Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms – Shellye Archambeau and Ben Horowitz Book Summary

Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms – Shellye Archambeau and Ben Horowitz | Free Book Summary

Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms – Shellye Archambeau and Ben Horowitz

This 2020 book provides powerful advice on how to take risks, break barriers, and create success on your own terms. The book provides real-world examples and actionable advice on topics such as networking, setting goals, and taking risks. It also provides an inspirational look into Archambeau’s own career journey, and provides readers with the necessary tools and knowledge to build a successful career.

Foster self-determination

Self-assurance is the ability to say yes to yourself when most people around you are saying no. It’s the power of believing in your own ability to make choices about your life—and not just to make choices, but to make them responsibly.

Subscribe to Miniwise Newsletter (Free!)

Miniwise newsletter brings you one great bite-sized idea every day, curated from world's best non-fiction books, articles, podcasts..and more. An entire new world in just 5 minutes!


We become self-determined people when we are fulfilled in three psychological areas: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Competence is the ability to handle yourself; autonomy is the sense that you can make your own choices and look out for your interests; and relatedness means feeling like you fit in.

Research shows that if you don’t have all three, you’ll be more likely to struggle or withdraw from challenges. But if you do manage to strengthen all of them, you will be prepared to not only set wise life goals, but to reach them as well.

Free book, podcast summaries

So take a look at your own life. What could you do to develop your competence, autonomy, and relatedness? Even small steps can make a big difference.

Don’t balance work and family—integrate them

Many people think that managing both a career and family is a balancing act, but the idea of balance is not only misleading—it’s unattainable. Balance implies a perfect, fixed equilibrium, one with an equal divide between work and life.

But juggling all our responsibilities is a far messier, more dynamic process. So instead of attempting to meet the false ideal of balance, aim for work-life integration.

You can have everything you want—but not necessarily all at the same time

An intergrated life plan

Creating an integrated life plan means just what it sounds like: Your life plan should honor all parts of yourself.

So consider: What parts of your identity are most important to you? What values do you want to put into action? I firmly believe that, if you’re willing to do the work, you can have everything you want—but not necessarily all at the same time. And that’s okay—life is a series of different phases. As a young mother, I did not travel much or go to fancy restaurants, but I had a successful career and a healthy family.

Once my kids left the nest, I enjoyed traveling with my husband, having new experiences, and broadening my career. This is how an effective life plan works: It has room for everything, just not all at once.

Build your reputation

From the halls of middle school to company board rooms, reputation matters, as it represents the way others look at us and think about us. And for better or worse, it can play an outsized role in future opportunities. While we can influence our reputation with our actions, we can’t fully control it—so the key is to be intentional and think through how our actions impact others’ perceptions.

Building your reputation may start with first impressions—i.e. dressing professionally—but it is quickly followed by strong performance and sharing your successes in an effective way. The key thing to remember is that simply doing great work is not enough to establish your reputation—people won’t know what you’ve done unless you tell them.

The more you do, the less you get paid.

You can do it all—but you shouldn’t.

There’s a school of thought that each of us should figure out what our strengths and weaknesses are, and then we should strengthen the weaknesses. To me, this makes no sense. I say you ought to strengthen your strengths, because that’s how you become most valuable to your team.

Yet I know many successful professional women who still believe that they have to know how to do everything and do it well. A woman might berate herself for lacking a seemingly basic skill, like knowing how to format a document, while a man will readily hand such a task over to a junior employee.

In short, women tend to believe we are cheating if we accept help, or inadequate if we can’t seamlessly transition among a wide variety of tasks.

Broadcast your intentions! You never know who is listening, or who might have a connection.

Tell people what you want

There’s some conventional wisdom in the professional world about why women don’t get promoted. It more or less boils down to “women don’t ask for what they want.”

The reality, however, is much more complex. In 2016, the Women in the Workplace study found that women do ask for what they want—a big change since the early years of my own career. This is positive progress, but there’s a catch: Women who negotiate are 30 percent more likely than men to be told they are too “aggressive,” “bossy,” or “intimidating.”

Moreover, women receive less informal feedback from their supervisors, which suggests a communication disconnect, not to mention a paradox: Women are told, simultaneously, to ask for what we want and to stop pushing.

Get the book!

Sign Up for nextbigwhat newsletter

The smartest newsletter, partly written by AI.

Download Pluggd.in, the short news app for busy professionals