"We're almost there, hang in there with me."

"It's worth one more shot. I can get another loan. I can make it happen."

"If the next two meetings go well, we'll make it."

"It wasn't quite a sale but they liked the idea."

Does this sound like a motivational speech? Sound like an inspiring leader? An entrepreneur pushing the envelope?  Or does it sound like an optimistic dreamer who can't get off the wagon. One more dream, one more hope. Sometimes there is a line between addiction and aspiration.

Pragmatic realists define their aspirations with defined goals, set parameters, and, at the very least, a makeshift path that can lead to achievement. Pragmatic realists work to achieve their aspirations are with not only defined resources and boundaries but also with some plan for a reasonable exit.  Pragmatic realists who aspire don't simply muddle through, but they have some sense of order and some capacity to say that the well is running dry and think that maybe it is better to quit when there is still a trickle of water. Pragmatic realists have a defined exit, knowing that without restricting or at least framing the game, they would be engaged in an endless pursuit in search of a constantly changing goal.

On the other hand, there is the optimistic dreamer, whose obsession is with success, who thrives on the adrenalin, who is obsessed with the journey itself, who has a sense that resources, if not unlimited, can be stretched, that people have no limits, every problem has a solution, and that the main goal is to survive to push to another day. Optimistic dreamers, for all their flaws, are afflicted with a strain of cognitive dissonance. They have a mysterious well of optimism and a perennial ability to see the glass as half-full. Even when things are not going their way, obstacles loom, and support for their ideas seem to vanish overnight, optimistic dreamers find it very difficult to walk away, and chalk up their efforts to hard-won experience.

Which are you?  Are you the pragmatic or the optimistic dreamer? I would suggest that to find out, you consider the following:

  1. When people say, "You have a great idea, but..." optimistic dreamers never hear the "but," but pragmatic realists take the "but" seriously.

  2. When reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of possible additional expenditures, optimistic dreamers are overconfident, but pragmatic realists take a more cautious approach.

  3.  Optimistic dreamers are constantly selling and reselling their vision, perpetually trying to create a sense of excitement, disproportionately trying to excite people with the payoff, often at the expense of fully delving into the difficulty of execution. Pragmatic realists share excitement about the payoff, but fully share the cautionary notes about the difficulty of execution.

  4. When getting the sense of "been there, done that" optimistic dreamers rarely pause, but pragmatic realists see déjà vu as a subtle warning.

  5. When resources are short, optimistic dreamers go full-steam-ahead, and pragmatic realists moderate their vision.

  6. Optimistic dreamers define themselves by their entrepreneurial identity, but pragmatic realists regard their entrepreneurship as important, but a partial, definition of self. 

  7. Optimistic dreamers rationalize mediocrity in both product and people into grandeur, but pragmatic realists do not try to spin straw into gold.

Entrepreneurs have to be aware of when determination slides into addiction. Of course, entrepreneurs need to have stick-to-itiveness, commitment, and passion.  That said, there has to be a balance. When things are not going their way, obstacles loom, and support for their ideas seem to vanish overnight, entrepreneurs who cannot look at the situation dispassionately are very much in danger of entering the realm of the optimistic dreamer. Optimistic dreaming can easily become an addiction.