What to do When Both Partners Don’t Have the Same Level of Ambition

Aaron Walker
Aug 15, 2017

Partnership is a very important thing.


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Both in business and in life, partnership plays an essential role in making you more successful than you ever could be on your own. If your spouse or your business partner isn’t bringing out the best of you, you won’t be able to reach your full potential.

As entrepreneurs, most of us have high levels of ambition. As I’ve written in some of my recent blogs, ambition can be a positive or negative thing depending on how it’s channeled. It can be tricky to find that balance between using ambition as fuel, and also tempering it so that it doesn’t become destructive. My mastermind groups are reading the book Ambition: Leading with Gratitude to gain a deeper understanding of how to maximize our ambition for positive things and stay clear of the dangerous side.

One of the things we’ve discussed is what to do when both partners don’t have the same level of ambition. In life, this would be your spouse. In the business world, it would be your business partners. In both cases, it can be frustrating to each individual that the other person always seems to be on the other side of ambition.

You might notice that your wife doesn’t always seem to have the same ambition on which you thrive. There may be times that you think she is too cautious when you’re ready to plunge ahead with a new endeavour. While this can be frustrating at the time, it can also be a very good thing. Your ambition may lead her to take risks she wouldn’t have been comfortable taking without your leadership, and her caution may save you from making a big mistake before thinking it through.

Just because your wife might not seem as excited as you are about each enterprise adventure that you dive into, it doesn’t mean that she isn’t willing to follow your leadership and patiently trust you as your ambition drives you forward.

I suggest that you have an open discussion with your spouse about ambition. Ask your wife how she feels about new ideas. Tell her that you know you’re in this together, and that you appreciate her council. One of the best ways to have an open discussion about a subject as complicated as ambition is to go into it making sure your spouse knows you appreciate her.

As ambitious people, we spend a lot of time focusing on work. How much time are you focusing on your wife? I created this 101 random acts of kindness template with a section specifically for honoring your spouse. I commit these acts on a regular basis to show my wife that I truly love her and appreciate her, and doing these little things with consistency has helped our marriage to thrive.

When the subject of ambition comes up in business, there is great opportunity for achieving balance. You might be met with resistance by business partners or board members when you are eager to accelerate your business. Whether it’s a new market, a new product, or a new business altogether, your ambition can blind you to red flags and potential snares to your plan. It happens to the best of us. Although their reservations may seem like an obstacle at the time, a great way to make sure you save yourself from the dangers of being too ambitious is to have a trusted group of advisors.

Another way to maximize your ambition is to have a business partner whose strengths and weaknesses are different than yours. Nearly all of the great American corporations were founded by business partners who shared a similar vision, but had different strengths and weaknesses. Three examples are Paul Allen and Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, and Roy and Walt Disney. In these cases, one partner was full of ambition and the drive to do more, and the other partner was focused on making wise business decisions. With endless ideas and innovations accompanied by shrewd business maneuvers, these partners were able to find an excellent balance between ambition and caution, and made their mark on history with phenomenal corporate achievements.

Seth Buechley talks about the importance of having a team of leaders with strengths and weaknesses that complement one another in Ambition: Leading with Gratitude. He says, “No matter how talented we are in one area, nobody gets all the gifts. Grateful leaders know their own strengths while learning how to appreciate, attract, and work with people who have completely different strengths.”

Are you using your strengths to complement your partner's’ strengths? Are your weaknesses protected by the strengths of your partner? Have a discussion with your wife and your business partners about ambition. Dig deeper into where each of your strengths lie and use that discovery to form a system which draws out each strength in an environment where they can complement each other. When you do this intentionally, you will be able to channel your ambition better than ever before.


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