Let’s Be UNrealistic Together


I recently had the opportunity to keynote at the Central KY #KYGoDigital Regional event. Over 500 remarkable educators gathered to learn how to CREATE. CONNECT. SHARE. innovative ways to use digital tools in their roles. I had a blast with my tribe mates there and the message I shared (along with this slideshow) was one about how we, as educators, can and need to be UNrealistic together.

Admission – I am a nerd. This manifests itself in many situations, but one way is that I geek out over quotes. Quotes have a way of inspiring and resonating in a poetic kind of way and I just love them. I’ll share several quotes in this post, but one in particular, the quote that hangs on my office door, encompasses much of what educators should be about.


As educators, we have to be dealers of hope, igniters of dreams, fuelers of inspiration. We have to be the fountains of BELIEF. If those who we serve, students, colleagues, teachers, can’t come to us and know that we have visions for them that others find impossible, then we’ve failed before we’ve even begun.

Let me put it to you a different way. Have you ever been excited about an idea and, after sharing it with someone, they respond with “Let’s be real…” and continue to give you all of the reasons what you’ve shared won’t work? I have. And it is deflating and the opposite of what I feel like I need to create something amazing.

Maybe you are still thinking that using words like “unrealistic” and “impossible” are taking it just a bit too far. That these are idealistic words we can throw out in philosophical discussions but don’t have any true meat behind them. I have over 20 years of experiences with students ranging from preschool to seniors in high school telling me otherwise. These interactions and journeys with thousands of kids have shown me that kids have a sixth sense. They know, almost immediately, if we adults have those impossible dreams for them, if we are the ones ready to be UNrealistic for them.

And let me ask you this. What is the other option? If we can’t be all in on being UNrealistic, are we hinging all of our energy and efforts on being REALISTIC?


Because being realistic leads to mediocrity. And mediocrity doesn’t motivate. Anyone.


How do you believe in the impossible? How can you create your future to make it happen? Here are 4 ways we can be UNrealistic together.

Know your WHY.

The vast majority of companies, schools, and people get it wrong from the start. If you focus on the WHAT (the results) and the HOW (the processes) rather than your WHY (the cause or purpose in the work), the work and people doing the work lose sight of the core value and aligning belief. Simon Sinek talks about The Golden Circle in this TED talk.Know Your Why (1)

You need to reflect on your personal WHY and then, as a team, clarify your shared WHY. After all, purpose is an incredible alarm clock and our jobs, which can seem like a mountain to be moved on the best of days, need an endless reserve of motivation. Knowing and reinforcing your WHY provides this. People don’t get burned out because of the WHAT and the HOW, they get burned out because they either don’t know of have forgotten the WHY. 

Build your TRIBE.

To be UNrealistic, you can’t go it alone. Start building your community, finding those that share your WHY. Seek out the greatness in others, and realize that, while alone we have lots to offer, together we are brilliant.

Say no to silos! Get connected through tools like Twitter and Voxer, step out of your classroom or office. Start sharing and collaborating through Google apps. Finding and building your tribe will have incredible impact on you and your purpose.Tell your story through blogging, learn from others, create content and put it out there. The power behind a tribe includes support and exponential impact.



We can’t expect to create the impossible without a positive mindset. This is not a Pollyanna positive where everything is rainbows and unicorns. This is the kind of positive leadership that rolls its sleeves up, gets messy, puts real issues on the table, has difficult conversations, is solutions-focused. The kind of positive that says “YES, we CAN do this and we WILL do this. Because this is our WHY.”

Too often, especially when we have impossible dreams and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, we listen to our inner critic. This negative voice inside our head tells us that we are frauds to even think we can achieve such greatness. To be UNrealistic, we need to stop listening and start talking. Fear is a liar and we need to start telling ourselves in affirmative, specific ways, that we CAN do this. I challenge you to form positive affirmations, statements that shine a light on your strengths and your purpose, that you tell yourself daily.


You, as a positive leader, own the energy you bring into this space. And make no mistake, your thoughts have energy and that energy is contagious. Start talking belief in yourself and your purpose and you will be amazed at how you have more strength to be different and think big, starve out fear, and beat average.

Get comfortable being UNCOMFORTABLE.

Take risks, fail forward, and be vulnerable by putting yourself out there. If you aren’t working towards something right now that makes you nervous, you need to think bigger. If there isn’t something on your calendar in the very near future that gives you some butterflies, you are being realistic.


If you are still shy about going big, ask yourself, “If I do this and fail, what is the worst thing that will happen?” You will learn a great deal, be more prepared to try again, and you will inspire others to take a risk. Wow! Pretty incredible side effects of failure, right? David Geurin has shared 11 Things to Be Instead of Comfortable if you’d like some additional inspiration to support you own your growth, communicate your commitment and realize you are capable of and made for amazing things.


What do you want your legacy to be? Think hard about this because there is no middle ground here. Either you’re committed or you’re compliant. Either you are remarkable or you are ordinary. Either you CREATE the future or you defend the status quo.

I want my legacy to be one of belief. I desire to be UNrealistic. Together.


What you do today is creating your legacy. What will your legacy be?


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