The Optimist, Pessimist, Realist Debate

optimist, pessimist, realist debate

My good friend Bill Petrie and I have an ongoing debate.  We discuss in Episode 7 of the Promo UpFront podcast here.  It centers around the idea of the Optimist, the Pessimist, and the Realist.

My take, which I will dissect today, was simple.  There is no such thing as a realist.  There are only optimists and pessimists.  The realist is only a pessimist in disguise.  My evidence was simple.  No one ever comes up to you and says “I am just being a realist…” and then finishes with a positive statement.  Ever.  I stand by that logic.  But here is where I was wrong.

There is no such thing as an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist.

In our haste to quickly label everything and everyone, we want to put people, their personalities, their gender, their race, etc. into perfect little boxes.  It makes it easier for us to understand.  It also makes it easier for us to dismiss them.  We want to label people and move on.

But no one person is one thing, always.

While I am an extrovert often, sometimes I want to be left alone.  I love to listen to music, except when I want silence.  I enjoy running, except when I don’t want to do it.  And while I work to be optimistic, there are definitely times when I am not.

The reason that there is no such thing as an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist is that it is not a person.  It’s a momentary opinion.  It’s a mindset.  It’s temporary.  A single person might be optimistic about the outcome of one project, but wildly pessimistic (or skeptical) about the success of another.  I know I am.

It’s why I struggle to answer the question, “What about the person that just sees it as it is?  That’s the realist!”  Nope.  That’s the rub.  Both the pessimistic person and the optimistic person see the situation as it is.  Of course, they do.  The pothole is in the road.  They both see it.  It would be insulting to suggest otherwise.

Both of them see the real situation.  They “see it as it is.”

Where optimism and pessimism come into play is in what happens next.  Once you see the pothole, are you optimistic that it can be fixed?  Or do you believe that it will only get worse?  It’s in that moment that you decide if you are an optimist or a pessimist…but only for that moment.  You get to decide again when you encounter the next challenge.

It’s why I think I struggle when people say that I am an optimist.  I am not always.  I work on it.  I try to be “a positive person.”  But it’s a skill that I work on and have to engage with each situation I encounter.

It’s also the reason I believe that there is no such thing as a realist.  That is the person who does not want to be labeled as negative, but they are pessimistic about the outcome of THIS project.

I am excited to chat more with Bill about this debate now that I have given in more thought.  I am optimistic he will agree with me.

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Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing, a full-service marketing agency located in Ohio.  Learn more about Hasseman Marketing here.  And if you are interested in having him speak at your next event, you can learn more here.

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