Your Turn: Optimist vs. Realist – Can You Be Both?

I’m a glass half full kind of guy. I think positivity propels you forward, gives you the energy to get up and go. But where does being realistic fit in to the equation?

Does being a realist mean you’re pessimistic?  Or can you be both optimistic and realistic at the same time? In my opinion, yes you can.

Optimist + realist = long-term value
Being a realist means you are practical and thoughtful, it doesn’t mean you are pessimistic. You need optimism to believe in opportunity, to know the possibility is out there and have the positive attitude to go after it. As a realist, you see the opportunity, but you acknowledge the potential for setbacks, risks, etc. And being a realist integrates opportunity with execution.  You need both to drive long-term sustainability, personally and professionally.

It is has been my experience that you cannot successfully execute without confronting reality, debating assumptions and assessing risk.  Don’t let all of that  paralyze you, but it should prepare you.  Acting like reality doesn’t exist is, well, silly. You end up being unprepared.

If you are focused on the short-term, you may be able to create value and capture opportunity by flipping it so someone else can execute and build upon it for the long-term.  By doing this you leave some value on the table. I’m not saying a realist is better or worse than an optimist, but I am suggesting that optimism without realism could impede an individual’s – or a firm’s – ability to create and capture long-term value.  As leaders we have to be focused on the long-term as well as the short-term.

Your Turn: Can optimism and realism coexist?
What about you? Are you an optimist, a realist, or have you mastered the delicate balance of marrying the two. I would love to hear your thoughts. Have there been experiences in your career or personal life where one outweighed the other and brought you success?  If not, how do you blend the characteristics of both sides to lead your team and yourself to professional and/or personal victory? Join the conversation and comment below. I would love to hear different opinions and get a healthy debate going.