Danika Johnston (second from right) of fashion label Style Cantina, with co-founder Michelle Thomas (centre), on how setting ambitious goals led to start-up success
With a record number of women elected to the US Congress and glass ceilings shattering all over the corporate world it would be reasonable to think that women are now out and proud about their ambition. But a surprising new study has found that both sexes still have some way to go in following and owning their aspirations.
The CGU Ambition Index found that 68 per cent of respondents believe Australians have a culture of negativity around ambition and 44 per cent worry too much about failure to act on their ambition. A startling seven in ten won't even talk about their success for fear of being labelled a "bragger". It seems the tall poppy syndrome is alive and well.
But while some may not be out and proud about it, 75 per cent of those surveyed did say they were ambitious and 70 per cent agreed that it is something that you learn, rather than inherit.
We asked Style Cantina co-founder and director Danika Johnston for her take on this vexed subject.
88 per cent of people want to be more ambitious, according to the study. What does ambition mean to you?
Danika: It means demonstrating the brevity to work hard and create your own success, whatever that looks like. To be brave and take risks, lots of them and never be afraid of failure - you learn so much from the failings. Don't talk about it, do it.
75 per cent say they're ambitious, but only 6 per cent agree it's their greatest asset. Would you admit to being ambitious?
Danika: Absolutely! Ambition in others is contagious, we [co-founder Michelle Thomas] draw inspiration from ambitious and driven people. Ambition is a key ingredient to being successful, it sharpens you and allows you to focus on the big picture.
48 per cent of women say they worry too much about failure to chase their dreams. How do you encourage other women?
Danika: Shout it out! We are continually promoting the idea of being courageous and strong-willed and ambitious to our customers, friends, families, networks. People ask: 'Why did you leave your comfortable and successful careers to do your own thing?' And our answer is always: 'We loved the idea of creating our own success and building a successful business from the ground up.' We also lead by example, being ambitious prompts you to work hard and hard work creates success. We live and breathe this notion.
7 in 10 have hidden their ambition for fear of being labelled a bragger. Have you?
Danika:Sadly, yes. In our younger years in media careers, we have both failed to put our hands up for job promotions because we didn't think we were ready yet. We think this happens a lot with young women. But sadly, 99 per cent of the time you probably are. The only person holding you back is generally yourself.
27 per cent say they won't make sacrifices to realise their ambition. How can you relate with the notion of putting your ambitions first?
Danika: Oh wow, where do we start?! Financial stability is the big one; starting a business is a big and expensive risk. You go from a well-paid job to then pouring all of your own money into your dream. You have to re-wire yourself to be ok with this change as it affects everything - personal and family finances. Perseverance and a solid strategic financial plan are paramount to manage this.
*CGU Insurance has been backing ambitious Aussies for over 165 years. Visit cgu.com.au to find out how we can back you.