New study shows Australians are so chill, we've become a nation of untapped potential

3 min read

In partnership with CGU Insurance, we share the findings of the CGU Ambition Index

As Australians, we’re known for our happy-go-lucky, laid-back attitude to life.

We’re ‘The Lucky Country’, graced with rich natural resources, educational opportunities and economic stability. But has this privilege made us complacent? Is it holding us back from reaching our full potential?

According to the CGU Ambition Index, the answer is yes.

The CGU Ambition Index surveyed 2,000 people, of which 1,000 were small business owners. It gives us a lot to unpack but it sheds an interesting light on our attitudes to ambition and future achievement.  

It turns out we’re a nation of dreamers. We’re hungry for success but frightened to take steps to actually reach our goals. 53% of us have expressed plans to kick off a side hustle but only 6% have actually taken the steps to get that hustle, hustling. Similarly, 27% say they wouldn’t make any sacrifices to make their ambitions a reality.

We’re a nation of untapped potential, goddamit. What’s stopping us from taking the steps to achieve success on our own terms? We should be living our best lives! But we’re not! Let’s dive further into the study to try and figure out exactly what’s stopping us.  

For one – we keep ragging on those tall poppies.

Tall Poppy Syndrome represents the aspects of culture in which people of high status, or those who have achieved success, are resented, attacked or criticised for their achievements.

Tall Poppy Syndrome is a very real thing in Australia. 68% of us believe Australians have fostered a culture of negativity towards ambition, while 7 in 10 Aussies don’t like to talk about their hopes and dreams for fear of being labelled a ‘bragger’. We’re chopping those poppies down – left, right and centre. 

Certain groups find it harder to tap into and act upon their ambition. 44% of those interviewed, including 48% of women and 54% of millennials, say a fear of failure is what puts them off chasing their ambition while 78% of women believe they face more barriers than men in chasing their dreams.

Ambition means something quite different to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) business owners. Unlike non-ATSI business owners, these individuals don't see ambition as a dirty word and tall poppy syndrome is not nearly as prevalent.  90% of ATSI business owners saw success as positively contributing to their community and 92% are inspired by the success of others. Of the 50 ATSI business owners surveyed, 100% said they would like to celebrate wins within their community.

When it comes to ambition, we should be learning from the experiences of others. A key takeaway from the study is ambition doesn’t discriminate. 70% believe ambition is something you can learn. Screw nature, it’s all about nurture. It’s available to all, regardless of socioeconomic status, education, profession or postcode.  

Australians are thirsty for ambition.

88% think we should be more ambitious as individuals with a whopping 91% of the belief that Australia should be more ambitious as a nation. 88% also agree we should be more supportive of those working to reach their ambitions.  

So, let’s go out and get it. 

If 10% of those who dream of starting their own side hustle actually pulled their socks up and side hustled in the next two years, we’d see nearly a quarter of a million new businesses arise. Our lack of ambition is having a very real impact on the economy. If 1% of small businesses in Australia were able to reach their growth targets, they’d contribute 1.7 billion to Australia’s GDP in the next twelve months.

Rather than getting bogged down in Tall Poppy Syndrome, we can (and should) be learning from the experiences of others. It seems our privilege is holding us back from achieving. 

Let’s make a conscious effort to start backing each other. So much untapped potential is left by the wayside – break down barriers and let’s work to become a more progressive and innovative nation. Stop cutting down those tall poppies – let’s celebrate ambition!

CGU Insurance wants to celebrate and encourage ambitious people so they feel supported to take the first step in achieving their dreams.

CGU Insurance believes it’s time to transform our nation so we are no longer known as ‘The Lucky Country’ but as ‘The Ambitious Country’. We believe our future prosperity depends on our ability to make our own luck.

CGU Insurance hopes The Ambition Index will help inspire more Australians from all walks of life to act on their ambitions and bridge the gap from dream to do.

To read the CGU Ambition Index in full, visit

Written By Rebecca O'Malley

“... The b***h pissed me off.”

This crack-ed us up.