Don’t bring dreamers back to earth

Recently Nike released their new commercial, with Colin Kaepernick – yeah, the kneeling guy – „Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything”. And it’s one of the most engaging and compelling commercial I’ve ever seen and it still sticks with me.

In that ad, few phrases were said that I got inspired by. – “Don’t try to become the best female athlete in the world, try to become the best athlete in history” (while showing Serena Williams) or “don’t try to become the best basketball player of all time, be bigger than basketball (while showing LeBron James opening his own public school in Akron). I would love to have that Nike approach in life.

While talking to my friends, I often come to realize that most of us were raised in an environment which encourages us to have stable, but average life. To not dream big, to settle for mediocrity. Nobody tells us that we were born to do great things.

Maybe that’s the reason why Poland hasn’t had a worldwide brand, despite having the greatest minds and talent. Swedes got Volvo and Ikea, Swiss Milka, Italians Ferrari, Czech Skoda, and us? The only Polish brands known on the international scale are John Paul II and Lech Wałęsa.

Maybe that’s the reason why we settle for 5th places in sport, we’re happy with top 10 and top 20. We often call defeat a success, because there were three other teams which did worse than us. We don’t allow our athletes to say in the interviews that their goal is to win the world championships. Because it’s like pumping up a balloon, which may quickly explode, leaving us with void and broken expectations. But how can you win, if you assume losing at one point or another? If you go to the tournament only with a goal of advancing to the best of 16 or quarterfinals, you expect to lose, since you don’t see yourself in the final. This is that mediocrity approach I mentioned earlier – just don’t be the worst, but at the same time don’t have too high hopes and don’t aim at the top of the ladder. With such a mindset it’s really easy to give up when it matters the most – when legs and lungs start to burn and there is no energy left in the tank.

In American professional sport there are no medals for other podium spots. There are no games for 3rd place. It’s only about winners and that philosophy seems to pay off. Even though not a single man in the US plays volleyball, their male national team still won Olympic gold in 2008.

When I tell me friends about my dreams, I feel like I’m talking in Portuguese. They have no idea what am I saying, since we think in different categories. I talk about “apples”, they talk about “labor certifications”. Two separate things. I’m trying to reach the stars, they set their feet firm on the ground.

I don’t blame them for that, but please, I ask everyone – please don’t view dreamers as crazy people. Don’t bring them down to earth. Don’t forbid athletes, travelers, activists, artists or anyone else from having great goals. Don’t try to talk somebody out of their dreams, don’t tell them that something can’t be done, or that it’s pointless only because you think so. You have no idea how hard it is to overcome such discouraging words.

The hardest step towards making dreams come true is to break that barrier of doubts built by family, friends or society. Once you’re on the other side, it gets much easier.

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