About The Middle Finger Project & Ash Ambirge

The 67 Emotions of Unconventional Success: My Story


When tears silently fell from her cheek upon finding the note from her lover, 3 days before their daughter was born that read: “I'm sorry. I can't do this.”


When classmates asked where my daddy was. I lied & told them he was Crocodile Dundee, and had to be in Australia to tame the outback.


When we used different money than everyone else to buy bread & milk.


When I was 14 and sat in the hospital waiting room on a sunny June day. When my Uncle Jimmy finally emerged, after what seemed like hours, he handed me a pamphlet. It read, “Helping Your Family Cope with Terminal Cancer.”


When I would hear Puff Daddy's “I'll Be Missing You” come on the radio after he died, just a few short months later, after tearfully asking me to call him “dad” instead of “Jimmy,” like I always had. I got to call him it twice.


When it was just me & my mother after that, and all of the other 15 year olds had basements underneath their houses. We had wheels.


When my mother's debilitating anxiety & social disorder prevented her from ever coming to watch me play volleyball more than once in 4 years. We were nearly state champions.


When the founder of Monster.com thought I was worthy enough to be awarded a 4-year, all-expense paid scholarship to a private, liberal arts school—room & board included. The scholarship was based on financial need & demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit. My mother cried.


When I took the scholarship and left her all alone.


When an unexpected card would arrive with $50 that she didn't have inside, telling me to go buy myself something pretty.


When, a few years later, I found myself back in that same hospital waiting room. But this time, it was my mother I was waiting for to come out of the doctor's office.


When I realized the seriousness of the matter.


When she taught me how to pay all of the bills, as I wrote out check after check from her hospital bedside, as nurses came in and out to take her blood.


When the doctor's arrogant insensitivity to her pain one day made her weep.


When I let him have a piece of my 20-year-old mind.


When college friends ragged on me for not going out that weekend to party.


When I couldn't.


When I got the phone call while driving to my first day at my internship at a local TV station.


When, by the time I got to our trailer in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the coroner had taken my mother's body & simply left a note on the door.


When, 4 months later, I walked across the graduation stage & got my college degree, not even bothering to look out into the crowd for a familiar face.


When I hastily auctioned off all of our things.


When I sold our trailer for $13,000 at market price.


When I moved to Philadelphia and knew no one.


When I landed my first job in marketing.


When I didn't have anywhere to go that Christmas.


When I was so good at my job, I received a promotion to head up regional marketing efforts. And then another promotion. And then another.


When I'd see planes pass by my office window, and longed to be the kind of person who did things—who went places.


When I realized that sitting at this desk, serving to make big companies even more money, was my entire purpose in life. I didn't want to waste my life like my parents did, always waiting until tomorrow to be happy—because tomorrow, you're dead.


When I discovered that my dreams of becoming a corporate CEO weren't my dreams anymore.


When friends told me to suck it up, and that work was simply that: Work.


When I felt like no one understood me.


When I quit my job & decided to start my first business, instead. I was going to do what I had been putting off for years: I was going to write.


When I made some hasty financial decisions.


When that same year, I got a contract to write my first eBook.


When I developed my own site to sell the book there, too.


When I laboriously tried to learn HTML.


When I saw my very first sale come through Clickbank.


When I discovered the world of Google Adwords.


When I took my love of marketing and applied it in new ways.


When I painstakingly slaved over a book proposal to write a non-fiction narrative titled, “The Truth About Mangoes.” (Let's not talk about what a horrible title that was.)


When I repeatedly received the infamous rejection letter (after rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter).


When the waterfall of poor and hasty financial decisions finally caught up to me.


When I caved & took a job in advertising in order to pay the bills.


When I got contract after contract signed on the spot.


When, in my heart, I knew I needed more than signatures & commissions.


When, despite that knowledge, I was too scared to make any bold moves, knowing that I had no one in the world to back me up if I failed.


When I stood by and watched that fear get the best of me…for years.


When I enrolled in graduate school for my master's degree in Linguistics.


When I imagined that my degree would be The Answer™.


When loan applications were denied without a co-signer.


When I decided that I would tutor writing to make up for it.


When my best friend told me I needed to find a new place to live so her boyfriend could move in.


