ASH AMBIRGE

Author, CEO & Founder

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25 Things I Stopped Doing This Year (Because, Money, Sex and Sanity, Ya’ll)

In: Finding Your Voice

  1. Responding to non-essential text messages during work hours.
    I love my friends, but let’s be honest: this is the digital equivalent of twenty people popping in to your house unannounced all. day. long. We don’t need another productivity hack: we need to turn off the damn phone. It’s physically, mentally and emotionally impossible to get anything done when you’re constantly being distracted—even if it is fun. But that's precisely the problem: socializing 24/7 has been normalized. If someone asked you to hang out at 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm and again at 7pm, would you? No, you have sh*t to do.
  2. Writing off passive aggressive behavior as: “They’re probably going through something.
    Nawwwwwwww. That one doesn’t get a pass, anymore.
  3. Minimizing my achievements so you didn’t think that I thought I was more important than you. 
    I used to have this recurring image in my head, that anytime I’d walk away from a conversation in which I shared positive sentiments, they’d immediately roll their eyes and think, “must be nice, bitch.” So in order to avoid triggering that reaction in people, I’d completely shrink in every conversation. Nothing was a big deal. Everything was luck. I downplayed my own accomplishments and made them seem incidental, in the name of not bragging.
  4. Being comfortable with not having any problems. 
    This one works in tandem with the point above. Before, when people would see me doing well, I’d immediately downplay my own success and start talking about all of the headaches involved. Honestly? I’m positive I even created some headaches, subconsciously, as a way to feel less guilty. Having something to complain about kept me connected to other people. I didn’t want to be an unrelatable a-hole who has this perfect life. Also, what do we talk about if not our struggles? Struggling was what I knew.
  5. Not traveling as much as I used to because I was trying to “ be grounded” / “settled down” / a “good wife.” 
    So for the record I’m not married, but I am in a committed relationship, and for a lot of women that means morphing themselves into an all-new version of themselves—a pattern that, frankly, causes me much concern. So when I started to notice myself pushing pause on my travel plans, usually because hubby couldn’t go, too, I had to stop and reflect. I can be my own person, too, and still be a part of someone else. So this year, I spent the summer in London, by myself, and just returned from a six week solo trip to the USA. Not because anything’s wrong, but because it’s actually more right than ever.
  6. My signature service.
    I say this with a touch of bittersweet. Copywriting was the OG—original gangster—service that formed the foundation of my business, and something I really enjoy. It’s something I’ve hung onto for the last ten years, quietly taking on select private clients even after I had grown the business past the point of capacity. I hung onto it, in part, to keep my skillset sharp, and in part, because I had some phenomenal longstanding clients whose businesses I really cared about. But there comes a time when you have to be honest about which activities are helping your business—and which ones are actually harming it. It’s entirely possible to be booked solid and still be doing your business a disservice. If the ROI doesn’t make sense, then you’re actually putting your business in harm’s way—and you gotta let it go. Nostalgia doesn’t pay the bills, yo.
  7. Overextending generosity. 
    With friends, with employees, with clients, with the cashier at the grocery store—whoever. I’ve historically been excellent at making excuses for everyone else: why they’re acting distant, why they’re underperforming, why they’re being insufferable. Sometimes, the “why” just ain’t your problem—the facts are.
  8. Keeping quiet about politics. 
    If you read this post, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say that I know—and care about—people of all walks. Even casual relationships are more important to me, I suspect, than for most people. I haven’t wanted to alienate anyone, in the past, but you know what I discovered? Staying neutral only alienates me from myself.
  9. Playing down my vanity so I’d be taken more seriously. 
    A lot of this stemmed from the years I spent in litigation fighting for a piece of intellectual property; you begin to see everything through the lens of an outside authority who is, in every way imaginable, judging you. You worry that even Instagram seems vain-glorious; even lipstick seems shallow. I had a hard time letting myself be both a woman and a professional. (An unexpected discovery that makes a lot of uncomfortable statements in and of itself.)
  10. Declining to drink socially when other people are. 
