15 Experts Reveal How Ambition, Audacity and Authenticity Contributed to Their Success

Success is a variable term. It could mean different things to different people. But regardless of what your definition of success is, I believe that three ingredients can contribute to it. Those ingredients are: Ambition, Audacity and Authenticity.

I decided to test this opinion, and see if successful people from different areas would agree. I asked these fifteen, amazing people one question:

How do you think that following three things have contributed to your success?




Their answers are inspiring. This is straight from the horse’s mouth. These people have achieved their definition of success, or at least a part of it (because for some of us, the journey is forever). They are recognized names in their fields. Each of them are an example of how you can achieve things that are so-not-average. Together, they make a hefty doze of inspiration.

So let’s see what they have to say:

Corbett Barr – Blogger Extraordinaire, and amazingly helpful person! He helps people build cool stuff online. He’s a founder of How to Start a Blog that Matters and Think Traffic.

These are such great ingredients Dolly! Ambition is what leads me to suspend disbelief long enough to try all the crazy ideas I’ve tried in my life. Audacity makes me bold enough to get through the ups and downs. Authenticity keeps me honest and is responsible for the best relationships in my life.


Robert J. Sawyer – Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction author of 22 books, including Flashforward, which made the hit TV show. His prolificness and imagination astounds me.

Ambition: There’s no doubt that I’m ambitious, but I also made sure to set reasonable goals. I’ll likely never be on The New York Times bestsellers’ list, but I have repeatedly had the top-selling science-fiction novel for the entire year in my native Canada; I’ll never win a mainstream or literary fiction award, but, according to the LOCUS Index to Science Fiction Awards, I’ve won more awards than anyone else in history as a science fiction or fantasy novelist. A writer needs to strive, but also needs to be realistic.

Audacity: When I was starting out in the 1980s, people told me that setting books in Canada was a mistake — you had to set them in the USA if you wanted an international audience, they insisted. I said “bull,” and set out to make my work flagrantly Canadian. It’s paid of with top-ten mainstream bestsellerdom in Canada, but also with my books having been translated into 20 languages worldwide, and with me recently having received an award for being the top selling foreign science-fiction writer in China. Don’t let anyone tell you NOT to be true to yourself; write about who you are.

Authenticity: In the mainstream press, “science fiction” is often used as a synonym for “crazy, far-out stuff.” But, actually, good science fiction is rigorously extrapolated from what we know into what plausibly might be. I work very hard to have accurate science and plausible predictions in my work — and, as result, not only do my readers trust me, but NASA and other organizations come to me for advice. It’s very, very gratifying, and one of the big pluses of the job.

Matthew Kimberley is Head of the Book Yourself Solid School of Coach Training and author of How To Get A Grip. His site is full of useful information.

Ambition is a poorly understood idea, often couched in terms of relentless climbing upwards to more and more and more. My take is that ambition is having a very clear idea of where you want to be, and keeping on the straight and narrow until you get  there. It’s OK to be a nurse — you don’t have to be a doctor. Ambition is healthy so long as it’s your ambition. Jumping through hoops held by other people will elad to spinal injuries. I stepped back from naked, literal ambition a few years ago, put my own clothes on, and I haven’t had a bad back since.

Audacity is another concept that has largely negative connotations – you normally hear it  tied alongside an echo of disbelief that somebody had the cojones to act inappropriately. having cojones is important. Having the nous to put yourself out there is important. It takes a certain arrogance to believe that people will be interested in what  you have to say. But a dose of arrogance, a slightly swollen set of balls and a temporary suspension of timidity will help your positioning and, frankly, allow you to have more fun. Give yourself permission to act. Others don’t have the right.

Authenticity goes hand-in-hand with credibility. Credibility leads to trust. Trust leads to relationships. Relationships lead to not having to  worry about being homeless. There’s nothing more important. You can say anything you like, but if it’s not real, it won’t resonate. Be yourself. You do it better than anybody else.

Pat Flynn is a blogger, podcast host, and multiple business owner. He’s also a super friendly guy. Check him out at Smart Passive Income.

All three of these words, together, describe the core principles that have  contributed to my success. Without desire, there’s no drive or motivation, without being bold there’s no way to stand out of the crowd and experiencing rapid growth, and without being authentic there’s no reason for people to trust me and my brand. All three are absolutely necessary and if even one of them were not present, success cannot be achieved – at least not for long-term.

Jeff Goins is an author, an award-winning blogger, and speaker who is passionate about helping people live and tell better stories. Find him at Goins Writer.  We can expect to see great things from Jeff.

