Ambition Vitae

Here’s a dream for the future. Five years from now, people will be hired based on their 43 Things. Ten years from now, degrees will be granted based on completing your 43 Things. What you’ve done in the past matters, but not as much as what you want to do in the future. The performance review, the prenuptial agreement, the resume, the transcript are nothing compared to a well crafted list of what you want to do with your life, a thoughtful collection of entries and the support of your fellow human beings.

From Josh Peterson of 43 Things

43 Things is one of a series of websites by The Robot Coop that allows users to list down 43 of their life goals. Goals on the site range from the highly popular “stop procrastinating” (5990 people and counting) to “have an underground lair” (248 people). Users can also meet other people with the same goals, cheer them on, write entries about their goals, and mark off goals that they have done (and/or want to do again). Other sites in the series by The Robot Coop include 43 Places for tracking countries, cities, and places that one wants to go or have been in; 43 People, for tracking people (and also making a simple family tree); and All Consuming, for tracking books, movies, music, and other media.

One such goal is “promote the concept of ‘Ambition Vitae'”. As described here by Chris Griego, who originated the goal and the concept:

The idea behind an Ambition Vitae is that, while previous experience is a good indicator of suitability for a position, it tells only half of the story. Traditional resumes only tell what you’ve done, not what you want to do and learn going forward. Your goals should be very important to an employer, because those are what you will be trying to accomplish during and, to face facts, after holding the position. If an employer, and the job seeker, want to really know that they are a good fit for each other, listing goals on a resume is a must.

This seems like a very good idea, not just for job-hunting but for the rest of life as well – especially education. Too many people are going to college or university pursuing something they don’t have an interest in just because someone told them it was a better choice (“there is no money in [Student’s Interest]”, “being a [doctor/engineer/etc] pays more”, “it’s more respectable”) without taking into consideration what their life goals are. Indeed, there are people who go straight to formal education only because “it’s what everyone else does” or “it’s what I’m supposed to do”, when alternative education would suit them much better.

Having something like an Ambition Vitae – even if it’s just a simple list of “things I want to do with my life at some point” – helps show direction and makes one’s goals clearer. By listing down those goals, one will be able to analyze them, see themes in their life, and also figure out how to fulfill those goals (expanding on them, writing down WHY they have such goals, drafting subgoals, and so on). By sharing those goals, one will be able to connect with others with similar goals, as well as those who have completed those goals and can provide guidance.

For instance, my 43 Things (including the things I have marked off as “done”) indicate a lot of goals related to performance and the arts, as well as world and cultural issues. Analyzing my list, I can see that I need to find some sort of avenue that allows me to express my creativity while helping the world and the community in some way. Through input from other users, I get to share ideas and expertise about how I am to go about doing such a thing, and learn what works and what doesn’t. I could even get recommendations for good voice classes, or programs that involve creativity and charity, or something else. I can make new friends and network with people from all over the world. And that’s just on 43 Things the website; what about the rest of the world?

Many colleges and universities (especially in the United States) require some sort of personal statement about yourself – often, it involves what you aim to learn and what you hope to get out of the experience. An Ambition Vitae would provide the backbone for such a statement, by tying in what their life goals are with what they’re applying for. Universities could then see which students would fit with their own mission and vision, and help them acheive their goals, whether through classes or through other school activities (counseling, mentoring, clubs and societies, so on.) This also helps with jobs: indirectly, an Ambition Vitae shows skills and interest, since most people’s goals are related to things they like doing or topics they’re interested in, so companies and groups can find people who fit their goals and whose goals they can fulfill in some way, even if just as a stepping stone.

An Ambition Vitae can also provide direction as to how such goals could be fulfilled – would a college degree work? Would it make more sense to travel instead? Work for now? Find a mentor? Study abroad? Who else has the same ambitions as you? How did they fulfill their goals.

Too many people are doing things and worrying about things just because “they have to”. I’ve already seen loads of secondary school kid stressing out over not getting an A because they think that lack of A will ruin their whole lives. There’s always a question on “what do I do with my life” over at Ask Metafilter. Ambition Vitaes – lists on paper, 43 Things accounts, full scrapbooks, whatever – show that what really matters in life is what you make of what life gives you for your own good. Not even the “lack of an A” can stop you from doing what you need to do, if you’re ambitious and passionate enough.

This gives me a great idea on how to expand and improve my portfolio – having a list of what I want to do as well as what I have done. How about you? How will an Ambition Vitae help you? Do you already have one? Do share your stories.

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8 Responses

  1. “Many colleges and universities (especially in the United States) require some sort of personal statement about yourself – often, it involves what you aim to learn and what you hope to get out of the experience.”

    In addition to this, UCAS(, the clearing body for all undergraduate university applications requires in their main application form for all applicants to fill a personal statement, as described above.
    Furthermore, from what I’ve gathered, the major British universities, such as Cambridge and Oxford examine the potential student holistically, extracurricular activities and grades, as well as conducting interviews.

    So yeah, the personal statement, goals and hopes- it’s everywhere in this day and age.

  2. Well there you go – another use for an Ambition Vitae.

  3. Yup. I concur. If my memory serves me right, it’s also a part of the current Visa Application Form that all applicants for a UK Student Visa have to fill. A very guided and simplified version though..

    I could be wrong about this though, either in memory or interpretation.

    It’s only a matter of time before an Ambition Vitae in some form becomes an indispensable part of our lives.

  4. It’s good to hear that the goals question appears on admissions forms in the academic sector internationally. In regard to the question, however, often times I think students get blind-sided by the question and havn’t put the amount of prequisite thinking into the question that would naturally be required for building an Ambition Vitae.

    Mass adoption of a similar, but vauge, notion is a good starting place for getting the business sector to adopt the goals question as a fundamental process and then pushing to evolve that into something more formalized.

  5. Have you seen/read this speech by Steve Jobs?

  6. The video/audio is on this page;

    I suggest you read the speech proper while listening to its audio version.

    In the video version, you could see the bored students trying to understand his speech, unable to make heads or tails of it.

    Oh well, birds of the same feather flock together. Only those with the same interest will appreciate what he is trying to say.

  7. Jemey – I have, actually. (I haven’t actually seen the video, owing to slow connections here, but I’ve read the transcript). I’ve saved it on my profile because I may do a post about it in the future.

    It’s kind of unfortunate that efforts like these to broaden people’s minds about things end up either being “preaching to the choir” or “talking to a brick wall”. There are times when that barrier is broken, but if you’ve been brought up all this while to believe in one way, and then you’re confronted with something totally different, it’s hard to shift mindsets.

    That’s part of the problem with trying to promote alternative education here in Malaysia. Too many people had “get-all-As-go-to-uni-get-a-job-because-you-have-to” drummed into their heads that “hey, there are other options” sounds like a foreign language.

  8. […] EducateDeviate » Ambition Vitae (tags: education ambition vitae Kyzen @) […]

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