The old saying, mugged by reality, is a cliche for good reason - on the very same day Julia Gillard sets out a sweeping aspiration for Australia in Asia, the old fears of the neighbourhood rear up again.
A terrorist plot is foiled near the Australian embassy in Jakarta - and an asylum seeker boat arrives carrying 62 people.
When Australian's look north, the threats have traditionally loomed much larger than the opportunities.
This White Paper is a brave attempt to escape that mindset, long on ambition and with hopeful goals.
Think of it as an attempt to shock Australia out of complacency.
Plenty of cliches from the management coda that suffuse the paper: ''work smarter", "broaden and deepen relationships", "excellence and dynamism". But the document is not as bloodless as that sounds.
The need for lofty ideas to tie Australia with the world's fastest growing region is neatly captured in the opening pages: Australia's success depends on a choice, not chance.
Decisions are required for Australia to take its place. Language training and education are the obvious winners in this process, a simple yet bold plan to sure every school in Australia has a partner in the region.
Much of the paper simply presents Labor's existing policies in new wrapping, telling a story of national ambition for a government often accused of lacking a narrative. The National Broadband Network is explained as an opportunity to link with Asia - even the health of the Murray Darling gets a mention to explain Australia as a food bowl for the region.
Given the political wrangling over both these, it seems a forlorn hope to claim such plans are the basis for long-term engagement. Tony Abbott, still the likely next prime minister on the evidence at hand, has other ideas.
There is also a slightly amnesic quality to exuberance in the paper - as if the Asia story is entirely new. The truth is Australia has been grappling for decades with what Asia means to the country and what Australia means to Asia. These are old challenges, given new voice.
But they can and often have been forgotten, with the riches of the mining boom seemingly endless, and Australians are somewhat blasé about an easy ride through difficult economic times.
Time for a kick in the pants, as another favourite old saying goes.