I’m a practical idealist. A pragmatic dreamer. It’s a blessing and a plague. I’m full of passionate dreams, world-changing imagination, big vision – all combined with a sobering (and sometimes paralyzing) inoculation of reality. Some days it feels like schizophrenia.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I was a 2nd year music major at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, laying in the upper bunk of my dorm room in Herron Hall, staring at the textured ceiling early one morning. I was chasing my dream, to be in the Nashville music scene, and had the educational trajectory to prove it. Only problem: my realism gene was kicking in.
So many of my older friends were graduating (with $50k+ in debt mind you) from this prestigious school that had successfully populated so much of the Nashville music industry. And their highly respected diplomas were leading them to wait tables at the local Chili’s. Big dreams (and big debt) wrapped in a soaking wet blanket of real life.
Heck, I didn’t need to spend $50k to wait tables. I could do that for free. So I left Nashville and my dreams of music biz stardom and got a degree in the absolutely most practical thing I could think of: accounting (yeah…I know). Reality swallowed and digested my ambition.
So what’s the right answer? Live as a pragmatic realist, squashing every dose of passion with the hammer of responsibility? My grandfather did that. Forty years in a Chicago steel mill, consistent schedule, regular paycheck, good pension. Hard work, but safe. Consistent. Responsible. I often wonder what untapped vision he surrendered to the compelling call of responsible realism. What dreams were buried with him?
What I see in my generation is quite the opposite, but maybe even more disturbing. Lots of dreams. Lots of visions (usually of grandeur). Lots of imagination. Countless choices. Zero realism. And so influence goes unused and imagination stays stored in a little locked cupboard full of immobilized idealism.
The expressions of these two generational perspectives may look completely different, but the symptom is the same: control.
Pragmatists choose predictability over possibility. Idealists choose imagination over action. Practicality eliminates the possibility of failure. But so does just dreaming. In both cases, we keep control of our lives, our efforts, our destinies. We call the shots. We make the rules. We eliminate the risk.
We write our story.
And while we continue to furiously scribble with our ink-less pen, the Creator of the Universe patiently waits for us to simply surrender ourselves to His beautiful, dream-filled, action-packed narrative.
Risky. Unpredictable. Costly. But very real.