dreaming big

The importance of being unrealistic

This post has taken a little too long in the writing for my liking, mostly through plain old procrastination.

It has required honesty and the courage to admit a few things to myself [and also now to others]. Things I’ve perhaps sat on the fence about for a while.

As I’ve wrestled with my honesty and found my courage, I have returned again and again to this clip of Will Smith where he talks about his philosophy for success.

If you have the time, I recommend you watch all 10 minutes. It will be the best 10 minutes of your day. For the purpose of this post, skip forward to 05:46. It really hits the spot.

Go ahead, watch it now, I’ll wait…

Comfort zone

You see, life in middle state is comfortable. Stressful at times, but comfortable. Some days are crazy and I feel totally unproductive, ineffective and downright rubbish across all areas of life. Other days I feel like I’ve got it all going on, hot working mama for the win!

What I’ve realised is this, middle state isn’t enough for me. Middle state just leads to a confusion in my head and in my heart. Where I end up feeling pulled in different directions, trying my best to deliver to everyone who needs me. The knock on effect is the person I deliver to least, is myself.

All or nothing

I’ve always been a little bit of an ‘all or nothing’ kinda girl. If I do something, I want to be good at it. Real good.

As a child, nothing felt like it was out of my reach. While my childhood was filled with the reality of financial limitations, I believed I could achieve great things – that dreaming beyond my reality was perfectly reasonable. A sense of invincibility, and of nothing being unrealistic.

When reality bites

Then, reality came knocking. One of my most vivid memories growing up is being told to ‘live in the real world’, to ‘quit daydreaming and come down to earth; to ‘live in reality’. Sensible advice perhaps, but also rather crushing of my aspirations for a big life.

I will probably never know for sure if these comments had a sneaking effect on my goal-chasing-gusto. Did they lodge themselves in the back of my head all these years, quietly convincing me I wasn’t good enough for all my big dreams? That my big dreams were for someone else to live.

Perhaps. But even after all these years, there remains a part of me that still harbours those big dreams and craves the big life I lusted after all those years ago. That, I think, is why middle state sits a little uncomfortably on my shoulders.

Don’t think, do

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

There’s a real feeling in my bones that if not now, never. That I am standing before an opportunity to ride the rocket ship at Buffer, and ride it hard.

What is it they say? You have to name it to claim it? Maybe the solution is to declare to all the people around me that ‘these are my dreams and I am chasing them‘. Perhaps then, the cheerleaders in my life will back me all the way and offer their support to help make them a reality.

Exiting the road to mediocrity

“Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.” Will Smith

There’s a stark reality happening here. I can continue zooming along the highway to mediocrity or I can take the next exit and select a new destination.

And if mediocrity doesn’t quite fit with the life I dreamed for myself, surely there is only one conclusion?

To dream big and be unrealistic.


  • LeoWid

    Alyssa, this is a wonderful and very inspirational post. Especially the line on declaring “these are my dreams and I am chasing them” to others and seeing who bounces back, who says “let’s be realistic” in comparison to those who stand up with you saying “how can I help – let’s do it!” is what it is all about.

    Very grateful to have you aboard the Buffer journey! :)

    • http://alyssaaldersley.com/ Alyssa Aldersley

      Thanks Leo. It’s definitely been an amazing journey so far, but I think finding a little more courage will make it even more interesting for sure. I’m definitely a Buffer girl, in a Buffer world…! ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.daniel215 Mark Zeus Daniel

    Great post Alyssa. Being in college and running a startup, I am constantly being torn, both by external and internal factors, to either be safe and secure and focus on academics or truly go after building a successful start up. This is a fantastic post that definitely gave me some motivation. Thank you so much for writing. I hope to connect with you in the near future!

    • http://alyssaaldersley.com/ Alyssa Aldersley

      Thanks so much for your comment Mark. It’s a tricky journey for sure, to feel like you’re pushing against advice while craving the support of others. Great to hear it gave you a little motivational kick on a Monday morning! :)

  • https://www.bucketlistly.com/ Pete Rojwongsuriya

    Very well written Alyssa and thanks for sharing that Will Smith clip. It was 10 minutes of Pure Inspiration.

    Getting out of the comfort zone is definitely one difficult task, but once I go through with it and look back, almost every time I thought to myself, “I should have done that a long time ago”.

