For a long time I considered myself a realist. My parents were pragmatic people, and I inherited the trait from them. Not only that, I took pride in it. While others were illogical, I aimed to be realistic. I focused on what mattered.
Until one day, after a long journey, when I realized the problem with realism.
Do you want to know what a realist is? Really?
A realist is a cynic who doesn’t want to admit it.
There’s a famous quote, of which I’m sure you’ve heard. It says:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw
The realist–that is, the cynic is the reasonable man, the one who sees the world as it is and adapts himself to it. I’ll grant you that the cynic may be right – people may truly be motivated primarily by self-interest. But is that truth helpful? Is that truth useful?
As I’ve grown older, I’ve made the rare trip towards optimism. Not because it’s right, but because it’s useful, and because if I were to choose between the reasonable man and the unreasonable man, I want to be the unreasonable man. I want to shape the world to my purposes, rather than be shaped by it.
I retain some of my parent’s “realism”, and I put it to good use, for the unreasonable man who can’t see practicalities is surely doomed. Yet when the cynic inside me says I can’t do something, I tell him to shut the hell up.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe I can’t do it. Maybe it’s impossible.
But I won’t know until I try.
Give me that unreasonable man any day of the week. Or better yet, watch as I become him. Then I’ll show you the world I want to live in.