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On ambition, lack of direction (at the time) and learning to find my feet.
When I was 15, all I wanted in life was to have a happy life, the magic ability to cook and to be a vet so I could see bunny rabbits all the time. Standard. Achievable. Random? I also wanted to and thought I could have all of this immediately - as soon as I left school - and when I shared this thought with my parents, they laughed. They waited patiently for my older and much wiser cousin to visit and sat me down with her.

Then I realised what aspiration, ambition and reality was. My cousin Natalie is effortlessly cool. She drives a BMW, she's an actress, she worked tirelessly to reach her goal, she has a UK degree and a HK degree, she wore the BEST Chanel ankle boots that evening and what's more? She did it all herself.

"I want what she has" immediately escaped my lips. I saw everything she had and knew that with figurative elbow grease, realistic ambition and hard work, I could have everything I wanted - and more. I think the phrase "I want what she has" is equally awkward and distasteful, but crazy and ambitious. Like, you can't just expect to be handed what you wanted at any given time.

Today I think I credit a lot of what I have and what I've worked for to Natalie. Without her, I'd probably still be a darn naive, impressionable and lesser-focused person. Having her as my role model at the time helped me to realise that there were tiny steps I could take - just like her - to becoming who I wanted to be. I wanted to be effortlessly cool like her so I asked her what she was doing at my age. Right after that evening with my cousin, I dug out a notebook and wrote myself a 10 year plan.

  • Finish school and get good grades. (Note: I still didn't understand the concept of University at this point.)
  • Save up money until I'm 25. (Anyone else once imagine that 25 was the benchmark for being an established human?)
  • Sell articles and novels to magazines, websites and publishers.
  • Buy Chanel ankle boots and wear red lipstick.
  • Have my own apartment with an L-shaped leather sofa and a side table in the entrance hall.
  • Be able to drive.

The "I want what she has" mantra is part bratty but part catalyst-for-ambition. Did you ever meet someone who inspired you to be more than you could ever imagine at the time? Share it with me in the comments or by email!

31 comments

  1. Such a good post. I neve had an older role model to look up to, except celebrities and successful people from movies. So I guess that's where I learned about university and the how to become successful and do what you want. I also remember wanting to be a vet when I was young :)

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  2. Lovely post Michelle! I went to a performing arts school and watched a lot of friends get very famous quickly through their amazing talents, I guess from that I thought that raw talent/being good at something = success. Now i've learnt that its a lot of very hard work too!
    I had to write a 'personal' 10 year plan at a job when I was 18, I wanted to learn how to drive by 19, have a mortgage and two cats by 25 and be married at 27 lol! x


    SophiesMakeupBlog

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  3. This is such a great post! … Being the eldest sister (and
    the eldest female out of all my cousins) I never really had that role model, I
    felt like I had to be the one to set the example! …Totally wish that I had had an
    older cousin with a BMW & Chanel boots!



    Hayley xo | Sailor
    Stories

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  4. I love this post! You write so beautifully. I've never had a huge role model, my mum always let me try out whatever I wanted at that time, so when I chose to do scriptwriting at uni she said give it a go, and when I dropped out because it wasn't for me, she was fine with that.

    Now, I guess it's fellow beauty bloggers who work on their blog as a full time job. I would love that but I know how hard it is to get there!

    http://thebravestindividual.blogspot.co.uk

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  5. Ohh Michelle, I love your food for thought posts. Having drive is so important, my parents never pushed me when i younger (which is kinda strange for asian parents, but there you go!) so i kind of looked else where to build on my aspirations. I am so grateful to what I have achieve now and try not to have the 'it's not fair' attitude because everyone has the same opportunities to make what they want out of their lives :)

    Hanh x | hanhabelle

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  6. Hm, I can't think of any role models but I've always set lofty goals for myself, haha. Goals are important but what I've realised is that you shouldn't be too hard on yourself... I always end up focusing too much on the gap between where I am now and where I want to be, and forgetting to give myself credit for what I've already achieved.

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  7. i loved this post! i definitely agree with setting 25 as an age to have 'everything in order' and my life 'sorted out' by then, i'm hoping it goes to plan but who knows?

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  8. For me, my drive has always come from wanting nice things, whether that is a nice place to live or the ability to go out for dinner (or similar). I think I can definitely be too hard on myself, but I haven't done badly for a 24 year old!


    Maria xxx

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  9. I love this Michelle! 'I want what she has' can definitely be a dangerous phrase when applied to things we can't change about ourselves like our background or appearance but in terms of using someone as our role model and inspiration to work hard and achieve, it's a great thing! My mama is my 'IWWSH' aspiration, she's a very successful career woman, always beautifully dressed, never out of heels and just exudes a sort of calm power that I adore in her, yet she's also a snuggly nurturing mama bear who'll fret we aren't wearing enough layers in winter. She is proof that all hardship can be used to your advantage and grit, willpower and a good attitude will get you further than any lucky break or family connection will.

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  10. Wow, thanks Marie! As the eldest of three siblings I didn't really one growing up until I had this almighty sit down with my cousin. And actually now that I've written this up, I realise that success is all about the little things that contribute to feeling happy and content, no matter how big or small.

