Conventional thought dictates that we prioritize pragmatism over idealism. To even question why the one takes precedence over the other will likely earn a blank stare and an awkward chuckle from most people. Because we have been conditioned to share our idealism cautiously, most of our interpersonal interactions – with strangers, coworkers, family and friends – are superficial or passive. For this reason, the natural creativity and originality that springs from our collective idealism gets bottle-necked as we favor a more ordinary existence.
To many, ordinary fits well. Routine and repetition bring comfort and predictability. Because conventional thought is derived from the ideas of the majority, those individuals who struggle with the mundane can feel discouraged in their pursuit of the new and original. For them, ordinary does not fit quite so well.
Rather than expect the idealistic, creative, and adventurous to ‘fit in’ to the world, I challenge us to consider the opposite. Too few carry the passion and vision to explore beyond the ordinary. Ordinary is convenient, it is commonplace, it is easy to reproduce and even easier to understand. Ordinary is a like a men’s size 10.5 shoe. Worn by 68% of the male American Population, a size 10.5 shoe is as unremarkable, mundane, and conventional as it gets.
While the world is full of people with a size 10.5 shoe, consider those that do not ‘fit’ that size. Professional basketball players (size 14), performance swimmers (size 12), and Olympic sprinters (size 13) are on the far end of the shoe size bell curve. Opposite them we find conquering warriors from the past like Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great with shoe sizes between 7-9. To these extraordinary individuals, it would be ludicrous to try and fit into a size 10.5 shoe. It would be the wrong fit. It would be uncomfortable. It would diminish their natural abilities.
Just as we do not see pro athletes or commanding generals hobbling around trying to fit into the ordinary shoe, we should not let ordinary thinking hinder our passions or creativity. If the fit is wrong, the performance suffers. Generations of social, cultural and even familial standards built the foundation for today’s conventional mindset. How much more impressive, then, are those born from traditional roots but with the vision and purpose to explore beyond the ordinary. With idealism comes hope and courage; and from hope and courage comes growth.
We are surrounded by attendants for the commonplace. Business, education, politics, and even art continually reward those who comply with the status quo and adhere to direction. It will be a proportionate minority who ultimately persevere to bring about evolutionary advancements in industry, science and society. It will not be the pragmatists who shepherd us to new discovery; it will be the idealists.