    Never have I regretted my decision. :)

    Looking forward to more of your post. :)

    • http://alyssaaldersley.com/ Alyssa Aldersley

      Thanks Pete. Love the Will Smith clip too, definitely packed full of inspiration!

      Life definitely has a way of working out for the best. It usually just takes a little courage to step outside the cosy zone and be brave enough to get things rolling.

  • http://twitter.com/ksredelinghuys Kyle Redelinghuys

    Awesome post. There are always ups and downs, and this attitude helps get you pumped and gives a never say die attitude. Not being realistic is often the biggest driving factor in any project. Thanks for sharing.

    • http://alyssaaldersley.com/ Alyssa Aldersley

      Hey Kyle. Thanks so much for the comment. It really does come down to attitude, you’re so right. Perhaps creating a daily habit to watch Will over breakfast will pump me up every morning, can’t hurt to try!

  • pschastain

    Interesting and insightful post; it hits rather close to home for me.

    As an aside. the info column on the left side of your page – ‘Recent Posts’, ‘Latest Tweets’, etc – doesn’t play nice with Chrome. Depending on the size of the browser window it gets truncated and you can’t scroll; I know that on this blog you ‘share thoughts, life hacks and’ something else that I can’t scroll down to read :-)

    • http://alyssaaldersley.com/ Alyssa Aldersley

      Thanks for hopping across to comment. And also for the heads up, the site is definitely a little home grown! I’ll lean on one of the awesome Buffer boys for a little dev assistance!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.chmura Nick Chmura

    Great Stuff Alyssa. I saw this video a few years back and have always felt comforted by it… that maybe I’m a little less crazy. Great post all together, thanks for sharing.

    • http://alyssaaldersley.com/ Alyssa Aldersley

      Thanks so much for your comment Nick. The video is awesome. I keep coming back to it and each time I do, I get a fresh injection of motivation and commitment to the chase!

  • http://www.dirtymonkey.co.uk/ Matt Stevens

    Great read Alyssa, thanks for posting it. We just don’t know where the limits are. Also, I’ve never seen that side of Will Smith before – really good video.

    • http://alyssaaldersley.com/ Alyssa Aldersley

      Hey Matt. Thanks for your comment. I agree, it’s definitely an unexpected side of Will Smith! There’s a ton of good stuff in there though, definitely a good bost.

  • http://www.sociallysorted.com.au Donna Moritz

    Great post! Love Will, and love the Eleanor Roosevelt quote too. I needed this one today! Thanks!

    • http://alyssaaldersley.com/ Alyssa Aldersley

      Thanks so much Donna, so great to know the post gave you just the little boost you needed! :)

  • http://twitter.com/brett_warner Brett Warner

    Fantastic post Alyssa. My thought has always been that a lot of people are adverse to unrealistic goals because they fear failure. When you realize that failing isn’t all that bad you can start chasing what you really want. Whether it’s realistic or not should only be worried about if the failure will be so catastrophically life altering(Death, complete financial ruin, etc).

    • http://alyssaaldersley.com/ Alyssa Aldersley

      Thanks so much for your comment Brett. I think you hit the nail on the head there. It’s definitely important to fight through your fears and take a leap of faith! Though I also know how incredibly hard that can be! :)

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  • http://twitter.com/JennileeWS Jennilee Swanner

    Alyssa, you go girl! I know I’ve been telling this very same advice to friends of mine, but never telling myself. Thanks for that. And if you ever need another life cheerleader, I happen to know a few :)

    • http://alyssaaldersley.com/ Alyssa Aldersley

      Thanks for jumping in to comment Jennilee, cheerleaders rock! Thank you for waving your pom poms a little for me too! :)

  • jane hutton

    Peace of mind and contentment are never mediocre.

  • http://twitter.com/morgantj FookedonHonix

    “I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none.” – Macbeth Act I Scene 7

  • http://www.facebook.com/harindu.ishan Harindu Ishan Mohottala

    Thanks for this.. you’ve no idea what this just did to me!!

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  • Student planner

    I have been planning an event that I proposed for months, only to receive rejection, criticism and negative feedback from my teachers. And the phrase that hits me the most is “you are unrealistic”. That throws me into an abyss of self-doubt and my confidence is gone at that moment. I’m really thankful for this post, thank you Alyssa, for bringing me back to my senses that I can prove them wrong with what I can achieve.

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