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Race to the Middle: Forget the Stars, Reach for the Clouds

by Shawanda Greene

Race to the Middle: Forget the Stars, Reach for the CloudsDespite what you heard, we were not all created equally.

In almost every respect there’s someone who’s—dare I say it—more amazing than you. She’s prettier, funnier, and smarter. Her husband is faithful, and her kids don’t snort bath salts. So embrace inferiority and move on.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I just get frustrated when people abandon their hopes, because, somehow, they’re convinced being okay is not okay.

You don’t have to be the best at everything or even, anything.

Give yourself permission to pursue modest goals.

I know the exact moment you lost sight of perfectly respectable ambitions. While thumbing through the pages of Entrepreneur magazine, you discovered the tale of a wealthy, 20-year old college dropout who started his business with a paper clip and a pocket of lint.

In three short years, he built a multi-million dollar company. You say to yourself, “I’ll never be able to make that kind of money. What’s the point of even trying?”

After you read about the rare success of another, your vision of operating a humble home-based business morphed into ruling the world. Minutes later, the vision died.

Before, all you wanted was a profitable Etsy store that would allow you to pay your bills, quit your job, and take an annual two-week vacation. What was wrong with that dream? I’ll tell you, not a daggum thing.

Too often, we snub the possibilities that lie on middle ground.

You fix your eyes on the big stuff and overlook more attainable goals.

But with big dreams come big sacrifices and big risks and big bets you’re either unable or unwilling to make. So what do you do? Do you refine your goals into something more manageable? Nope. You quit completely.

That’s nonsensical. Just aim lower–if necessary, much, much, lower.

“Shawanda, are you telling me not to shoot for the stars?”

Yes . . . if it means you at least rise to the middle, instead of settling at the bottom.

The trick is to aim for your midpoint not the average of everyone else’s. 

Do NOT compare yourself to other people. Start with the simple question: “What is ideal for me?”

Let’s say you need $3 million to retire comfortably at age 65. If you can do it, great. But maybe you don’t have the discipline to save that kind of money over your working life. Maybe you have other obligations you need to take care of.

Should you give up?

Squander every dime you make?

Never retire, and die broke?

Of course not. Aim for $1.5 million, and keep it moving.

Totally ignore the average American’s abysmal savings rate. It’s irrelevant to your calculation.

I understand what I’m suggesting is un-American. And honestly, I still want you to set and achieve lofty goals. I still want you to have everything you desire. Just remember to respect the middle as everything doesn’t come all at once.

Between no-thing and every-thing lies some-thing. You can’t get to everything without going through something.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Daisy @ Add Vodka June 15, 2012 at 9:36 AM

I actually agree. I know that I could have become a doctor or something that made a LOT more money than a Human Resources person,but that’s just not me. Comparing oneself to somebody who is – dare I say it, better than you – is just not worth it and will only lead to disappointing outcomes.
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Shawanda Greene June 15, 2012 at 4:35 PM

For a while, I toyed with the idea of going to law school. Ultimately, I decided to stick with accounting. I really didn’t want to spend three years getting a Juris Doctor. I’m glad too. As a result, I probably had a more financially and professionally rewarding career as an accountant. Not to mention, I didn’t dig myself further into debt.
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Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter June 15, 2012 at 9:44 AM

Patience is a virtue what can I say. It is hard to focus on the end sometimes, especially when things don’t go according to plan or there are curve balls. I have gotten better at focusing on the successes that come along the way and it does make the journey more rewarding. Not easy though. So many of us are all or nothing people.
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Shawanda Greene June 15, 2012 at 4:38 PM

Yep. I try to revisit the dangers of the all-or-nothing attitude on my blog periodically. It permeates so many areas of our lives that have nothing to do with money as well.
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Crystal June 15, 2012 at 2:04 PM

I live this post. I wanted a hobby I would love and aimed for that. When I saw that I could make money doing it, I aimed to replace my crappy salary and work from home. When I noticed it could pay my husband’s salary too, we aimed for that. Now we are just aiming for it to continue. I don’t need to make a million a year – I wouldn’t turn it down – but I love aiming for big, achievable goals, not crazy huge ones that will crush my spirit. Great post!
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Shawanda Greene June 15, 2012 at 4:40 PM

Thanks! Once you get started, you can always create new goals. After you have some experience, what seemed difficult before becomes much easier. The important thing is to just do what you can.
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femmefrugality June 15, 2012 at 5:06 PM

