Pragmatism vs. Realism

As an Idealist, it is very easy for me to get caught in my head, which lies in the stars.

Has that ever happened to you?

In the past, I very much felt like the character on the left:

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Over time, I have come to evolve to embrace more the virtues of the other character, on the right (although I still have relapses and get caught up in the stars sometimes…).

It is easy to oppose pragmatism and idealism, however, there is a more valuable distinction to draw. This distinction lies between Pragmatism and Realism.

In business and in life, when we are faced with a challenging situation, a common reaction and advice is to face it by being « realistic ». One ought to deal with the situation effectively by being as close to reality as possible.

A great example is given by Ryan Holiday, in his book The Obstacle is the Way:

In 1915, two companies were competing in South America for access to a certain piece of land to grow fruit. One of them was the powerful United Fruit, and the other was a small business run by Samuel Zemurray. Both companies were struggling to find out who was the real proprietor of the land, between two competing local people.

United Fruit used its army of lawyers to go through paperwork and try to find out the issue.

On the other hand, Zemurray decided for a different solution: he paid each of the two locals for the land, and thus acquired the property without a fight. This was the pragmatic solution.

Indeed, this is an excellent illustration of non-conventional problem-solving. It is certainly not a realistic one. The United Fruit solution was far more realistic, and conventional, however, it got defeated in speed, cost and effectiveness by the more pragmatic one.

Hence, the invitation to cultivate pragmatism in our own challenges.

Is there a big issue that you are currently facing and struggling with?

How would a pragmatist such as Zemurray solve this issue?

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