When I had no choice but to go stay with a mysterious new guy I had been seeing.


When, a few weeks later, I ended up sobbing in the middle of the night in a Kmart parking lot.


When I had nowhere to go.


When I looked in the mirror and saw the cranberry-colored fingerprints around my neck.


When I sat there in the middle of the night, determined not to be a victim.


When I realized that I might not have had anything left, but the one thing I did have? Were my ideas.


When I published an announcement on the Internet to write a book I had not yet written.


When I heard the first sale.


When reader after reader voted with their wallets.


When I realized that my writing could save my life—literally.


When I continued to publish.


When more and more readers came to say hello.


When my influence online grew.


When I discovered that you can make red, hot money from your art, using this thing called the Internet.


When, ten years later, I look around to find a whole different reality: One that I created by hand for myself. I’ve built a million dollar brand around giving the middle finger, which is hilarious and unexpected in its own right. I published a book called THE MIDDLE FINGER PROJECT with the one-and-only Penguin Random House. (!!!) In addition to the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the book has also been published in places like Finland, Poland, Ukraine, Russia and the United Kingdom. (The Finnish cover is adorable!) The Audible version is hilarious. (Three days in a recording studio was SO MUCH FUN.) Seth Godin called my voice “a voice of originality in a world with too little of it,” and The Today Show was coming to my house but then the 2020 pandemic upended EVERYTHING. (The BBC and Jenny McCarthy show, however, I was able to do over the phone. 🥰) I've become known for my irreverent, voice-driven writing, have since ghostwritten other books with Penguin et al., and my independent publishing company, Irreverent Ambition, publishes the most fun-to-read newsletters & books in the world. I teach creative writing via my OTHER newsletter, Meat & Hair. I have a beautiful home in Costa Rica (read: fewer cockroaches than the neighbors), recently purchased a historic property in Philadelphia, and spend several months a year traveling around the world to places like Argentina and Italy; Ecuador & England—which sounds far more pretentious on the page than, perhaps, if we had this discussion while binge drinking wine. I work remotely from my Macbook, spend wide-open mornings writing words & sipping coffee, take leisurely two hour walks at sunset, and splash around in irritatingly clear turquoise water almost daily (which means I spend an inordinate amount of time sucking in my gut and trying not to look like a city slicker asshole). To add to the list of things-that-make-me-annoying, I have a wonderful partner with whom I share these travels and this incredible thing called life, we're building lots of things together, including a tourism brand called With Love From Costa Rica, as well as our own brand of coffee! I relish the finest glass of red wine I can find in the evenings with my feet dangling in a pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean (okay, fine, it’s the neighbor’s pool), and when I’m not cringing from the sun or stringing words together in meaningful ways, I’m probably on a podcast answering one question:

How did you go from sleeping in a Kmart parking lot with $26 dollars to your name, to creating a business and a life like this? (By which I’m fairly certain they mean the cockroaches.)

To which I respond:

For everyone out there thinking to yourself that it's unrealistic, YOU ARE WRONG.

For everyone out there shackled by fear, telling yourself that you could lose everything, YOU ARE RIGHT.

And for everyone out there that, despite that knowledge, is still willing to risk it by fighting for something more out of this fleeting speck of time we're granted here on earth, YOU ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO WILL TRULY SUCCEED.

Because at the very least, you know that you did everything you could.


Not everybody can say the same.


Quit Your Job. Start the Biz. Grab Your Family. Get on a Plane. Do Something Wild. Follow Your Gut. Take No Shit. Believe in Your Ideas. Go, Go, Go.


No pay walls. No bullshit. No meditations.

“I just wanted to say thank you for sending the only emails worth reading word-for-word.” —Kate Downes

About Ash Ambirge, Founder

Hi, I'm Ash!

I'm a Frank's Hot Sauce devotee (leading with obvious priorities), society & culture writer, author, and creative entrepreneur.  I recently published a book with Penguin Random House on beating the shit out of imposter syndrome,  I've won a Webby Award for my irreverent voice in the self-empowerment category, I've keynoted speeches everywhere from London to the Caribbean, I teach creative writing as a tool for self-reinvention, and there is literally not a grilled cheese I will not burn.  