Wow, I’m loving what you’ve been writing. I think I’ve tweeted every article of yours that I’ve read lately lol. I totally agree with you. It’s like that quote, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” In this case, the stars are your clouds, but just because you can’t become the next face on the cover of Forbe s doesn’t mean you aren’t/can’t be a success story.
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Shawanda Greene June 15, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Thanks! Forbes, Fast Company, Inc. and other business magazines don’t feature entrepreneurs who live modest, but fulfilling and financially rewarding lives. Although I’d like to be rich, I don’t need to be rich in order to be happy. I’m happy right now! If I can keep doing what I’m doing, and make enough money to pay for my needs and a decent chunk of my wants, I’d be ecstatic.
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Charlotte @ Moneyinthe20's June 15, 2012 at 7:12 PM

I like the idea of little mini goals. At this point in my life all my goals are to get ready for retirement. I’ve started a side business to have something to fill my time and make a little spending money.
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Shawanda Greene June 16, 2012 at 8:54 AM

Mini goals sound like a great idea. At the moment, I’ve taken a break from saving for my retirement. I’m focusing my energy on getting enough income to start contributing to my retirement accounts again.

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Lance@MoneyLife&More June 16, 2012 at 3:19 PM

Something is better than nothing! It is sad when people give up because of the enormity of a goal. Break it down to smaller pieces and take it one step at a time!
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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 4:18 PM

Break big projects down into smaller pieces. That’s also a great productivity tip.
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Leslie June 18, 2012 at 1:18 AM

I love this article! You are so on point it made me laugh out loud. :) I am aiming for become a professional Lady of Leisure. I’m certain I will be most excellent in this role. There may be some “settling for okay” on my journey but I am fine with that and intend to stick with it until I see full fruition of my goal. Also, Shawanda, I did go to law school and while being a lawyer is fine for now, I am looking toward the stars and shooting for being able to pay off my debt, quit my job if I choose to do so and write a witty, charming, edgy and amazingly useful blog to better myself and the WORLD! Muhahahahahaha!

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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Thanks, Leslie!

A lady of leisure, huh? Now that sounds like fun.

Keep working toward your goal. I don’t have all the answers (and I’m not independently wealthy yet), but feel free to shoot me an email if you have any questions. I was an accountant, I paid off my debt, and quit my job. I too hope to write a “witty, charming, edgy and amazingly useful blog” someday, so we have a lot in common. :)
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MyMoneyDesign June 19, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Awesome advice. Although I think it helps to have a general perspective on things, I also think that focusing on the task at hand rather than ALL of them will be way more productive. When I was in school, I used to practice this a lot. I knew I wanted to graduate and get an A. But I’d focus hard on the assignment or test that day, and dismiss everything else. I feel like that helped me do much better.
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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 4:26 PM

I still have to try to consciously focus on one thing. This morning I was completely frazzled. Didn’t know where to begin. Then, I made a list. Since then, I’ve been knocking each item off my list one at a time.
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Kris @ BalancingMoneyandLife June 19, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Fantastic advice. I’ve let myself become overwhelmed with all the minute, irrelevant things I “need to do”, which drowns out the small things I can be doing to make things change.
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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 4:29 PM

There are times I spend hours working on one thing that’s not even that important. I’m amazed at well life continues on when I quit that unimportant thing that was wasting my time. Before I begin a tedious project, I need to ask myself “What happens if I don’t do this at all?”
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Hannah June 19, 2012 at 5:56 PM

I love this post and your blog and felt like commenting for the first time.

I remember when I looked in the mirror one day and said, “I’ll never be hot, but I think I’m a little cute.” Sounds vain, but I guess what I’m trying to say is you just have to work with what you’ve got.

If you compare yourself to others or how they “appear” to be (looks, car, house, job) you’ll always come up short.

It’s okay to be okay looking, have an okay job, okay house/apartment. Don’t go try so damn hard that you fall way short or worse in debt.

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Shawanda Greene June 21, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Hannah! Thanks for commenting!

I think everyone has things about their body they don’t like. I wish I had larger calves. So, almost every morning I do calf raises while I’m brushing my teeth. Sometimes I do a hundred. Sometimes I do fifty. But I’ll tell you what, my calves are growing. And they’re actually starting to look pretty good. I figure doing a little something everyday will keep me in the habit of performing this exercise. It’s working.

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