By Patrick Lamb
Fort Madison High School
“There are dreamers and there are realists in this world. You would think that the dreamers would find the dreamers and the realists would find the realists, but more often than not, the opposite is true. You see, the dreamers need the realists to keep them from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists…well, without the dreamers, they might never get off the ground.” – Modern Family
I’m a pessimist. I don’t know how I got this way, but nearly everyone who knows me personally will identify me as such. I find it hard to envision the positive results of anything, and even if things are going well for me, I’m always waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. I’m positive that the people who work with me and live with me on a daily basis find it maddening. In relation to the above quote, I consider myself a realist.
By now, you’ve identified yourself as one or the other, too, and as much as you’d like to, you really can’t identify as both. So now that you’ve identified yourself, consider how you came to be a dreamer or realist. More than likely, we were all dreamers at one point. I distinctly remember telling my first grade teacher that I wanted to be a farmer. I didn’t have the wherewithal to make this happen, but it didn’t matter at that point.
My oldest daughter told my wife and I when she was five that she wanted to be a doctor during the day, and a veterinarian at night. We all know that while that dream may be improbable, improbable wasn’t on her mind. Because she was (and still is) a dreamer. I hope she never loses that spirit.
We are mostly dreamers at that point in life because we are encouraged. We are told we can be whatever we’d like to be if we work hard enough. “You can be the president of the United States if you set your mind to it,” right? Right.
Unfortunately, as we get older, the world around us changes. The expectations get higher, and the decisions become more serious. At this point, the decision to be a dreamer comes with it the scrutiny of others considering you “unrealistic.” The realists consider dreamers inferior, a form of intellectual snobbery that is terribly sad. The realists sit around waiting for the dreamers to fail, so they can tell them “I told you so!” It’s a lonely existence being a dreamer.
Dreamers learn resiliency. They realize that failure is going to happen and they must embrace it as a means of becoming a better version of themselves. They never quit believing that they can achieve whatever they set out to be. They have a growth mindset.
Realists are bad, then, right? No. Realists are the reason things move forward. All of us should continue to tell children as long as we can that they should be dreamers. That’s been established. The actuality is that there are already many realists in the world, and they exist to set the stage for dreamers to thrive. Realists are managers. They envision the potholes. They have the forethought to create a plan centered around the dreamer’s ideas, and can help the dreamers navigate. Realists deal in “what ifs,” which makes the “how?” possible.
Here’s the problem: being a realist by default makes you less likely to branch out to bigger and better things. Fear of failure becomes the motivating factor in every decision that a realist makes. Failure isn’t embraced as a stepping stone for realists. In their minds, failure is a stopping point. “Better not do it that way again,” says the realist. Meanwhile, the dreamer is figuring out what they did that caused them to fail, and correcting for success.
George Bernard Shaw said “people who say it cannot be done should not interrupt with those who are doing it.” I don’t quote Shaw to say that realists aren’t doing important work. But great things are achieved by dreamers.
So, what now? Well, I guess that depends on your desire to be great.
I like quotes, so I’ll offer another: the Islamic scholar Rumi stated long ago “yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Patrick Lamb is the Assistant Principal at Fort Madison High School and blogs on a variety of issues and spheres of thought. The Pen City Current his happy to offer his thoughts to our readership and we hope you enjoy them too. Please feel free to comment on our website or media channels on Mr. Lamb’s writing.