Trailer park girl. Mom with debilitating social anxiety. Scranton, Pennsylvania. Food stamps. Medicaid. Writing checks to buy a roll of toilet paper. (So not cool when you're 15 years old going through the supermarket line, and your crush happens to be the cashier. ) 

 I grew up in Susquehanna County, right on the border with upstate New York, and it's one of the most beautiful places on earth—and also a place with limited opportunity. I was terrified of being stuck in the same cycle of poverty I had watched my mom endure, so I became determined to do everything perfectly: straight A's, captain of the volleyball team, played in tournaments year-round, AP Calculus and English, editorial for the yearbook, represented my high school at the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Conference, worked an after-school job serving pizza and ice cream at a local joint in town. 

So when senior year came along and the billionaire magnate and chairman of Monster.com, Andy McKelvey, showed up at my high school to offer a fully-paid scholarship to college? I freaked

In order to qualify, I had to demonstrate financial need (check!), and also needed to exemplify something else: 

This thing called “entrepreneurial spirit.” 

I didn't even know what the word “entrepreneurial” meant back then. I remember going to Google it! Nevertheless, I put together a case for myself and applied. 

As part of the interview process, we were instructed to bring a tangible object that demonstrated our so-called entrepreneurial spirit—because clearly they wanted to torture us. In the waiting room, there were kids with saxophones, kids with chicken coops, kids with youth group projects. I had thought long and hard about what I could bring—how could I put my mind into an object?—but finally, I had come up with something. I didn't know if it would work, but I had no choice. And so there I sat, my hexagon-shaped box in my lap. 

When my name was called, I went into the room and closed the door behind me, and when it was time to showcase “my object,” I began.  Each side was decorated with a small, scaled down version of something I was proud of achieving: I had scanned awards, newspaper articles, volleyball accolades, clips from the stone wall I had built in front of the high school in memory of our dear friend, Jill. I went through each accomplishment, opening one hexagon-shaped box to reveal another, smaller hexagon shaped box, talking about the things I thought qualified me as a leader—the only “entrepreneurial spirit” I had at that age. I went through this process three times, and then finally looked up at Andy McKelvey, who was seated in a dark corner in the back, and said: 

“But none of that is what makes me a future entrepreneur.” 

And then I  reached for the final, smallest box in the center. I removed it and placed it on the desk. Then, I lifted the lid.

“This does.” 

Inside was a small, red heart. The tangible object that no one could see, but was very, very real. 


Thanks to that scholarship, I attended a $40,000/year private school outside of the Poconos (#WILKES #REPRESENT), and it was the beginning of an all-new life. Andy McKelvey offered his mentorship and resources, and I did everything I could to learn. I spent my 18th birthday at a McKelvey camp in Western Pennsylvania, learning success principles that would help us succeed. A part of the bargain was that we would go back to our hometowns, someday, and give back to the local community. I went every summer, faithfully, and volunteered. 

My mom and I couldn't believe our luck. 

Yet, a mere few months before I'd walk across the stage at Wilkes University, I got a phone call:

“Your mother is unresponsive,” they said. 

She had passed away, suddenly, from a blood clot that hit her lung, and my final semester in college was full of coroners, funeral homes, and learning about the intricacies of what really happens when you get cremated. I remember yelling at a man from the phone company, who refused to turn off service without an original copy of the death certificate in hand. I remember trying to finish my senior thesis. I remember getting frustrated by a Freshman English class that I somehow missed Freshman year, as my AP credits hadn't transferred properly. I remember completely forgetting, one day, to show up to a class—which was actually unusual, since I was the one teaching it. 

And in May, I graduated without a home to return to: not in Susquehanna County, and not at Wilkes University. 

I had to reinvent myself again. 

I started my corporate career in Philadelphia—and suddenly I had to figure out all sorts of things I never had to know in my small town: how to speak with Fortune 500 clients, how to order a martini, how to navigate traffic, how to show that I wasn't just some country bumpkin, but a real player who had something to bring to the table. I hadn't even been to a Starbucks, ever, let alone know how to make coffee for the office. (My mom had always just used two scoops of instant.)

There was a lot I had to learn, and not just superficial things, but also life skills things—things my mother hadn't been able to teach me: How to speak with authority, how to have my ideas taken seriously, how to stand up for myself, how to have confidence when doing scary things, how to network, how to deliver an elevator pitch, how to handle a dispute, how to be convincing. 

