Transition from campus to real life: The battle between idealism and realism | Fola Daniel Adelesi

The story was told of Cosmas Maduka, the founder and chairman of Coscharis Motors, coming to Lagos in public transportation. It was the first time this poor boy was coming to Lagos and he saw many tall buildings. After looking out the window for a while, he opened his mouth and said, ‘one day, I will own one of these tall buildings.’ The person who sat next to him responded with a knock on his head and said, ‘you dream too much!’
I really can’t tell if Mr. Maduka dreams too much but I know that today, he owns one of the tall buildings in Victoria Island, Lagos. You don’t need to be told that Victoria Island is a prime area in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. I also don’t need to remind some of you that Coscharis Motors is one of the most successful car sales company in Nigeria today.
We are seated in a hall today which simply existed in the mind of someone some years ago. This same man, according to all we have heard, was very poor yet he would shout, ‘I can never be poor!’
Sometimes in 2007 when I was getting ready to leave the campus, I had great expectations from the society out there. I had great skills and I still do. I had big dreams and trust me, I still do. Anyone who knows me will know that I am not one of those people who dream in a small way. My dreams are always big. I think out of the box and in many cases, talk about unimaginable things.
I wasn’t just a dreamer and a talker. I took actions. One day in the corner of my rented room as a student, I got an idea to publish a book. This book would be a collections of poems written by students from my school. Conceiving the dream was easy but bringing it to reality was the issue. After conceiving the dream, I immediately began to think about how to make it happen.
Of all the possible strategies to make the publication a reality, I decided at the time that the book was going to be published by the Vice-Chancellor of my school. Although he was just one of the options. At the time I made him one of my options, I had never met him before. I only knew his name and had no idea how to even meet him. I hope you will understand that because my own school isn’t like yours where everything works and the students have access to their lecturers and university principals.
Not long after conceiving that idea, I met someone who knew the Vice-Chancellor and as they say, the rest is history. In the year 2005, the Vice Chancellor instructed the university press to publish my book project and the university paid for the project. That was how I published my first book as an undergraduate at the Olabisi Onabanjo University.
When the dream became a reality, some of the people who thought it was impossible were the ones who came back to ask how I did it. Dear friends, before I go further, let me say to you that you must have a positively stubborn attitude towards your dreams! This you must do without disrespecting anyone while taking as much counsel as you can.
You must remember that the one who will suffer the consequences of actions taken is you. It doesn’t matter who gave the advice or who didn’t. It doesn’t matter why you took someone’s counsel even when it’s not what you think is wright. You will bear the consequences or enjoy the results of every action and for that alone, you must ensure no one writes the script you are going to act out in life.
A few of the people who hear my dreams just keep wondering how on earth these dreams will ever become a reality. Some of them did not have the courage to tell me the dreams were impossible. A few others already know me. Impossible is not a word you use around me. When I look at you in the face, for telling me my dreams are impossible, you will almost feel like entering the ground. If I have a little respect for you, I will simply walk away.
That’s how I was when I left the campus and I carried on with that possibility mentality into the society. Twelve years down the line, I can tell you that the kind of attitude I had then still works and will be needed to make things happen in life. If you don’t have the can-do spirit, people will practically render your skills and potentials useless. Every day of your life, you will see reasons to think that your dreams may not become a reality. Some people may say it to your face, others will say it through their attitude. In some other cases, it is the daily challenges you encounter that will make you have a rethink. Again, I can assure you that the possibility mentality works and you will need it a lot. It is an attitude with which you can crush dream killers and show the nay-sayers that something is possible.
Having told you about the possibility mentality, let me quickly remind you that I am supposed to be speaking as someone who is leveraging on the benefit of hindsight. Consequently, I will attempt to strike a balance in this speech between your expectations and reality. That is why I have mentioned the battle between idealism and realism in the topic.
