ASH AMBIRGE

Author, CEO & Founder

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The 67 Emotions of Unconventional Success: My Story

In: Finding Your Voice

OBLIVIOUS

When tears silently fell from Elizabeth's 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.”

ASHAMED

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.

CONFUSED

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

BITTER

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.”

NOSTALGIC

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.

MORTIFIED

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.

FRUSTRATED

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.

RELIEVED

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.

GUILTY

When I took the scholarship and left her all alone.

SADDENED

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

ANNOYED

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.

SCARED

When I realized the seriousness of the matter.

PATIENT

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.

LIVID

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

VENGEFUL

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

FRUSTRATED

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

RESENTFUL

When I couldn't.

SHOCKED

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

DEVASTATED

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.

BITTERSWEET

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.

INDIFFERENT

When I hastily auctioned off all of our things.

LOST

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

DISTRAUGHT

When I moved to Philadelphia and knew no one.

HOPEFUL

When I landed my first job in marketing.

WORRIED

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

GRATEFUL

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.

DISHEARTENED

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

DISAPPOINTED

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.

DISILLUSIONED

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

DESPAIRED

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

LONELY

When I felt like no one understood me.

ARROGANT

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.

FOOLISH

When I made some hasty financial decisions.

EXCITED

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

SMART

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

DETERMINED

When I laboriously tried to learn HTML.

ELATED

When I saw my very first sale come through Clickbank.

INTRIGUED

When I discovered the world of Google Adwords.

ADDICTED

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

CONFIDENT

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.)

TORN

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

DESPERATE

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

HOPELESS

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

ENCOURAGED

When I got contract after contract signed on the spot.

UNCERTAIN

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

PETRIFIED

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.

INCENSED

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

OPTIMISTIC

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

ANXIOUS

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

IRRITATED

When loan applications were denied without a co-signer.

STUBBORN

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

HEARTBROKEN

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

DEFEATED

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

DESTROYED

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

HOPELESS

When I had nowhere to go.

ANGUISHED

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

OBSTINATE

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

DILIGENT

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

COURAGEOUS

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

VALIDATED

When I heard the first sale.

AMAZED

When reader after reader voted with their wallets.

EXHILARATED

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

DEDICATED

When I continued to publish.

INSPIRED

When more and more readers came to say hello.

PEACEFUL

When my influence online grew.

INVIGORATED

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

HAPPY

When, nearly 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’m fortunate (and sort of freaked out) to be able to command $103,000 in a single afternoon. (I know, mom, I know: I’M SAVING FOR RETIREMENT.) I have a beautiful home in Costa Rica (read: fewer cockroaches than the neighbors), go back to Philadelphia often, 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 woman who helps me take care of my home, send for an in-house massage every week (my greatest guilty pleasure), and 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.) When I’m not cringing from the sun or stringing words together in meaningful ways, I’m regularly approached by TV producers, business owners, podcasters and hundreds of bloggers who, seemingly, all want to know one thing:

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.

And you know what?

Not everybody can say the same.

Sep 1

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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 […]

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May 6

2016

The CEO might be her own boss, but she does not have to be her own bitch.

May 6, 2016

Being in business for yourself requires three things. A sense of discipline. A sense of self. And a motherfucking tube of lipstick. When you run a business, NOTHING about your workday looks like anybody else’s, and soon it follows that nothing about your life looks very much like anybody else’s, either. Late nights. Unusual schedules. Working more than […]

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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 […]

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Apr 5

2012

Fuck Plan B. You’re on the A Team.

Apr 5, 2012

His name is Oskar. He’s Rastafarian. I met him when I first came to Costa Rica in 2004 and watched him trying to sell his paintings day after day on the beach, sweating, struggling to speak English to the tourists who passed by, working from dusk until the wee hours of the night to make […]

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Jan 14

2016

Sometimes in Business, You Need to Do YOU.

Jan 14, 2016

The dead horse of the decade is the target customer. You’re asked to create personas. Put yourself in their shoes bras. Get inside their head. Imagine what’s keeping them up at 3 o’clock in the morning. (For the record, it’s that their ass is getting fat and they totally forgot to make cookies for their […]

In: Finding Your Voice

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Oct 26

2017

Sometimes, Being Difficult Is an Act of Devotion

Oct 26, 2017

Nobody wants to “be difficult.” Those words have stigma tattooed right across their rear. Just hearing them makes you think of that psycho in line at the grocery store, berating the cashier for not accepting her expired coupon. (She’s also wearing Uggs, for the record, and DEFINITELY has a soggy cigarette hanging out of her […]

In: Finding Your Voice

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Aug 25

2017

The Competition Doesn’t Have Sh*t On You

Aug 25, 2017

There’s never been a person who went to school for accounting and said: BUT WAIT, I CAN’T BECOME AN ACCOUNTANT BECAUSE OTHER PEOPLE ARE ALREADY DOINGGGGG THATTTTTTTTTTT. There are plenty of people out there doing exactly what you want to do—times eleventy thousand. “But there are already so many writers / designers / candlestick makers” […]

In: Finding Your Voice

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Jun 15

2017

Having FUN Doesn’t Make You an Unprofessional Schmuck

Jun 15, 2017

Fun is underrated. We spend so much of our lives trying to get taken seriously, that fun becomes something we think of as shameful, dirty; something to be minimized in a professional setting. Giggles are juvenile; jokes are adolescent; anything more than a poker face threatens your status as “a respectable professional.” But that’s only […]

In: Finding Your Voice

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Sep 15

2015

Plan On Being Nervous, Brilliantly

Sep 15, 2015

Being nervous sucks. Your pulse races. Your brain blanks. Your hands shake like little assholes. You tell yourself to take deep breaths, but the minute you do, you then worry that the entire room can see the fact that your heart is, in fact, doing the electric slide up and down your rib cage. (God […]

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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