ASH AMBIRGE

Author, CEO & Founder

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Listen: Do What You Crave Without the Guilt. Travel to Italy. Enroll in That Workshop. Make Your Art Every Afternoon. And Hurl Yourself Into the Unknown—For This Is The Best ROI That Money Can Buy.

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired, Feeling Disillusioned With Life

My almost-mother-in-law gets really fucking nervous when I travel—especially when I bomb off to South America for a month by myself to drink ALL THE WINE and celebrate ALL THE BOOK DEALS.

But she doesn't get worried in the typical way a mother might; not the way my own mother would have been worried, which would have sounded something like: “Oh Jesus Mary and Joseph, Ashley, you think they won't kidnap you and rape you and leave you for dead? What makes you so special, girl?” And then she'd realize she sounded like an ignorant xenophobic conservative (the worst fate), and she'd soften, for a moment, before following up with a joke: “I mean, can you imagine me, on a plane? What will I offer for ransom: a crate full of homegrown tomatoes?”

(As an aside, I'm pretty sure my mom would have offered the kidnappers tomatoes, sliced thick in between a hunk of Italian bread, along with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper. You could have shown up at our front doorstep to maim us, and my mother would still offer you food.)

My mother-in-law, on the other hand, isn't worried about those types of things. She's a hip-swaying, sharp-shooting boss of a woman who's worked alongside the first female president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, and doesn't get intimidated by any thing or any one—especially men. Her concerns are not for my safety (she knows I'm of the same brass-nails breed), but rather, my future. “Are you sure it's wise to go on another trip,” she'll say gently, sipping her white wine, “when you could be saving that money?”

Out of respect, I do not offer her an alternative scenario: what if there was plenty of money to do both? Saying that out loud feels pompous and braggy and oh-so-American of me. But I also prefer to fly under the radar when it comes to my personal finances. I am, in many ways, quiet about my good fortune: this wild-child success I have built with my own two hands is not something most people in my “real” life know about, or understand. Modesty is a requirement of harmony—especially when your goal is to integrate into the cultures and relationships you explore.

But the heart of her concern remains the same: lack is something to be feared.

As someone who lacked a lot, growing up in the trailer park, I don't share that same fear the way one might assume I would. It might be tempting to imagine that someone like me would do anything, at all costs, never to return to that destiny, but that's not actually the case: I lived a good life, growing up, despite the absence of money. Money is not a prerequisite for love, nor happiness. That said, I am interested in the utility of money.

Money is a useful tool, straight up. It's no different than a rake or a shovel or a pitch fork. You can accomplish more when you have the right tools at your disposal. But the question becomes: what do you hope to accomplish? 

Most people are of the mindset that money in and of itself is the accomplishment—and that's why you should save it, or invest it, or use it to make more money. More is more is more is more, with the end goal being, um, MORE (with a layer of security icing on top). And surely there's some truth to that: having money in the bank makes you feel invincible. But there is a hidden cost to hanging on to every cent you earn.

Counterintuitively, it's the cost of your own competence.

I prefer to invest a sizable portion of my own earnings back into myself—not the bank, or the stock market, or with Aunt Wilma's farm—because unlike most investments, I come with a guaranteed ROI. I know that every dollar I invest in for myself—through travel, through learning, through experiences—will fortify my skill set as a human being and help me in ways that go far beyond money. That said, the upside is that those same skill sets will also help me earn far more money over the long-term than I could any other way: one-dimensional humans are limited, no matter what industry they're in.

I suppose you could say, then, I'm a fan of diversification—but one of the investments in your portfolio needs to be you. Investing in yourself is betting on yourself, and who better to bet on? The success I have earned, over the years, is not strictly a function of performing steps A, B and C correctly: it's a function of understanding people, and understanding myself, and understanding the world around me and how I fit into it. That simply can't happen in a vacuum, though. That can't happen if you're scared to interact; to hurl yourself out there, into the unknown, and see what happens. That can't happen if you're clinging to money and safety and comfort and the drama of fear.

I spend money on experiences because it gives me an ROI that no other investment can: It gives me, me.

And it makes me far more powerful than simple money on its face ever could.

Nov 22

2012

Lust, Turkey Gizzards + A Ladylike Toast

Nov 22, 2012

I blame my bleak and very unpromising cooking skills on Thanksgiving, you know. You’d think I would have gotten better from helping my mom prepare such a yearly feast for me, her and my dad. (Mashed potatoes were my sworn duty. Probably because they’re mashed, requiring heavy amounts of manual mashing child labor. Not to […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired

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Jul 18

2010

The Real Value of Travel (Come Sneak Away to the Beaches of Costa Rica, If You Dare)

Jul 18, 2010

A Sexy Story With a Lesson We sit in near silence, the only interruptions being an occasional mojito-induced outburst of nervous laughter, the sound of my silver chandelier earrings gently clinkering together, and the relentless tropical rains that steadily pelt the top of the canvas roof of the 4×4 automobile we are in. It’s shamelessly […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired

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May 21

2012

Fuck Shit Balls I Didn’t Finish Those Edits, Yet. And Other Stuff That Doesn’t Matter. (In Memory of Enrique.)

May 21, 2012

So I’m not sure what you did yesterday, but I, for one, witnessed somebody drown. You’re probably thinking I’m joking, because who mentions something like drowning so nonchalantly? But I am not, unfortunately, joking. And while I’m calm now, yesterday I was anything but. It was sunset, and I was with my Costa Rican girlfriends […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired

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Dec 20

2012

Always Do. You’ll Be Glad You Did.

Dec 20, 2012

If you walked in the door right now, I don’t know if I’d run and hug you hard, or if you’d seem like a stranger now. I’d like to think that I’d hug you. I’d like to think that I’d bury my face into your chest and you’d smell like your old cologne–which kind, I […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired

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Nov 4

2010

You Don’t Need a Job – You Need Guts

Nov 4, 2010

Truth: Most people will walk this earth for decades, feeling guilty for not pursuing the great adventures inside of them, but will never do anything about it. Truth: Most people are overwhelmed by fear, and will make some of the worst choices of their lives because of it. Truth: Most people will put their head […]

In: Feeling Dead and Uninspired

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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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