Everyone strives for something different. Be it a specific job title, a big dream to chase, a particular spouse. Nothing wrong about it, especially considering needs of any single person do not remain static over their lifetime, but evolve to match their circumstances at the time. Obvious, isn’t it? Yet, some of our strives seem, well, unnatural at best. What do I mean?

If you imagine a tree, it’s history, the legend behind it, what do you see? It starts with a single stalk, then first leaf, then trunk manifests itself, then you get branches, with more and more leaves and even more branches. Environmental reality can and will affect the process. Winds will blow, shaping the tree in a awkwardly aerodynamic shape, allowing it to grow more easily. Every now and then, a fire will sweep the area – hopefully the tree will be big enough to sustain it. Mistletoe will prey on it, as will several insects, birds and other beings. What will the tree do about it?

Keep on growing. I’ve never heard of a tree – or any other living organism – to voluntarily stop growing. To decide ‘it’s big enough’. To settle for whatever the reality gives them.

Only one species is the exception to this rule. Some call it homo sapiens, other mention the mankind, yet other are honest enough to simply look in the mirror. Yes, we’re this very special species. We voluntarily give up our chances to achieve something more, to become someone better, to positively and actively affect our reality.

And we do have plenty of excuses, most of them easily distinguishable by word ‘anyway’. “I couldn’t have pulled it off anyway”. “They would get there first anyway”. “He would’ve declined me anyway”. With all my good-heartedness, the only description of all these excuses I can give is lame. No excuse is good enough to settle for the next best thing.

“But what if I fail?”

Oh, sure you will. Several times, to be honest. In fact, it doesn’t really matter. You fail, you draw conclusions, you evolve, you keep calm, you carry on. That’s it. This is how the greatest inventions are made. This is how people become genuinely happy in their life. This is how they die fulfilled, not grumbling, like the rest of us.

What does it take to get there? It’s actually easier than you think. If we were to be all managerial and play with SMART (Specific, Measurable Achievable, Realistic, Timeboxed) goals, you could either magnify the goal tenfold, or decrease the timebox ten times. Then figure out, what would be necessary to get there. And, while you might be worried it wouldn’t get you anywhere, you’d actually be wrong. Let me give you an example.

Imagine I asked you to walk 3 kilometers (2 miles) in an hour. It’s easy, for any healthy adult. If I ask you to do the same in 10 percent less time (54 minutes), it would’ve changed nothing. You’d just walk a bit faster. Move within the processes you already know, yet improve them slightly. Now, if I ask you to get reach the same distance in one-tenth of a time (6 minutes), that’s an entirely different story. Merely doing the same thing – walking – yet 10 times faster, is not an option. It’s actually physically impossible. What would you do then? If you’re really fit, it is possible to make it on a bicycle. It’s, obviously, easily achievable using any available car. It’s nothing of a challenge if you can ride a motorbike.

Can you see what happened here? By simply taking on an extremely ambitious – impossible to achieve using your regular mode of operation – goal, you’ve forced yourself to think outside the box. You’ve actually opened the window of opportunities.

It’s the same with every single thing in our life. Thinking of a dream job, far beyond your seemingly achievable postings? Just file your resume. Worst case scenario, nothing will happen. Odds are, you’ll receive some feedback – like “you do not have enough experience in areas of A, B and C”. Fantastic, now you know what to do to get there. I got to work with industry-best this way. Attempt, rejection, feedback, conclusion, improvement, another attempt – success. That’s how it works. They say persistence is the key to success – and it might actually be. Why only ‘might’? Because if you don’t know how superstars think, you’re likely to be amazingly persistent doing the wrong thing, the wrong way.

It’s not only about career. See that fancy Porsche parked there? Is it something you’d really like, yet can’t afford? Well, how do you know you can’t? Do you know how much the car actually costs, what are the monthly payments and so on? If not, then why would you limit yourself artificially?

See that someone over there, the popular one, which you’d dream would live with you ‘happily ever after’? Why wouldn’t you just come over and try? Sure, you can get rejected – but then you know what might not work on this kind of person. Lesson learnt.

Then, how about providing something new for the mankind, like shedding some light into their lives? You try it once, twice, thrice, fail, fail, fail. On one hand, it doesn’t really look promising. On the other hand, you’ve just learned three ways how to do it wrong. Several hundred failures later, you’ve made it. Congratulations, Mr. Edison!

It is unnatural for any being to limit itself voluntarily. This is not how we change ourselves, how we change our reality, how we change the world. Whatever you do, aspire for the best. If you fail, learn from it, modify your approach, then do it again.

Blind persistence is a fantastic pathway to the exceptional mediocrity. Persistence in adapting and striving to achieve the best can put you in the stars.

(Originally published as one of my LinkedIn articles)