    A big part of my identity has always been being the fun friend who’s up for anything. Oftentimes, however, the expectations that come along with that identity include a lot of, well, BOOZE. There are happy hours, and there are the birthday celebrations, and there are the visits back home, and there are the adventures abroad; it seems like there’s always another reason for a glass of wine to appear in your hand. And as much as I adore a vintage Bordeaux, I also adore getting a great night’s sleep and waking up at 5am ready to kill it. Alas? Water. Because guess what? You can drink that at the bar, too.
  11. Doing anything without a clear ROI attached.
    There are plenty of things that would be nice. As a creative with a creative team of people, there’s always another fun and thoughtful idea. Christmas cards! Community hardship funds! Pop-up shops! This year, however, my team has had to answer the question, “what’s the ROI?” more than they would have liked. Even with existing experimental offerings, I’ve made sure we're always actively analyzing the cost benefit. There has to be a *financial* reason for the things we do, and I don’t feel uncomfortable saying so.
  12. Forcing strained friendships. 
    I think we outgrow a lot of people, over the course of our lives, but we keep forcing it, and forcing it, and forcing it, because letting go threatens the very foundation of who we are. Because so and so has been a part of the fabric of your life for so long, you just go with it—even if it’s an artificial, strained experience every time you interact. I’m all for making things feel light ’n easy, these days, because more effort does not always mean more value. Sometimes hard is just hard—and that’s a clue.
  13. Trying to adapt my wardrobe to make other people comfortable.
    This was a weird habit I used to have: I would wear sweaters when I’d be visiting family-minded friends, and tee-shirts when I’d visit sporty-minded friends, and high-heels when I’d visit fashionista-minded friends. It was less about being liked, however, and more about making the other person feel comfortable in my presence. Fortunately for my own sanity, it’s take me or leave me, nowadays. (YES, I’M WEARING TEN STRANDS OF PEARLS TO THE SOCCER GAME—KISS IT.)
  14. Falling prey to ego.
    It’s easy to want a million followers—and it’s also easy to let that distract you from what matters in business. You don’t want subscribers: you want customers. It’s a subtle difference, but a critical one.
  15. Salt.
    Because me and salt were having an extramarital affair.
  16. Neglecting my own priorities.
    AKA I’m now taking French class online, every day, via Rosetta Stone—and IT IS THE MOST FULFILLING THING.
  17. Denying my own authority. 
    This year I took back my power—a phrase I always gagged at until now—when I finally told a few professional advisors: “Here’s how it’s going to be, motherfuckers.” I had that power all along, but had continued to play the role of sweet & innocent for far too long. Why? Because somewhere along the way I started believing that deference = respect. And you should always respect experts in their own field, right? Well, not when they’re wrong.
  18. Feeling guilty for doing it leisurely instead of efficiently.
    Reframe: how nice is it that I am able to give to myself, today, instead of giving to everyone else?
  19. Worrying about other people’s actions.
    Do you know how exhausting it is, trying to worry about yourself AND everybody else? The only person’s actions I can control are my own. And it feels gooooood to go inward. Light, light, lighter. 
  20. Letting my boundaries be pushed under the guise of being accommodating.
    My preferences matter, too, and guess what? Disrespecting my boundaries is an act of war.
  21. Believing outdated stories about myself.
    I’d believed for so long that my body was carrying the extra pounds because of genetics / my grandma / fucking Italy, that it became easy to give into that narrative. I accepted the weight, believing “it just was the way it was”—which is odd, because I don’t have that attitude when it comes to any other area of my life. So I noticed the blindspot…and then started telling myself a different story.
  22. Letting a little tummy get in the way of a lot of pleasure. 
    On that same note, I had let a little bit of weight gain make me feel more self-conscious than I ever had before under the sheets. I went from being the queen of shock and awe, to the queen of polite and restrained—which, I can assure you, is not nearly as satisfying. Ladies? Dial that shit up. No one’s looking—they’re feeling. 
  23. Waiting for the right time (to have sex, to write, to relax).
    Let go. Let go. Let go of all your rigidness. 
  24. Powering through.
    I used to think I was Superwoman. That I was above “limits.” That I could “handle it” and “make it happen” and “do the damn thing.” You know what I say about that now? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Amateur. 
  25. Forgetting the #1 question.
    It’s not “what do you want to do?” It’s “who do you want to be?” One thing I’ve found to be more true over the years than anything else: answer the latter, and it’ll tell you everything you need to know about the former.
Jun 11