Well, success is always relative. What’s one man’s success is another’s disgrace. That said, I think ambition is always an important part of doing something important. However, with that comes a lack of satisfaction. I like the idea of passion more than ambition. Ambitious people, it seems, are rarely happy; they always want more. However, passionate people do what they do, because they love it. I identify more with the latter category. As to why, passion is naturally attractive. Probably because it is so rare today.

In a world where the things we were certain of are now dwindling, it takes courage to lead. To be bold and speak with conviction is a lost art. Those who dare to do it will undoubtedly gain significant followings – as long as they don’t turn into jerks.

Perhaps what marks the Information Age most noticeably is a lack of trust: in advertising, mass marketing, and corporate brands. We don’t believe in “big” anymore. We only trust small. If you’re going to communicate in a way that matters, you’ll have to reach people with a message that is accessible, not over their heads. More than ever, we need to be looking for ways to dignify people, not commodify them.

James Clear is the founder of Passive Panda, a site about earning more money, more time, and more freedom. He also looks impressive with that microphone.

All three have been critical. In many ways, ambition and audacity drove me to branch out and work for myself in the first place. Without that first step, nothing else would be possible. You have to be willing to be bold, and ambition and audacity enable you to be bold. So both of those have been key.

Authenticity is also a critical component to anyone’s success … not just online. Obviously, trust follows authenticity, but I think there is more to it than that. On a personal level, doing something authentic is inspiring, motivating, and energizing. If you’re ever going to create something substantial or something that will stand the test of time, then you need to be authentic. You can’t fake enthusiasm … and you’ll also find it much harder to succeed without it. That’s why being authentic is so important.

I know it’s not on the list, but I would say consistency is the other component. Anyone can be authentic for a moment or ambitious and audacious for a day … but doing all three consistently is the real test.

C. S. Lakin is novelist and writing coach who spends her time divided between developing new book ideas and helping writers polish theirs. Find her on Twitter.

I love your choice of these three words. I so believe in authenticity and writing from your heart to tell a story that you feel passionate about. That drives us writers to succeed in a healthy way. So with Ambition, for me, it needs to be spurred on by a desire to reach readers and touch them—not solely to make a killing. And part of authenticity is being audacious—being daring to be a new, different, honest voice through writing. I always push the envelope, try new techniques even though they may not “sell” or will be criticized. But those who conform to existing models all for the sake of making a sale will lose that great joy of creativity that comes with being bold and daring in their writing.

Caleb Wojcik inspires cubicle renegades at Pocket Changed. He’s an assistant editor at Think Traffic. He’s also super helpful and a very nice guy.

Ambition is what keeps me going. If I didn’t think that the sky was the limit on what I am able to do, then I probably would have given up multiple times. My ambition is to reach my full potential.

Audacity to me is about being bold and overcoming your fears. I also used to just do what was safe and “smart”. Now I am willing to take the leap when the end goal is something I really want.

Authenticity is the only way that you should try to be successful online. You can trick people in the short-term by being fake, but if you really want to build something with long-term growth you need to be authentic.

Emily Gee is one of my favourite fantasy authors. I stumbled across her book on Amazon browsing session, and since then have become a fan. She is a very good writer, and a lovely person.

This is a tough question, Dolly, because I wouldn’t call myself either audacious or particularly ambitious! As a writer, I strive for authenticity in my Regency novels, to get that Regency flavour, just as I strive to make my fantasy worlds feel real. In place of Ambition and Audacity, I’ll substitute two other A words: Application and Apprenticeship. Getting published doesn’t happen overnight; it takes thousands of hours of application, of hard work. An apprenticeship, so to speak. And the end result of that application and long apprenticeship? Hopefully, a publishing contract!

Maneesh Sethi travels the world, looking for ways to Hack The System–to achieve goals by approaching them in unconventional ways. This guy lives by his own rules, and helps the world at the same time.

Ambition – I don’t think of it as ambition, but I want to be well regarded—a non remarkable life is a boring life.

Audacity – I don’t care what other people think so I do what I find to be awesome. Radical, audacious goal setting helps me achieve goals.

Authenticity – I am who I am, so I make videos to showcase my personality. People love it.

Gareth L. Powell is a science fiction author, and has written a series of non-fiction articles on science fiction. Gareth’s absolutely lovely to talk to, though we disagree about whether first drafts are easy or difficult. He’ll be a Guest of Honour at BristolCon 2012.

