From journalist and author of An Ordinary Age, an examination, dismantling, and reconstruction of ambition, where burnout is the symptom of our holiest sin: the lonely way we strive.

Ambition—the want, the hunger, the need to achieve—is woven into America’s fabric from the first colonization to capitalism. From our first gold star assignment to acceptance at the “right” college to hustle and grinding our lives, we celebrate our drive, even as we gatekeep who is permitted to strive–and how visibly. Even as we burn out. When we can’t even. When we know: work won’t love us back.

All the Gold Stars looks at how the cultural, personal, and societal expectations around ambition are driving the burnout epidemic by funneling our worth into productivity, limiting our imaginations, and pushing us further apart. Through the devastating personal narrative of her own ambition crisis, Stauffer discovers the common factors driving us all, peeling back layers of family expectations, capitalism, and self-esteem that dangerously tie up our worth in our output. Interviews with students, parents, workers, psychologists, labor organizers, and more offer a new definition of ambition and the tools to reframe our lives around true success. All the Gold Stars provides ways for us to reject our current reality and reconceive ambition as more collective, imaginative, and rooted in caring for ourselves and each other.

What's Inside

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"All the Gold Stars is a probing, challenging, and deeply thoughtful exploration of what it means to find compassion for ourselves and pursue the lives we want without self-punishment. Drawing on her own experiences as well as dozens of interviews, Rainesford Stauffer writes with both clarity and care, considering the function and purpose of ambition from multiple angles while inviting readers to imagine how it may be redirected to aid and nourish us and our communities. If you, like so many born or made strivers, are engaged in the work of reevaluating your relationship to ambition and achievement, this is a wonderful book to keep you company as you do so."—Nicole Chung, author of A Living Remedy
“As a firstborn daughter (read: recovering perfectionist), self-employed writer, and mother, I needed to read this very book at this very moment. All the Gold Stars, ironically, is a brilliant achievement.”—Maggie Smith, author of You Could Make This Place Beautiful and Keep Moving
-—Praise for An Ordinary Age
"The quest for perfection and excellence has left us exhausted, pissed off, and bewildered.  If you want to turn away, at whatever point in your life, from the endless cycle of burnout, this beautifully written, endlessly empathetic book is for you."—Anne Helen Petersen, author of Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation
"A meticulous cartography of how outer forces shape young people’s inner lives."—Esquire, Best Books of 2021
"Rainesford Stauffer is a brave writer who takes us to places that we haven't been yet, and gives us companionship when we're there. I'd love to hand out thousands of copies of this book. You will find comfort and empowerment in every chapter. An Ordinary Age is a gentle but urgent call to embrace the fullness of life, and that's a reminder we can use at any stage of life."—Mari Andrew, author of Am I There Yet?
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