Asking the Unreasonable—and Leaving “Good Enough” Behind

Most of us live “reasonable” lives, looking at what we CAN do and using that as a guide to what we WILL do. Shoot for mediocrity and you’re guaranteed a bull’s-eye, every time.  But a life worth living is about setting unreasonable goals, doing unreasonable things to make them happen, making unreasonable requests of people every day to stretch them to their undiscovered greatness.

Hey wait a minute, you say.  Times are tough.  The economy’s in the tank.  Everyone is running for cover.  My 401(k) is in flames!  I can’t even count on that pension!

Whoa there.  Deep breath, partner.

If mediocrity is a shallow moat in good times, it’s even less protection when times are tough.  Aiming low and being “reasonable” doesn’t bring out the best of who you are. If you want to enliven your teammates, your kids, your friends, here’s a surefire way to do it:  Make unreasonable requests of them. 

When a person comes face-to-face with and meets an unreasonable request, sometimes they react with fire in their belly.  They pick up the Kryptonite, the one thing they’ve been told to fear, and eat it for breakfast—and their life is altered forever. Sometimes they take the power and know that life can be all about facing a series of impossibilities that they will work to make possible. They develop a “bring it” attitude to most everything. And once they leap over tall buildings with a single bound, they know they can do it again. And again.

Reasonable goals are based on what’s been done before. But if it has been done before, how significant can doing it again be?

Most organizations set their goals based on what is reasonable: “If we grew eight percent last year, then we probably couldn’t do more than 10 percent. And if there is a recession, then … ”

That dog won’t hunt. If you choose to grow 40 percent, then, and only then, can you do the things necessary to meet and surpass that 40 percent mark. One of my clients, already successful enough that their growth more than doubled their industry average, decided to have a huge growth year in preparation of going public. As a result, they grew 73 percent in the same year their industry chugged along at a “reasonable” six percent. Why? Because they decided to do it.

When you make reasonable requests, you’re guaranteed to hear all reasons why it can’t or won’t be done. “I couldn’t do it because the market changed.” “I would have, but my vendor didn’t meet their deadline.” “I didn’t even try because …”  Blah, blah, blah. Open that can of reasonableness and there’s no end to the worms you find inside.

The best part of an UNREASONABLE request is that people can’t give you reasons why they can’t do it. They already know that your request is unreasonable because you told them so! 

When you surround yourself with people who know that you don’t accept reasons for failure but only listen to correction plans to get back on course, something amazing happens: Your results will rock!

Recessions are a great time for unreasonable people. Unreasonable people choose not to participate in the funk-of-the-moment. They just sell more at premium prices by offering more value. Recessions are actually a great time to pull ahead of the pack.

One Response to “Asking the Unreasonable—and Leaving “Good Enough” Behind”

  1. Donna Fisher says:

    Roxanne, I love this posting. Some of my most fulfilling accomplishments have been the ones where I had no idea how I was going to make it happen. When something is unreasonable and I “don’t know how” I become curious and excited which creates the energy that moves me forward. Thanks for encouraging us all to be “unreasonable” and surround ourselves with unreasonable people.

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