In order to keep writing in the face of rejection or indifference, you have to keep your eyes on your goal. You have to have an ambition, and let it drive you onward. You also need the audacity to actually submit pieces of writing to editors, and to promote your work — two activities which may not come naturally to a writer beset by self-doubt and a lack of confidence. You have to keep your focus on the prize, and have the nerve to reach for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But at the same time, you have to stay true to yourself. You can’t pretend to be something you’re not. The words you put down on the page have to come from deep within you; and the face you show the world has to be your own. If you try to put on an exaggerated act or persona, it will ring hollow. People will be able to tell. Instead, be the best version of yourself that you can be. Act professionally, with grace and tact.

Srinivas Rao is a blogger, podcaster, and freelance social media strategist. He loves riding the waves. Connect with him on Twitter.

Ambition: I’d say this has been a huge contributor to my success. It takes an incredible amount of self-motivation to grow a blog or online business. It means working on the days when you don’t feel like and when you can can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Audacity: I’m going have to steal some quotes from the guests that have been on my show. Erika Napoletano said “the middle of the road is where you get killed.” I think you have to take chances with your content. The most popular posts on my blog have been the ones where I’ve been willing to be audacious.

Authenticity: One of the cornerstones of my brand has been building relationships. I’m the same person offlline as I am online. If you meet me in person it won’t be like we’re meeting for the first time and thats’ what I consider authenticity.

Indu Sundaresan writes Historical Indian Fiction that makes the past come alive. The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses are two of the best Historical Fictions I’ve ever read. She transports you to the glorious past of the mughals.

Ambition:  Like most writers, I write to be read—I want my work to reach as many people as would be entertained/edified/made happy by it.  Perhaps the hardest part of the publishing process was finding the right agent to represent me; this was the first step and it took some five years and many, many rejection letters.  But, I did believe in my own work and persisted even despite the rejections.

Audacity:  The same answer as above!  When you first decide to write something, it’s difficult to visualize who will read it, and this is as it should be.  I wrote four novels (two before I wrote THE TWENTIETH WIFE and THE FEAST OF ROSES) before I seriously looked for representation.  I revised them extensively, I sat in critique groups, I took creative writing classes (after I wrote all the novels, not before) and I finally thought that THE TWENTIETH WIFE should be the book I first published.

Authenticity:  I write historical fiction.  In the very literal sense of this word, I try my best to keep to known historical facts and documents so as to tell a story that is rooted in history.  A lot of research goes into all my novels, and most of it doesn’t make it on the page—it lingers in the background and shapes the writing, the characters, the events and the plot.  I also put in an Afterword in most of my novels, pointing out what is fact and what fiction and why I made the choice to go one way or another.

Mary Jaksch is an authorized Zen master (Diamond Sangha lineage), psychotherapist, and author. She’s the operational captain at A-List Blogger Club where she makes all the newbies feel welcome.

Ambition is an interesting word. I must admit, it has rather unpleasant connotations. However, if ambition means having a dream, and feeling a fire in the belly to make the dream come true – then it’s a powerful force for creation. Ambition in this sense of the word has definitely contributed to my success. When I first talked to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits fame how we could create an insanely useful resource for bloggers, the A-List Blogger Club , it was just a dream. But today, with over 800 members, it is a reality. I think ambition can be a good thing, if it means that we want to develop our dreams and make them real. It has certainly helped me.

Audacity is a necessary ingredient for success. When I first started my blog Goodlife ZEN, quite a few of my fellow Zen teachers felt I shouldn’t create a blog. But I had the audacity to continue – and it has become a successful blog.

Authenticity means being true to who we are so that our thoughts and feelings are mirrored in our actions. Some bloggers try to fake it; they pretend to be someone other than who they are, or they hide their identity behind a pseudonym. In the long run, this doesn’t work. Readers only trust us if they know that we are real people, with real lives and real experiences. I think that authenticity has been the foundation of my success.

Jonathan Mead helps people kill their day job and get paid to be who they are. He’s a natural speaker, and an inspiration. His passion radiates through his words. Find him on Twitter.

Ambition for me means a will and hunger to move forward, to keep progressing. Sometimes it means biting off more than you can chew, but for me it always means adventure.

Audacity is about me having the courage to do something different than what everyone else is doing. It’s easy to fall in line and do what’s already been done. But it takes courage and audacity to go off the path and outside the lines.

Authenticity means not doing what I think I should do, but staying true to my values and deepest goals. If I try to create arbitrary or superficial goals, I’ll inevitably rebel and won’t make much progress. When my goals are rooted in authenticity, that’s what I find momentum, excitement and energy.

Get your journal out, and write down at least two answers for each area (Ambition, Audacity and Authenticity) that resonate with you, and inspired you. Read it daily for a week or so, and think about how you can incorporate it in your life.