Fortunately, I had spent a lifetime camouflaging my  shortcomings: I became a very good salesperson for myself, emphasizing the product benefits—my brain, my work ethic, my ideas—and learning how to minimize the less desirable product benefits. So, I did what I always had:

I reinvented myself forward. 

 The more I reinvented myself, the more second-nature it became. 

I received quick promotions, started working in advertising for a magazine, won an award for the most number of deals closed on first meeting. At the same time, I had enrolled myself in grad school, deciding I wanted to pursue my writing career. I studied Linguistics, and began writing every night. 

Eventually I'd reinvent myself again: I started my own freelance marketing company and began working with tech start-ups around the world, known for my personality-driven brand work. 

At the same time, I became a digital nomad who learned how to reinvent myself with every new country I visited. I spent several years in Santiago, Chile, right when they were one of the first countries to offer a seed accelerator for foreigners who wanted to come to Chile, traveled to Europe, lived in Spain, became obsessed with London, spoke at conferences around the world, and kept traveling, learning, discovering, building my arsenal of cultural capital: 

Refining my social skills, mastering the art of self-presentation, learning how to communicate with power and grace, making connections, stretching my mind, up-leveling my business skills, learning how to do things in new ways, and layering in new habits and ideas from a variety of different cultures. 

Along the way, I also began documenting what I was learning about self-reinvention, and how we can seek meaningful work and live lives we're proud to live, no matter where we're starting. I fired up WordPress and decided that “The Middle Finger Project” seemed like the perfect name: a homage to the Dream Zappers, to the armchair critics, to the outdated ideas that keep so many people small, unchanged, “safe.” Because the truth is, life is just one big, long personal reinvention.



Most recently, I reinvented myself once again when I became an author with Penguin Random House, having published a book on overcoming imposter syndrome. This brought me to exciting new meetings in Manhattan with publishers, editors, marketers, publicists, designers, copyeditors—and even people who were tasked with bringing me coffee. #SURREAL 

We got the call from The Today Show when I was standing in Penguin's offices with my agent, and then I just kept shitting myself when I found myself as a guest on BBC Radio London, getting phone calls from Jenny McCarthy for her show, having my opinion published in The New York Times, being featured in magazines and in airport bookstores and getting to walk in and sign stacks of copies, like I weren't just a shy, small-town girl growing up in a trailer park a minute ago.

Penguin Random House UK bought the rights to the book, too, so I flew to London to meet with them in their offices, and then found myself schmoozing at high-falutin places like The Arts Club (thanks, Parm!), brunching at Chiltern (helloooo, David Beckham), brunching with my editor on The Bloomsbury Hotel terrace, hosting a business retreat in a swanky boutique hotel in the Cotswolds, flying women in from all around the world to do personal brand makeovers in a gorgeous Georgian townhouse in London. (When you get me, a NYC photographer, a Norwegian wardrobe stylist, a British makeup artist, and a California brand designer all in the same room…lookout!!!).

And through it all, I felt SO NORMAL. I wasn't scared, I wasn't intimidated, I wasn't nervous: I was overjoyed to be living my life and saying “YES” to big opportunities. 

And that's what I want for you. The confidence to say YES to anything you damn well want. To pursue it with a dagger in your hand. To not shrink or make yourself small. To feel like you are unstoppable. 

Because when you feel like you don't belong in a room, you stop entering them.

And that's what The Middle Finger Project is about: having enough nerve to enter any damn room you want.


So, come hang with me! 👋 Let's reinvent the hell out of your life and your work, and leverage the creator economy so you can become a radically self-reliant badass, too. 

Start by subscribing to my new weekly column, brand new for 2022! 

I'll see you there,



Ash Ambirge

Founder and Author
The Middle Finger Project
Suspicious of Fish Since 1984

subscribe free

Quit Your Job. Start the Biz. Grab Your Family. Get on a Plane. Do Something Wild. Follow Your Gut. Take No Shit. Believe in Your Ideas. Go, Go, Go.


No paywall. No bullshit. No meditations.

“I just wanted to say thank you for sending the only emails worth reading word-for-word.” —Kate Downes