantly how to get what I want within the confines of this life…Thanks! I love this blog!


Was just talking to my brother about the fact that no-one really gets his idea of becoming a personal trainer and general fitness guru; then I found this! The ideas would have transferred in any case, but how handy to find actual similar subject matter (we were just talking about a Youtube series for him, for instance). Spooky, but awesome. Have jubilantly sent him the link :)


Very nice post, i stumbled on this and i’ll definitely be following from now on. I think being ambitious and being able to clarify what you want is the starting point of achieving success. I also think that once you have decided exactly what you want and written it down, it can DEFINITELY be achieved if you are willing to WORK HARD for the long haul!

In my opinion that is one of the key ingredients from moving from blind ambition to actually achieving desired results!


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