40 thoughts on “15 Experts Reveal How Ambition, Audacity and Authenticity Contributed to Their Success

  1. A truly inspiring list Dolly – and interesting variety in the answers! I like Matthew Kimberley’s take on ambition. What about you Dolly – so far, how have these three things contributed to your life’s successes?

  2. A totally unique group of people Dolly!!

    So much great advice and inspiration. I think the part the stood out most for me was Maneesh’s comment ” I am who I am”

    If we all focus on that we could easily practice authencity every day.

  3. Absolutely brilliant Dolly. I love your three words and the different perspective son them in this article. There’s someone here for everyone to identify with.


  4. What a great roundup Dolly! Fascinating to read the different takes on these three words from novelists, bloggers and powerhouse entrepreneurs. I definitely think the three A’s have to play into a life of success. Of the three, ambition is the one that has the most negative connotation. But it doesn’t have to be a negative thing at all! I see it as visualizing what you can achieve and going for it. But I think a lot of people hear the word ‘ambition’ and think it’s all about money and power. time to change that thinking maybe!

  5. Stefanie, I see you’ve put me on spot there :-)

    Ambition has allowed me to dream bigs, even when people tell me that things I want are “unrealistic” I have never shied away from facing what I want. Audacity gives me the courage to stand up against the world when need be. It also gives me the cheek to ask for whatever I want, with a philosophy that the worst that can happen is a “no”. Authenticity feeds the other two – because I’m ALWAYS myself, and so I’m always comfortable in my skin. I stay true to myself and that means I know who my friends are, and the other people who would prefer if I behaved differently.

  6. Lori, absolutely true. If the whole world was authentic, such a huge difference it would make.

    I love the mix of people who are in this post :-) It’s been inspiring reading their answers.

  7. Jonathan,

    Thank you!! It’s absolutely pleasure that you visited the site and took the time to comment. Not to mention your contribution in the first place. Trailblazer has a lot to do with this blog :-) and I appreciate what you are doing there.

    So thanks for being such a huge inspiration.

  8. Brian,

    Thanks. That was the idea that success is so different for different people, and what one person calls a dream, another person calls ambition. But when we go right down to it, we are all driven by a desire to achieve.

  9. Sarah,

    Absolutely. It’s a shame that ambition has negative connotation (I’ve got a post coming on that ;) As far as I’m concerned, ambition is a good thing, and no different from dreams that you want to achieve. It’s nothing to do with money or power. It’s about success on your own terms. So someone could have an ambition to be a great parent, or grow the best vegetable or earn 5 million pounds. It’s all applicable, depending on what it means to the person.

  10. Maneesh,

    Thank you for participating. I’m awed by all that you’ve accomplished, and it’s been amazing having your answers included here too.

  11. What a fabulous blog, Dolly, and what interesting and inspiring quotes from such a varied bunch of people! Thanks so much for inviting me to participate.

    Congrats on the launch of Kaizen Journeling!

  12. I love this!! Your site looks phenomenal, and these words are so inspirational. Looking forward to reading more!

  13. Amazing blogging wisdom in aggregate. Wonderful post – and a great way to find new bloggers! I’m excited to start reading the work of a few people on here I haven’t seen before.

  14. Awesome beginning here, Dolly, with an amazing list of ambitious, audacious and authentic and inspiring people!

    Well done. I like the action you can take today too. Must do!

  15. Caelan (what a cool name! My favourite laptop is called Caelic)

    Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, and absolutely right about “wisdom in aggregate”

  16. Dolly, what a fantastic post! I really enjoyed reading the expert answers based around your tagline (which I LOVE, by the way!) Keep it up :)

  17. Kaylee,

    All the experts did provide fantastic answers, and it’s such a great group of people that I’m honoured to have their participation. Glad that you like the tag line :-) It was a torture, until it clicked!

  18. I’d never have expected for NASA to consult a writer!

    It is very nice to see that we don’t have to hide who we are, because of our own or others’ thoughts as to how we should portray ourselves. Just be true to yourself, be authentic, and as Maneesh said, people will love you because of it.

  19. Indrek,

    A lot of people underestimate writers. (Not saying you do :-) But simple fact is, as Robert J. Sawyer said, that most good writers put in a lot of time, effort and passion into learning their crafts. They are more diligent about their fictional worlds than most people are about their real worlds, and with that sort of dedication expertise is inevitable.

    Authenticity is absolutely a must. You can have success without it – but it’s more likely to be shallow success. You might have money. You might even have fame. But you are unlikely to have contentment, without which the first two wouldn’t be of much use.

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