2016

When You Feel Worthy of Being Seen…It Shows

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  Let me tell you what: American women may have Victoria’s Secret, but Italian women have another secret altogether. You know it by the way she holds her head a little higher than yours, eyes on fire, gliding down the god damn sidewalk as if her and Mother Nature were tag teaming. It is not just […]

In: Finding Your Voice

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Dec 31

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Resolutions Are For Chumps. I Choose Revolution.

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All the things you think you need this year, you don’t. You do not need more determination.  You do not need more discipline.  And you certainly do not need more diligence. Are you kidding me? You are a Westerner–you’ve got plenty of that.  Why else have you gotten up every single day and begrudgingly gone […]

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Jul 31

2014

Anytime You Question Yourself, Promise Yourself Better Answers.

Jul 31, 2014

You ever do that thing where you’re about to start that business, write that book, ask for that advance, release that product, pitch that service, or maybe just tell your boyfriend you want to try anal…and then you hesitate? Flinch? Get nervous? Worried? Scared that the response is going to be something like, “WHAT ARE […]

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Sep 30

2010

Defiance or Defeat? You Pick.

Sep 30, 2010

Sometimes, the shit hits the fan. Sometimes, you find yourself living out of your car, storing all of your toiletries in an oversize red purse, lodging sweatshirts in between head rests and sunroof panels to block the windows so you can sleep, explaining to unsympathetic credit card companies that you can’t pay your $41 minimum […]

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Oct 22

2016

Your Opinion About Yourself Doesn’t Matter

Oct 22, 2016

Real talk: I think you’re a liar. A very, very convenient liar. I can call you that because we’re all in the same club. Because the thing is, when you’re out there doing creative work, and new work, and work that has no manager, no support team, no pat on the back, there are days when […]

In: Finding Your Voice

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Mar 8

2019

The Surprising Reason Why I Decided to Buy My Own (GASP!) Apartment—As an Independent Woman With Her Own Money and Her Own Mind

Mar 8, 2019

“WINNER, WINNER! OFFER ACCEPTED!!!” That’s what the subject line read as I cozied up with a glass of red wine, last night, nervously awaiting the news. And when the email came through? I almost choked. “Omg, I have tears in my eyes!” I wrote in response. (Along with a shit ton of other capital letters […]

In: Finding Your Voice

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Mar 20

2014

I Brought 20 Hookers to Central America on Business.

Mar 20, 2014

I sloshed on yet another layer of gloss, steering frantically with one hand while trying not to rear end a truck full of cows. I mean, what would I tell the Life Hooky group? “We didn’t pick you up at the airport in San Jose because, see, there were these cowsssssss.” Even I would think I […]

In: Finding Your Voice

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Sep 1

2017

The World’s Funniest Fucking Soaps, Uh, Ever

Sep 1, 2017

You should know that I have officially discovered THE BEST THING THAT’S EVER BEEN MADE (after Cards Against Humanity, of course) and I had to share with you because I don’t keep anything from you (except for that one thing) and because we could all use some inspiration and also because CAN WE JUST LIGHTEN […]

In: Finding Your Voice

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Jun 28

2010

Do You Have The Guts?

Jun 28, 2010

I can vividly recall the first time I wrote a resume. I typed away on our clunky, jumbo HP desktop, silently muttering words that shouldn’t appear in any resume each time autoformat would sneakily attempt to take over my painstakingly-created bulleted list of achievements. To this day, autoformat and I remain sworn enemies–and with reason, […]

In: Finding Your Voice

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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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