Return on Ambition Book Summary - Return on Ambition Book explained in key points
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Return on Ambition summary

Nicolai Chen Nielsen and Nicolai Tillisch

A Radical Approach to Your Achievement, Growth, and Well-Being

4.4 (307 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

Return on Ambition by Nicolai Chen Nielsen and Nicolai Tillisch guides readers on the path to success, offering insights on exercising ambition and leadership at work while achieving inner fulfillment.

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    Return on Ambition
    Summary of 6 key ideas

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    Understand the nature of your ambition so you know what you’re trying to achieve.

    How do you define your ambition? Sure, it’s what drives you to work hard and achieve, but achieve what exactly? 

    As you consider your goals, keep in mind that ambition is kind of like money – not inherently evil, but rather, a means to an end. And in the same way that irresponsible spending can lead to ruin, wrongly channeled ambition, like spending too much time in the office, can lead to dire consequences for your personal life and your health.

    Which is why it’s important to outline the premise of your ambition – that is, clarify exactly what you want to achieve and how you’ll go about doing that. Because if you don’t know what you want and there’s no end goal, how can you ever expect to feel fulfilled?

    The key message here is: Understand the nature of your ambition so you know what you’re trying to achieve. 

    Getting specific about the nature of your ambition will help you pinpoint the size of your aspirations, the intensity with which you need to achieve them, and the direction you want your life to go.

    Some people define their goals with mind-boggling specificity. For instance, Jacinda Ardern pursued her ambition with a laser-like focus from the time she joined the Labour Party at age 17 until she became prime minister of New Zealand. Others pursue their dreams with no set goals in mind. Like Trevor Noah, who navigated a meandering career path. He was fixing computers before he became a comedian and, eventually, the host of The Daily Show.

    Consider the size of your ambition and the priority it takes in your life. How far do you want to go from where you’re at right now? Do you want to be like the chef Jamie Oliver, who makes sure to leave space in his life for family? Or do you want to be more like Rihanna, who’s spent the past 14 years repeatedly outdoing herself?

    Whether you want to follow a prelaid path or carve out your own, keep in mind that the higher your ambition, the harder it’ll be to feel fulfilled. That’s because a very high ambition requires a greater return. For instance, if you’re trying to build the next Facebook, even a million new users will seem paltry when compared to your goal. Which is all to say, it’s best to start with realistic ambitions.

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    What is Return on Ambition about?

    Return on Ambition (2021) is a sensible and pragmatic guide for attaining success and achieving your goals. Based on the habits and strategies employed by high-performing and notable people, it gives insights that you can immediately apply to your own life.

    Return on Ambition Review

    Return on Ambition (2019) offers valuable insights into achieving professional success while maintaining personal fulfillment. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its practical strategies and actionable advice, it provides readers with a roadmap to reach their career goals without sacrificing happiness.
    • By combining personal experiences and interviews with successful individuals, the book offers relatable stories that inspire and motivate readers.
    • The book's emphasis on finding meaning and purpose in one's work distinguishes it from other career guidebooks, making it a compelling and refreshing read.

    Who should read Return on Ambition?

    • Ambitious types looking to get an edge
    • Plateaued professionals looking to break through to the next level
    • Anyone looking to optimize their workflow

    About the Author

    Nicolai Chen Nielsen is a thought leader on personal development, an associate partner at McKinsey & Company, and an alumnus of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community.

    Nicolai Tillisch is a cofounder of Deliberate Development and has previously worked with Cultivating Leadership and DDB Worldwide.

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    Return on Ambition FAQs 

    What is the main message of Return on Ambition?

    Ambition is the key to unlocking success and fulfillment in life.

    How long does it take to read Return on Ambition?

    Return on Ambition can be read in just a few hours. The Blinkist summary takes approximately 15 minutes to read.

    Is Return on Ambition a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Return on Ambition is worth reading because it provides valuable insights and strategies for achieving your goals and living a fulfilling life.

    Who is the author of Return on Ambition?

    The authors of Return on Ambition are Nicolai Chen Nielsen and Nicolai Tillisch.

    What to read after Return on Ambition?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Return on Ambition, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard
    • I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was by Barbara Sher with Barbara Smith
    • The Motivation Code by Todd Henry with Ron Penner
    • Born to Win by Zig Ziglar with Tom Ziglar
    • One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer
    • How to be F*cking Awesome by Dan Meredith