How to Achieve Your Craziest Goals
The uncommon answer I learned and the journey I discovered
My friend (let’s call him George) spent primary education “wooing” elementary teachers through elegant cursive handwriting.
The writing was comprised of distinguished swoops and swirls between letters. In the classroom, these teachers, trained to expect less, were wowed by unreal levels of detail. Pulled outside of their practical (often cynical) methods long enough to notice the elegance in a student, they reflected awe that transferred to the rest of George’s work.
George understood the point that most miss: it’s not about accomplishing things; it’s what you accomplish.
Likewise, I didn’t awe at good handwriting, as other teachers did as well. I was awed when I saw ‘unrealistic’ handwriting. To quote coach Jennifer Thompson, “have unrealistic dreams, all of the realistic ones are taken.”
It’s not about creating a 30-page document for your newest startup, perfecting every product and channel until launch. It’s not about creating reasons for working out that’ll fuel you till the end of the earth.
Achieving your “wildest” dreams doesn’t require hyper-planning or extreme drive.
Writing beautiful cursive took neither.
I’d struggled with refining my analysis for my paper on dark Romanticism, so far.
I walked into school, with an almost complete paper and wondered how to finish it, passing by friends who said “hi.” After a deep brainstorm, I planned steps and walked across to my next class where my literature teacher, now holding feedback sessions, was consulting other students.
She had been providing feedback for thesis evidence and analysis all morning. Tired and clutching several papers, waiting for several eager students, she couldn’t have looked busier.
I figured feedback could help just in case and scheduled a session with my teacher later in the day.
After a short lecture from our teacher, I developed some questions that could be helpful for my analysis.
At feedback session time, I grabbed my laptop and pencil. I’d scheduled and attended several sessions before, but today I realized I felt oddly relaxed, something I hadn’t felt in a while. After running past my friend -who had been a great help on my thesis last time- I opened the classroom door.
I entered with eyes wide open, noticed several peers writing thesis statements in amazing handwriting, and looked away. Staring around the room, I looked ahead for a seat in the room as I went. Written neat words I didn’t have, numbing efforts had previously done nothing, and I’d given up on ever having it.
There was a seat in the front of the room, and I headed over there, causing my work to be noticeable, despite never having good handwriting.
I first took a seat and opened my laptop on the desk. Then, Word loaded, until my essay popped up. I pondered further. The longer I thought, the more obvious the answers seemed.
Behind my seat, I noticed something I hadn’t seen earlier: My friend George, scribbling away on a piece of paper, calmly hacking away amidst the others.
I pondered yet again. A few seconds later, I got up and walked out of the class from boredom. I needed to refine my analysis, but I had already created a plan. Too easy, I guess.
The students were still intensely focused and didn’t notice me until they saw a figure peering from the windows at their work. I walked back into my seat and ignored the good handwriting until a quiet “Hey, could you read my thesis statement?” came from right in front of my desk.
I froze like a popsicle, looked up, and noticed George holding a piece of paper to which I nodded.
“Also, can you read cursive?” he asked me before I began to read.
I glanced at the paper for a long time, where I noticed the elegance in his handwriting, and moved my eyes down, noticing his various swoops, swirls, and twirls. For my terrible handwriting, it was like touching the clouds and sun.
Around 30 seconds later I began to read. Time was passing and while my eyes scanned, my thoughts grew. His thesis statement contained the necessary elements (a powerful idea with clarity and purpose), his evidence and analysis commentated on each with precision, insight, and depth, and his cursive brought about a gaping awe and massive desire.
Naturally, I’d been jealous of anyone with good handwriting, but this was different.
The little writing was art, and my mind imagined my own stylish writing and thesis statements. Ambition echoed through my thoughts and my mind, where I was formulating how to change my writing.
When I finished reading, the paper was returned, and I concluded I had witnessed two masterpieces. I looked at my own paper after handing back his, and the thoughts of boredom, doubt, and pity filled my mind. For curiosity, I scavenged random articles on how to write in cursive, having no idea how to write like that. I was utterly clueless about my ambition. Walking up to my teacher, on schedule, I explained my questions for my analysis.
Answers fired back to my questions, and imaginative thoughts on cursive, one or two at a time, captivated me. I walked away from the session thinking only about cursive handwriting, so I opened up various tabs on the topic, wondering what my life could look like as I researched how to start learning the style.
When it was time to leave, I felt clueless but locked on mastering cursive writing.
That’s what I wanted.
How many moments have you felt clueless while pursuing goals? More importantly, how many will you have while pursuing your next goals?
The 4-hour Workweek’s advice is that unrealistic goals are much more motivating than realistic.
If you recall, the first time I saw good handwriting all I felt was shame over my own. But as soon as I saw George’s writing, things changed. I was more than motivated to improve my handwriting, seeing that I could create art, and I saw such handwriting as achievable, George being proof.
I often ponder the road to the dreams I have. It’s a cliché thing, but I typically view this impeccable journey as the result of one thing -cluelessness and desire. One isn’t enough:
Cluelessness without desire makes you grow but aimless. Desire without cluelessness makes you fixed but focused.
I’ve always been trained to focus on the present. Plan a ton, set super realistic goals, and all that. Small steps, not aiming too high, and steady, steady, steady progress. It’s how I’ve learned to accomplish things, and I enjoy small wins.
But to avoid accomplishing only what I know I can, I need to remember the other ingredient: cluelessness.
Perhaps the most important key I’ve found is unrealistic goals.
Done like cursive handwriting, it teaches you to start fully clueless and extremely desperate for the things you want.
My cursive writing required nearly nothing. It wasn’t about what I knew. Despite conventional belief, setting goals you already know how to achieve won’t cause you to grow.
The bright side is that making your writing a masterpiece with nothing, just might.
I hope to see you in the deep end.
A tip on writing: copy other writers’ tone, story, and sentence structure. You learn the fundamentals of good writing and eventually incorporate that into your own tone. So, Tim Ferriss, please don’t sue me or anything for using your sentence structure. Thank you.