Aspiration can be hard to pin down. Some parts of society act as if it were innate. A gift given to some, and sadly lacking in others. The stories we share celebrate its super-abundance: the running through brick walls, top step of the podium kind, usually linked to personal gain. But aspiration – like courage? – comes in many flavours, to many different kinds of people, and at different moments in life.
We’ve chatted with Nick Pearce-Tomenius about his take on aspiration. Nick co-founded Object Matrix, a “forever start-up” based in Wales, acquired in 2023 by DataCore Software of the US. Wait though – this isn’t the story you think it’s going to be. Nick’s isn’t a ‘go large or fail fast’ epic. Instead its the story of a 20 year journey, carefully nurturing a global community in media and entertainment that came to trust and rely on OM’s innovative solutions. Growth was not a straight line graph, and success did not happen overnight.
How many ways does the individual benefit from aspiration? And how many ways does society benefit from aspirational citizens?
Everyone benefits from aspiration. Being shown what is possible opens the mind to outcomes that previously were unachievable, opening your mind to new possibilities leads you to explore more and learn more. That can only be hugely beneficial for both the individual and society. Telling stories about the people who went on to achieve success ensures that people in that community will naturally feel they have more options.
Does your grown-up self recognise aspiration in the 16 year old you?
Probably not the 16 year old me but the 18 year old me for sure would recognise it. I left Bryntirion Comp with a desire to change the narrative about who I was and what I would become. I didn’t have a focus or an endgame in mind, but I was really grateful for the chance to head to university and give it a go as I did have an inner belief that I could and would do something with my life that was different to the outcome many expected.
On the other hand the aspiration amongst my wider family to make money and have ‘nice’ things to show your success did live in me from a young age until probably my mid-twenties.. this time next year Rodney and all that. My parents moved us into a ‘nice’ village when we were young as they clearly had aspirations as to where they lived and who they surrounded themselves by. That move also provided motivation that I wanted more from life.
"When I went to school the pictures in the foyer were of alumni who became sports stars"
What did your teenage aspirations feel like?
Think it felt like a real desire to prove something, mainly to others if I am honest, as 16-18 year old Nick was not very self-aware. I did however believe I could succeed as I had very good examples in my parents and wider family that demonstrated being aspirational can, in the long term, often trump early academic success.
I think at the time, and still today TBH, academic success leading to becoming a doctor, lawyer, accountant etc. was the pinnacle. So those of my peers who were academically strong had those aspirations and I assume they felt confident they would achieve their goals. I was a late bloomer academically so I was gradually made to believe none of those options were open to me … regardless none of those things inspired me.
Is aspiration and ambition the same thing?
For me they are subtly different and the meaning to me has changed as I have grown older. As cheesy as it sounds, today’s aspiration is me wanting to achieve the best outcome in terms of health, happiness and prosperity for myself and my family. When I was younger, I was probably a lot more ambitious with more of a focus on seeking success and recognition.
Is it in any way related to the ‘You show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser’ mentality?
Not for me. Losing gracefully is being a good member of society and there is a lot to learn from not getting stuff right.
Is there such a thing as too little aspiration?
I think many organisations and institutions show or have shown ‘too little aspiration’ when it comes to developing the wider spectrum of talent but even a small amount of personal aspiration goes a long way to changing your personal outcome.
Does aspiration grow from outside-in, inside-out, or in some other way?
We are shaped by experiences and one way or another we are influenced by those around us and that’s the same for aspiration. I guess some people may be born with the spark to yearn for more, but I would say the majority get inspired by someone in their family, friendship group, community or the wider world. If they are not inspired it is likely that aspiration comes from a need to prove a point or in reality a mixture of both. My aspirations grew the more I travelled and got more inspired by the amazing people I met.
"For me they are subtly different and the meaning to me has changed as I have grown older."
Does it come from a place of fear, or compassion?
For some it quite possibly comes from fear. A fear of living the difficult lives their parents had will drive people to want more. As you get older aspirations can be more compassion led as personal circumstances allow.
How would someone identify aspiration in themselves? Where would you tell them to look? What might it feel like?
Aspiration might feel like frustration, excitement or even triggered by jealousy. The feeling to want more, to change the narrative or achieve higher goals is personal to the individual. I personally felt some frustration that other people’s perception of me was incorrect, that they did not know what I was capable of and subsequently I would work out how to change that. On the flip side I felt excited about the possibility of achieving more than the expectation others put on myself.
What’s the best piece of advice you could offer to your 16 year old self? Or to your children?
Well, I don’t tell my boys that ‘anything is possible’ as society does not work that way but I do tell them that life and success is not linear, that they should pursue their passions and so long as they are contributing to society being healthy and happy is where it is at. To myself I would definitely say that life can change in a heartbeat and that personality, luck & co-incidence play as big a part in success as talent and expertise. Getting straight A’s at school is a fantastic achievement but it does not guarantee success. Hard work, passion and commitment to what you are doing will increase the odds of being lucky though.
How should aspiration be nurtured: by the individual; by society?
Both. But I think society has a bigger role to play in communities where aspiration has been an afterthought. Society (schools, universities, cities, towns and villages) should be nurturing aspiration through telling stories about people who have achieved success throughout the whole spectrum of life. People, in my opinion, have a stronger reaction to those stories where they relate to a locality or place that also means something to them.
What’s the role of role models? How wide is that spectrum? Is it really just about the super-rich or super-successful?
Role models are really important, and the spectrum needs to be a lot wider than it is today. When I went to school the pictures in the foyer were of alumni who became sports stars. There was not a single artist, musician, scientist or business person. The aspiration set, albeit not intentionally, was to play sport or work in the factory. It is far from being just about the super-rich, it is about people doing amazing things in multi disciplines that highlight that dogged passion and determination will result in a change of the status quo.
For example from my business community, Lynwen Brennan, EVP and General Manager at Lucasfilm and Menna Rawlings, currently the UK ambassador to France. Or how about Tori James, the first Welsh woman to climb Everest.
Nick Pearce-Tomenius was chatting to The Clec. He is co-founder of Object Matrix, GlobalWelsh and WIG. A strategic sales and marketing leader, he has spent the last 20 years building a global network in the Media & Entertainment technology market gaining start-up, scale-up and disruptive technology expertise. Nick is a passionate believer that people, community and partners are at the heart of any successful venture. Reach Nick here.