John Calipari: Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Your Dreams Are Unrealistic

John CalipariThe more I study the lives and inner beliefs of the world’s most successful people, the more I notice a common theme: they dream BIG dreams. Their goals and dreams are what most people would call unrealistic, impractical, or crazy.

But these high achievers don’t care what other people say.

They dream big, crazy dreams and they ignore anyone who tells them those dreams are too big or too unrealistic.

John Calipari is one of those achievers and he stresses the importance of dreaming big and ignoring the naysayers…


I’ve always had a vivid imagination, ever since I was a little kid. Most of the times my dreams were sports related, and I’d find myself in game-deciding situations either hitting a last-second game winner in basketball or throwing a touchdown on the final play of the game.

When I’d get in the backyard—or out to the tennis courts—I’d dream up all sorts of fabulous finishes, perfect serves, and holes-in-one.

Those dreams and others like them drove me.

I was never going to play in the NBA or on the pro tours in golf and tennis, but I had mental pictures of what success would be for me. Eventually, I got to the NBA—as a coach—and I’ve played golf and tennis with a few pros at various charity events!

Whatever your dreams are, you need to constantly envision them coming true in some way, shape, or form.

People often ask me, “How do you stay so positive all the time?” I tell them it’s easy for me because I’ve always retained that vivid imagination that had me beating Ilie Nastase in tennis and Arnold Palmer in golf.

As long as you are dreaming about where you want to be and what you want to accomplish, the positivity comes quite naturally.

Dream big and don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams are unrealistic; they are your dreams and you’re entitled to each and every one.

I want you to dream like you’re twelve years old again. Have the attitude that there’s nothing you cannot do.

A twelve-year-old sees a fence keeping him from a ball field or a basketball court, and he says, “I’m going under it, I’m going over it, and if I have to, I’m lowering my shoulder and I’m going through it. There’s nothing I can’t do.”

This is one of the most important themes I want you to take from [me]: Stay as positive and upbeat as you can possibly be. I’ll say it many times: if you can dream it, you can be it.


— John Calipari, from his book (with David Scott) Bounce Back

Don’t be afraid to dream big, crazy, “unrealistic” dreams. Trying to be more “practical” with your goals is often just an excuse for lowering your ambition.

Coach Cal points out that even if you don’t achieve all your biggest dreams, when you dream big and aim high you’ll still land higher than you ever would have with lower ambitions and “more realistic” goals.

As the Herb Brooks character in my book, Think Like a Warrior, states, “If you don’t set big, crazy, unreasonable goals, you’ll never know how far you could’ve gone.