Realism, cynicism, & the unreasonable man

March 13, 2014

For a long time I considered myself a realist. My parents were pragmatic people, and I took pride in being the same. While others were illogical, I aimed to be realistic. I focused on what mattered.

Until one day, after a long journey, I realized the problem with realism.

Do you want to know what a realist is, really?

A realist is a cynic who doesn’t want to admit it.

There’s a famous quote, of which I’m sure you’ve heard. It says:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw

The realist—that is, the cynic—is the reasonable man, the one who sees the world as it is and adapts himself to it. I’ll grant you that the cynic may be right—people may truly be motivated primarily by self-interest. But is that truth helpful? Is that truth useful?

As I’ve grown older, I’ve made the unusual trip toward optimism. Not because it’s right, but because it’s useful, and because if I were to choose between the reasonable man and the unreasonable man, I want to be the unreasonable man. I want to shape the world to my purposes, rather than be shaped by it.

I retain some of my parent’s “realism,” and I put it to good use, for the unreasonable man who can’t see practicalities is surely doomed. Yet when the cynic inside me says I can’t do something, I tell him to shut the hell up.

Maybe he’s right. Maybe I can’t do it. Maybe it’s impossible.

I won’t know until I try.

Give me the unreasonable man any day of the week. Or better yet, watch as I become him. Then I’ll show you the world I want to live in.

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By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply


    You know, I’ve kind of gone through the same thing you mentioned in this post. I was raised a realist due to parents being extremely pragmatic when it came to decision making. Pros and cons, benefits and burdens, the whole nine yards. I lived my life pretty much knowing what I should do. I prided myself on being a realist. A practical and predictable person. And you know what? I’m actually quite lucky because up to this point, it’s worked out for me for the better.

    I got into a prestigious academic program. A life on the rails, the classes were set out and I had a bunch of upperclassmen friends I could count on for a smooth ride. I only had to get on.

    But then I realized that I probably didn’t want to do what I was studying for the rest of my life. But it was so secure! I would be an IDIOT to switch out! It was difficult, SO DIFFICULT to try to reconcile what I was doing and what I thought I wanted to be doing. I was so unsure. Were my thoughts of switching majors a mistake? Would I regret doing this later on? Would I regret NOT doing this later on? Think of the long term, the long term!

    In the end, my final decision is to be made before the end of the semester. As of this point, I’ve decided to risk it all and venture outwards to sometime less secure but possibly more fulfilling. I don’t know if this is the right choice. I can justify it in many ways but the only one that really convinces me is “it feels right”. I think that this decision has basically forced me to change my way of thinking. I needed to disregard a lot of my many “realist” fears in favor of simply believing this is the right choice.

    I’ve tried to put all my decision in a positive light. “This will be helpful in the future regardless of what end up doing”. “It’s best to try and fail than not try and regret”. “This is the time of your life when you have to make your own decisions, you have to follow through fully, and you have to take responsibility for whatever happens”.

    Surprisingly, this change has led me to greatly appreciate a lot of shows that I previously found uninteresting. For example, a common trope is the “young boy tries to find his role in life”. I’ve always understood this on a theoretical level, an academic level. Yeah I get it, he needs to learn his place, grow up, blah blah where’s the action at? “Get in the damn robot, Shinji”. But it’s different now, I really get it a lot more than I used to. But that’s a story for another time.

    I just wanted to say I appreciate all the posts you put up, both on RandomC and on your personal blog. I’m pretty writing-averse, but I’m trying to break that aversion by writing more in hopes it will help me overall in anything I do by starting up my own blog. I think that writing is a beautiful medium that allows you to really unload and express how you feel, which is really something you really can’t do in real life sometimes.

    1. Reply


      All I can say is thank you for reading, thank you for taking the time to reply, and that I wish you luck. I believe that, no matter what you choose now, you can make your way to a path that’s fulfilling for you, as long as you’re willing to work for it.

      So work hard. I believe you will find your luck as long as you keep doing that.

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