How to Be Unrealistic

Rule Number One: Being Unrealistic works much better for you when you succeed.

You can be unrealistic and fail – but then that’s not only being unrealistic, it’s being dumb – which completely negates the coolness of being unrealistic. How do you avoid being dumb? You can’t. Well – I can’t. So in order to hedge my bets, I accept the fact that not everything is going to work out at first. Ideas come from nowhere and everywhere and I’ve removed the filter in my head. So I accept them all. There are many ways to be unrealistic – look for the ones where you’ll find success – and if you have trouble, keep looking. Get to the ‘No’ answer as fast as possible so you can move on and find a ‘Yes’.

We don’t use the term ‘Big’ around here when talking about ideas. We prefer ‘Ridiculous’.

How ridiculous can we make this? That’s too close to rational – we need to put more Awesome into this.

Rule Number Two: Start at Ridiculous

If you’ve had breakfast or brunch or lunch or coffee with me over the past few weeks – and we’ve talked about ideas on how we can collaborate – I probably asked you to think as ridiculous as possible. Bigger than big. It’s not because I think it’s fun (which it is) – and it’s not because I like hearing myself talk (which I do) – it’s because reality is a force stronger than gravity and everyone outside of you and me will try to pull us down.

They don’t mean it maliciously – that’s just what they do. That’s their job. They’re the litmus test. Only when they tell us that we can’t do something, that it can’t be done, that we shouldn’t do something – that’s when we know our idea is worth pursuing. Because I need a little fear and sometimes a lot of challenge – and I don’t need to give myself those things when there is a whole world of people that will give me more than enough. Deciding to do something that they don’t want to do because it sounds crazy is… entertaining. It has to be entertaining or else why go to the trouble?

Not only will starting at ridiculous mean that you’re probably aiming really high – like the force of gravity – it’s much easier to come down to earth a little than it is to blast off into outer space. So why not start higher than high and see if you can stay up in the clouds. Besides. Your reality isn’t their reality.

Rule Number Three: Your Reality isn’t Their Reality

Without going into quantum physics or meta physics or cartoon physics – I will only talk about myself and us right now. A few years ago we had just come back from spending 23 days in China. I was working as a business analyst at a mortgage company and when I got back to the office, one of the first things a co-worker said to me was, “Welcome back to the real world.”

Those words stung. No. They rang in my head and echoed painfully.

It hurt because at the time – this ‘real world’ that my co-worker was referencing, sucked. I sat there in a panic, just for a second thinking – this is the real world? And then I snapped back and remembered what I had just accomplished. I had just come back from a 23 day trip to China with my now fiance (I proposed to Leah on the Great Wall of China). I literally got my business analyst position simply because I wore a suit everyday and sat at a desk in a hallway (seriously, I was hired to work in the mailroom and the company President kept walking past me in the hallway – and I was the only person in the building who wore a suit – so she created a new job for me.) Now the real topper was that I had convinced this company to let me ‘telecommute’ while we were traveling in China. You have to understand – NO ONE telecommuted at this company – and it was more likely that they would just say ‘thank you – here’s your last paycheck.’

Somehow that all happened and when I got back I kept hearing from other people ‘Welcome back to the real world.’

I decided that I didn’t want their real world. So I had to decide how I wanted mine to be.

Rule Number Four: Reality is Hard Work.

Enough with all of this crazy talk. Nevermind that it all seems like it’s magic – the fact is that there is no magic other than hard work. We’re making our own reality here – it’s going to be amazingly difficult and require more time and effort than you would knowingly agree to up front. Even without getting into the details of how you’re going to break away from your daily grind – I cannot stress how much hard work it will take.

The worse part? It’s not that way for everyone.

Rule Number Five: Their Path is Not Your Path

I think there’s some rule about not having a ‘negative’ in your rules. Rule number five could be ‘Your path is different’ – except that doesn’t really hit the point in the right way.

Yes your path is different – but we’ll always look at other people – and we’ll see that they seem to get all the breaks, or they just have better friends, or better family. While some people take comfort in the simple statement of ‘Your path is different’ – I have to accept that not only is my path different, but their path is different. Although I may want the same things and breaks to happen to me – the fact is that they just might not ever happen for me. I might just have to work harder, or smarter, or make better mistakes. I don’t know.

What I do know is that when I stop trying to follow their path, I’m able to create ideas that are far more ridiculous, and these are ideas that are specifically suited to me – which leads to a higher chance that my unrealistic idea will succeed.

The photos in this post? Two years ago I don’t know if I would’ve ever thought that we would spend a month in Nepal, that people would fly me across the country to photograph their family, or across the country to photograph their wedding, or that we would have an Army of Interns. How’s that for a different reality.

It’s Monday. Let’s go.


Posted by Mark

4 Replies to “How to Be Unrealistic”

  1. My reality is not their reality.

    So true. So true. It took me almost 29 years to grasp this concept. Excellent post.

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