‘Being Realistic Is The Most Commonly Travelled Road To Mediocrity’

‘Being Realistic Is The Most Commonly Travelled Road To Mediocrity’
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When talking about goals or dreams, you’ve probably heard someone say “let’s be realistic”. Maybe you’ve even uttered it yourself. But as this Will Smith quote reminds us, being realistic isn’t doing any favours for your ambitions.

Being realistic comes with a sense of security, comfort and a natural inclination to find the path of least resistance, discouraging risks. It may be scary, but sometimes you need that special kind of crazy to think that, hey, maybe you can actually accomplish your dreams.

The Importance of Being Unrealistic [Alyssa Aldersly]


  • Whilst probability favours the lucky, reality favours the realistic and determined, but that doesn’t stop the lucky from telling everyone to throw caution to the wind.

    It just doesn’t fit the desired narrative of the super successful to attribute their success all the compounding accelerators, lucky breaks and advantages they’ve scored over their own grit, determination and ability to chase their dreams. Like a stick who beats another stick in a race down a stream scolding the other stick for not swimming hard enough.

    There are millions of people who are super smart, super hard working, and made all the right decisions but who still aren’t hollywood superstars, or olympic athletes.

    Life is full of people who’ve wasted their best opportunities by chasing dreams who bore their colleagues silly with “I nearly went to the olympics” or “our band was on the brink of making it”. Life is a balance, get used to it, have fun, do what you love, but don’t go nuts when it comes to big decisions.

    • Playing it safe or realistic on the topic of trying to achieve something is all well and good, but I don’t do it.

      I have a few sayings which work for me:
      • ‘Luck’ is when circumstance meets preparation.
      • One day, you will die, you need to decide which goals and dreams you take with you.
      • The routine of mediocrity is a silent killer.
      • I’d rather live with failure than regret.
      • You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
      • Why so serious?
      • Knowing when to quit is important – but it should be some time after you try something, not before.
      • in the pursuit of the biggest things, the gap between failure and doing nothing is very small, the gap between failure and success is infinite.
      • If first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
      • The world stands aside for the man who knows where he’s going.

      Anyway, have a go, and happy holidays.

  • I just don’t agree that luck is when circumstances meet preparation. Being able to leverage the luck you have often requires preparation, but if you don’t have the luck to begin with, all the preparation in the world doesn’t help. And to benefit from luck certainly doesn’t require preparation in all cases. Maybe not even in most.

    I saw this in two former dot-com key staffers, both of whom lost out on a major company going public due to random events.

    One was assigned to a new manager who trashed her repeatedly when she was exhausted after a 2 year sprint to get something out the door. Unbeknownst to the exec who put this “experienced” manager in that role, she had been demoted from management at previous employers for similarly tanking quality staff for her own benefit, a fact the target’s friends unearthed too late in the tanking process for it to have helped. Begging after 2 years to get a break and go back to a 50 hour week instead of a 90 as other coworkers with family had gotten (for some reason, being single and the team’s superstar meant that she didn’t deserve or didn’t require one) fell on deaf ears. Because, you know, when you’re so sleepless it’s dangerous for you to be crossing the street alone, it’s time to throttle back a bit. 🙁 Everyone else on that team in that situation, who’d put in her hours, already had. The manager ended up pushing that woman out of the company for trumped up non-performance charges despite her waving graphs indicating that her task completion rate was 40% above 3/4 of teammates. But, the manager wanted the kudos that were going to her, and the only way to get them was to take her out so that the manager could then be the star of the team. No creative attempt that my friend made to let the manager take credit for her work (just to keep peace long enough to make it to IPO) was good enough, that manager clearly didn’t want that woman to get anything at all in return for her hard work. It was vindictive and creepy. You knew everyone saw it, too, when folks randomly stopped to hug her in the hall because they knew she was enduring hell to stay employed to make it to IPO, and felt bad because they know THEY wouldn’t be headed for a windfall if it wasn’t for her efforts. Going to the founder wouldn’t have helped. His college roommate ran the day-to-day affairs of the company and had hired the piss-poor manager. There was no way out of it.

    Another 30-year-old colleague developed a degenerative disease and had to leave the company less than 6 months before IPO, on doctor’s orders. There was nothing she could do. They couldn’t even diagnose her well enough to know if there was anything they could give her to slow the decline. Three years later, she’s getting near a diagnosis, and it doesn’t look as if there’s anything that can reverse or even slow the progression.

    The company would not have gotten to IPO without either of them. But one was shafted by a personnel decision outside her control and the unwillingness of a senior guy to admit that he had made a very bad hire in that manager. And the other by her health. They were theoretically both in the right place at the right time and both did the work of their lives there, and it SHOULD have paid off for them all accounts, but both hit bad luck and it did not. It did, however, pay off for dozens of others who came on in the last phrases of the project and contributed far less to it.

    That was absolutely *IT* for me believing that just by playing smart and working hard, I’d make it. Two SUPERHUMAN friends got within a handspan of the brass ring and missed out due to poor luck, and a number of other friends just lucked out by being new hires there even if they hadn’t done much and didn’t have the mental horsepower or the drive to contribute as the other two did. On top of that, it’s not impossible that the hours the second woman put in added stress that accelerated the development of her illness, although she’d had no signs of issues going in. FYI, one of the women who missed out was my flatmate at the time, and I’d gone to school with both of these girls. I was working as a contractor there at the time and saw the dynamics first-hand.

    • but if you don’t have the luck to begin with
      “Luck” is not something you have or don’t have, it’s all just probability and how you react to events that happen to you. If someone regards themselves as unlucky because of all the awful stuff that happens to them then it’s more likely that they’re just a miserable sod with a negative attitude (and that attitude can be self fulfilling). A more positive person is likely to just let the negative events slide, a very positive person might look at the positive events as “luck” but it’s all just a matter of attitude.

  • Yawn. Drivel. I have a few things to say about this:

    In a world with 10 billion people, your ability to change the world is minute.

    What’s wrong with being one small piece of a bigger whole? What’s wrong with *working* for, say, someone like Elon Musk as opposed to actually being Elon Musk?

    What’s wrong with being happy with nothing? The happiest man on Earth is a monk!

    What Will Smith says is the best way works for him, because he’s Will Smith and that’s what he needs to feel fulfilled. It means SFA to anyone else because they’re not Will Smith.

    Why does anyone care what an actor has to say about “success”. Are we really saying that Will Smith is the pinnacle of success?

  • Wow-totally-disagree-grod. My friend who can’t get out of bed some days these days doesn’t feel lucky whatsoever. Glad she has family to love, yes, but lucky’s not in the cards.

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