Appearing on the BET show “The Real,” First Lady Michelle Obama said that her husband was a late bloomer. Describing his youthful attitude toward education, Michelle said Barack was not focused. “Barack fooled around in high school,” she said. “He didn’t take school seriously in high school. He barely got his work done. He was a bum! And it took him a second. He had to grow up a little bit.”

Michelle went on to say that her husband finally pulled it together when he started at Columbia University. At that time, she says, Barack decided it was time to get serious. “I gotta make something of myself,” she said, describing her husband’s thought process at the time. “I gotta get it together.”

She said that her husband’s story could provide hope for parents who are concerned about their slacker teenagers. “It is never too late. The president of the United States screwed around in high school and he still got his act together. He did OK,” she said.

Well, he can’t be faulted for his personal ambition. Anyone who makes it to the presidency obviously worked extremely hard to get there. That’s not in doubt. But this kind of myth-making provides kids with exactly the wrong message. In fact, it sends two of them. One, it’s entirely realistic to set your sights on being president of the United States. Two, you have plenty of time to turn your life around, so don’t worry about it right now. Well, that plan might have worked for Barack Obama, but it’s not going to work in 99.99% of cases.

This would be an easy chance to mock Obama’s current attitude toward the presidency, which might be described as “bum”-like in nature, but there’s a much bigger problem with this kind of message. Kids today are inundated with dreams and ambitions of the most outrageous sort. Who wants to be a doctor when you can be a football star? Who wants to run a small business when you can be president of the U.S.?

We encourage these dreams for some reason. We like the idea that anything is possible. And, of course, anything is. But telling your child to aim impossibly high is like using the lottery as your retirement plan. You’re setting them up for disappointment. Once you’ve decided that you can’t be happy without achieving something that only the tiniest fraction of human beings will ever achieve, what’s going to happen when it doesn’t work out?

Anyone from any background, with the right goals and determination, can find success. Almost no one, regardless of goals or determination, can achieve true greatness. We need to impress upon young people that you don’t have to go down in history to find happiness, and we need to start replacing pie-in-the-sky dreams with a little old-fashioned grit. Selling them the greatest of fantasies and then downplaying the amount of sacrifice it will take to realize them is a sure-fire recipe for misery.