I follow college basketball each season. The hopeful period when high school players announce the universities they’ll be attending in the fall. The spectacle of Midnight Madness when practice officially begins. The grind of the regular season. The thrill of the NCAA championship tournament.

Late one season, I heard a wise coach say, “Don’t just think about reaching the Final Four. That’s the kiss of death!”

The coach was driving home the point that a team can’t be satisfied just being one of the last four teams playing. It has to think about winning it all. Teams that are too relieved or too excited to be playing into the final weekend of the tournament won’t win. That group is content just making it to the Final Four. They lack the edge to win the championship.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio is preaching a similar message to think big. National championship big.

In May, de Blasio unveiled a headline-grabbing, $41 billion plan for 200,000 affordable housing units in 10 years. Forty percent would come from new construction, and 60 percent would involve preservation. The plan no doubt has its critics, and important details need to be worked out, but the proposal already accomplishes one important thing—it sets expectations.

Coaches, mayors, business leaders have to set targets high.

In affordable housing, the lofty aim of ending homelessness comes to mind as one of the biggest goals of all. I was incredulous when I first heard this many years ago, but now I understand that this has to be the intent of those working to end homelessness. Anything else would stop woefully short.

A naysayer by nature, I’ve come around to appreciate these far-reaching goals. Sure, some of it’s political grandstanding. Some of it may be pie in the sky. But, in the end, the message is, “Don’t settle for the Final Four when there’s more to accomplish. You can do better.”

Here’s to high expectations and avoiding the kiss of death.