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  11. Thank you Sophie! Ah I can imagine that being amazing. Success is a mixture of things isn't it? I think success to me at the moment is reaching goals (no matter how small) that contribute to your overall happiness. Haha oh gosh, to have a mortgage eh? ;)

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  12. Aw thank you Hayley!! I'm the eldest sibling of three so I didn't have that role model either - my older cousins all live in Hong Kong and Malaysia, including the one I mentioned in this post. Don't we all wish eh Hayley? ;)

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  13. Woweee, thank you SO much Emma!


    I'm quite thankful that my Mum both let me do what I wanted as well as brought me back to reality with my career aspirations. It's quite ironic that she 'let' me follow the risky path of pursuing fashion writing and now I've managed to land myself a dream job!

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  14. Thank you Hanh!! They're my favourite to write, even if it IS super nerve-racking when my finger hovers over the publish button. My parents pushed me to be the best that I could be but never explicitly told me to be a lawyer/doctor/accountant. In fact they have always been supportive (but realistic) with my dreams and aspirations. It's important to have an open mind and not have the 'it's not fair' attitude for sure!

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  15. I like to set a huge range of goals for myself, including 'get out of bed' and 'have a novel published' ;) The balance of wanting, having and reaching for is so important, right?

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  16. Thank you Mel! Ah don't you worry - I am still the same in-between my main goals!

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  17. Thanks Amelia! Haha I am actually now closer to that goal than I thought I would be - let's all keep our fingers crossed and keep dreaming those dreams, right?

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  18. Love love this comment Maria! That's such a good mindset towards little goals. I think I can be quite hard on myself too, but we're both still so young, there's plenty of room for trial and error!

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  19. Wow thanks Bella! Too sweet!


    Yes definitely - it's both dangerous but crazy and ambitious at the same time. I've personally used it as a benchmark of 'hey, my cousin is a real person, if she can do it, why can't I?' Your Mama sounds incredible, what an inspiration!!

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  20. I love this post. You're a great writer.

    I think looking up to someone is great especially when they're a good role model.

    I have my own apartment with a leather L shaped couch so I feel a little accomplished now. :)

    www.kindoflovely.com

    POLAROID INSTAX MINI GIVEAWAY

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  21. I've never experienced this kind of drive & I have always put it down to the fact that I have always been surrounded by people who don't either. I've never met somebody who has inspired me to the point where I wanted to work hard for what I want. I don't even know what I want & I'm nearly 27. But thats why I agree with your post 100%. In saying that, I am very happy with my life but I sometimes look back & wonder what could have been if I had had some sort of plan or drive to be something.

    Melanie | Melaniface

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  22. Wow thank you Meg - that's incredibly kind of you to say. It's always good to have a figure to look up to, whether they're related to you or not. Oh my, I'm super jealous of you right now! L-shaped sofas are STILL in my dreams ;)

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  23. It's really interesting to see how individual journeys develop actually. I find I lacked drive until I saw my cousin as above, but then it would climax and drop as I met other people in my life. To be honest I still don't know what I want either, I'm just happy doing smaller things around whichever 'main goal' there is to come. Like getting that sofa and the damn Chanel boots. ;)

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  24. What a great post to start my day with! I think everyone imagines themselves living the life they've always. The phrase "I want what she has" struck such a chord with me. Personally, I don't have a particular role model, but as an avid day dreamer, I've always imagined the person I want to be. The cool, sophisticated woman, who is equally creative as she is witty. This version of myself is who I aspire to be and the reason I push myself everyday in everything I do.


    You're a fantastic writer/blogger. I love reading your posts!!

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  25. Wow thanks lovely - so kind of you. I'm a huge daydreamer as well and am constantly thinking of things I want or could be. I think that phrase is equally driving and ambitious as it is slightly crazy, hence why I HAD to write a post on it all!

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  26. My dad definitely inspires me to become what i want to become. He went from having no money living on a council estate to providing for his whole family and taking us on amazing holiday's each year. I'm so grateful to have someone in my life who encourages me, not to want what someone else has, but to get what i want for myself.

    http://www.abigailalicex.com

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  27. i love this post. i think that comparison CAN be the thief of joy, but if you compare yourself positively to someone who inspires you and you picture the steps and leaps you want to make to get closer to the life you want, it can be a great fuel to propel you. as long as you don't mistake what someone has for something you want, just because it's theirs and not yours - that's detrimental! sportsmen always say that it's because of their rivals who worked hard and got better results that they could improve and push themselves - it's a bit like that, i think. x

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  28. That's such a lovely sentiment Abigail. I think it's really important to have that sense of encouragement as opposed to self-entitlement.

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  29. Loved reading this comment Miho!


    It's a bit of a 50/50 situation like I noted - it's great to kick-start aspiration and realise what you want, but also detrimental and a bit crazy to go after what someone else has, all the time.

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  30. I've never really had anybody in my life who I have had to really inspire me in terms of doing well in a career. In a way the things that have inspired me is coming from a relatively poor background and wanting to do well as I know what it is like to struggle and worry about bills etc. Luckily that was a long time ago however you never quite forget what it is like, I guess it makes you more greatful for what you have when you've had less in the past if that makes sense.


    One day I'd like something from Chanel, a bag maybe? Best get saving haha!! I really liked this post Michelle, I think we all should have someone to inspire us.


    Amy x

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  31. Thanks for your comment Amy! It definitely makes you more grateful for what you have. I think I'm aiming more towards a particular lifestyle than material possessions nowadays which is good.

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