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How can idealism and realism be combined to create a true visionary in entrepreneurship?

Visionaries are visionaries because they're crazy enough to believe that one day their idea will come true. Idealism and realism both play a role in becoming a visionary. Empathy and creativity also influence a visionary's actions. There are finders and makers. Finders are the idea people and makers execute the ideas. #business #psychology #communications #sociology #communication #social-media #marketing-and-advertising

Hi Liana.Thank you for asking a question. We observed that you left good information on this question, however we would love for you to be more specific about what you’re interested in learning more about. We feel that a more detailed question might help you get even better answers from professionals! Thank you again for your contribution to CareerVillage. Have an awesome day! Ben Landis COACH

Hi Ben. Thanks for your suggestion! I will refine my question about visionaries!!!! Best. Liana S.

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Stephanie’s Answer

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Idealists have a lot of passion and can picture something bigger than themselves and the current marketplace or cultural reality they're living in. They dream big and have high level, sometimes lofty goals that they're always working toward. While a realist usually focuses on the more immediately achievable and has a bias for results, I don't believe the two have to be mutually exclusive as it comes to social entrepreneurship.

One of the most successful startups in my city is a Nashville style chicken/homestyle food restaurant that employees formerly homeless and incarcerated citizens and focuses on not only giving them a great place to work and learn tangible business and customer service skills, but also on teaching them life skills ranging from financial planning to health and wellness. The founder has been vocal about his big picture, idealistic vision of creating a much bigger more scaleable career services model for those who have struggled in the past after incarceration, financial troubles, health or family issues, etc. He realizes though that by proving himself with a successful business with a great product that customers want, he's able to foster that vision, prove the model is successful, and then continue growing it. He was realistic about his capital investment and didn't want to spread himself too thin at the beginning so he started with a food truck. He since has opened a very successful retail front, and is now expanding to another retail location.


Visionaries and idealists can also be realists, and are wise to test, improve, and gain other followers and evangelists versus trying to go after the whole sky without the right support network and loyal following. By remaining patient but fiercely passionate, and by continuing to always take forward steps (no matter how small) to achieving a greater vision and goal, you can continue to be an idealist without abandoning reality and ration. Having the courage to keep going after your greater vision day after day, even in the face of the often many challenges and roadblocks that get in the way (the reality) is a quality that sets the entrepreneurs that success apart from those who don't.

Stephanie, thank you for the thoughtful answer!! I really appreciate it! Iike the way you think! Liana S.

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Monica Anderson’s Answer

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Dear Liana,

We ask ourselves a version of this question every day at the AIG Global Innovation Center in San Francisco. And the easy answer isn't so easy in execution. In fact, the answer is a messy, chaotic bundle of wonderful that produces recognizable companies and movements that once started as a great idealistic concept brought to life by entrepreneurs able to combine idealism with realism.

For me, another word for idealism is optimism. It's so easy to list all of the reasons an idea won't work, the road blocks prohibiting its success. A "normal" person wouldn't even get started, much less make it to the "realism" of initiating, planning toward and executing for success.

Therefore, like Stephanie so eloquently shared above, idealism and realism don't have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, they cannot be for an ideal to become reality!

Liana, hopefully we read about you one day . . . about how you were able to combine the two and create something the world needs.

Monica Young

Dear Monica. Thank you SO MUCH for your kind words! I truly appreciate your answer, especially during finals week! This made my night! I like the point you made about how idealism and realism don't have to be "mutually exclusive." So true. I hope to use an idealistic global perspective to improve humanity! All the best! Liana S.

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Chris’s Answer

Here's an example. Back in 2004 the war in Iraq was raging. Solders were coming home dead and their families got $12K death benefit. That pissed me off off so I found a company that made chicken tags and asked them if they'd make bracelets with the soldiers names so I could give $2.00 each to a non profit that gave each family $12K as well. We started HeroBracelets.org and we've given away around $400,000.00 to really great non profits that help fallen solders and first responders families. It was a small thing that could be done by a couple determined people and it made an actual difference.

Chris recommends the following next steps:

Find a hole in the universe and see if you're capable of filling it.

Hi Chris!! Thanks so much for your answer!!!! I really appreciate it!! You are a very generous person and the world respects the work you do! Sending my best! Liana S.

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Liana,

There are two types of people: the idealists and the realists. The idealistic folks dream of a world with social justice, body-soul synchrony, environmental conservation, and of living with higher consciousness. The realistic people invest in practical and obtainable goals like financial security, time management and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Personally, I resonate with both the idealist and the realist. I think we're probably all a composite of both, albeit a little more of one side than the other.

To be a true idealist you cannot consider the resistance that you may encounter while implementing your dreams. Pure idealism follows the dictates of truth alone, and doesn't bend to environmental or social constraints. On the other hand, without realistic thinking my dreams would stay in the world of fantasy, never tested, never validated in the real world, and never helping anyone.

An idealistic vision is what motivates all of us. We want to know that we are working toward something consequential, something noble. This simple truth applies to every single person within your organization, from the receptionists to the general managers. That is the real job of a true leader — to offer a vision that inspires and motivates. But as difficult as that is to achieve, it is not enough. People also need to know that you yourself, as a leader, are in touch with reality, that you are willing to roll-up your sleeves and engage in the hard work that execution entails.

Here it is some examples:

  • Pragmatic leaders focus on the practical, “how do we get this done,” side of any task, initiative or goal. They can erroneously be viewed as negative in their approach when in fact they simply view the entire picture (roadblocks included) to get to the end result. It’s a linear, practical way of thinking and “doing.”

  • Idealist leaders focus on the visionary, big ideas. It could be argued that they focus more on the end result than the path to get there, and they can erroneously be viewed as looking through rose-colored glasses when, in fact, they simply “see” the end goal and truly believe there is a way to get there.

Which is better — a pragmatic, realistic leader or an idealistic, visionary leader?
In reality, they’re both essential to building a strong team. In other words, the best teams include pragmatic and idealist employees from the top down, because pragmatic thinking and idealist thinking are not traits held just by leaders.

Therefore, by mixing these different ways of thinking and working, a team will be well-balanced and ultimately capable of creating the best outputs. However, it’s important for the team’s leader to understand those differences in thinking, and work to make the team members blend cohesively. No one way is the right way, but together they can make a powerful team.




Thanks so much again Daniela for your answer! Liana S.