One of the major problems of young people leaving campus is not the lack of dreams. Having aspirations is something that comes naturally to many young people. Beyond the aspirations, many young people also have timelines. These timelines are for some of the things they want to do and some of the results they expect in life. While these timelines are fine, the problems begin when life does not align with the timelines that you have in your head. In some other cases, the timelines we are talking about are not the timelines that you created for yourself. There are timelines created by the society that we have subjected ourselves to and there are timelines created by family and loved ones. In some cases, the timelines are simply social media timelines. I cannot even begin to talk about the devastating impact of the timelines created by Social Media but all these various timelines are very important. How you pay attention to either the timelines you created or the ones created by others will determine your balance between idealism and realism.
Definition of term
According to the dictionary, idealism is defined as the unrealistic belief in or pursuit of perfection. It is synonymous to words like utopianism, wishful thinking, romanticism, fantasizing, quixotism, daydreaming and impracticability.
Collins Dictionary defines idealism as the beliefs and behavior of someone who has ideals and who tries to base their behavior on these ideals.
I must also mention that there is a philosophical definition of idealism which will make us drift from the subject matter if delved into. That’s why I am sticking with the definitions given above and more importantly, they are the relevant definitions in the subject matter we are talking about.
In my own thoughts, idealism is simply a man’s expectation, a desired trajectory or a carefully chosen path of metamorphosis in life. It is simply a series of events already played in our minds that now needs to play out in reality.
Going by my own thought or definition of idealism, it simply means that you have some ideas and ideals which form everything you want to see in life. If you had your way, all these things you have thought about will happen without any interruption. If you had the power, you will make all these things happen and probably make them happen so fast before anyone can blink.
Having ideas and expectations are really good and every one of us should have some ideas and expectations. It is the ideals and ideas in us that will form the basis for our aspirations, trainings, formal education, choice of life partners and many other things in life. I am of the opinion that every human being is an idealist of some sort. The only difference is that some are more idealistic than others. Some are positive with their idealism and others may not be.
To bring home the subject of idealism, let me be more specific. I will raise and discuss some issues that constitute the general expectations of young people over the years just before we go on to realism. Some of those expectations include but not limited to:
1. Getting a high paying job
2. Starting a business immediately after school
3. Marry between the ages of 25 – 30
4. Become a millionaire between 26-30
5. Drive exotic cars shortly after graduation (especially the one that belongs to you and not your parents.)
6. Employ thousands of workers at a young age
7. Produce your first blockbuster movie
8. Write a book and sell a million copies
9. Speaking around the world and getting paid in six digits
10. Become a consultant training all the banks in the country.
11. Get into politics and take up an elective position.
12. Start a music career and become a sellout with your first album.
13. Build an app, get a million downloads and get an investor.
Does idealism work or is it just fantasies?
In answering this question, I am also now in between idealism and realism. The reason is that I don’t want to over excite you and I can’t afford to dampen your spirit. However, examples abound of where idealism was in place and it has made our world a better place. A quick rundown will show the following proofs of idealism becoming a reality and making our world a better place:
1. An air plane – it was impossible until the Wright Brothers believed it and did it
2. Uber – How can you own a taxi company and not own a single taxi?
3. Gokada – a commercial motor bike company with Lagos which also does not own a bike.
4. Facebook – connecting over 2 billion users around the world.
5. Whatsapp
6. 50,000 or 100,000 seater auditorium
On the subject of idealism, my conclusion is that whatever you imagine is possible and if you follow through with actions, you will make it a reality. Several years ago when I introduced myself to people as a Professional Public Speaker, it didn’t make sense to many people. The question on their minds was, ‘how can someone wake up and say he lives solely on the income from public speaking?’ Today, I have lost count of my television appearances and I am constantly featured on two of the leading television networks in Nigeria among others. I can no longer remember how many events where I have spoken and I was indeed paid to speak. As I stand here, there are at least three outstanding invitations where I will be paid to speak this month alone.
Speaking from experience, I can certainly tell you that idealism works.
Definition of term
Realism, according to Wikipedia, is sometimes called naturalism, in the arts is generally the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, or implausible, exotic, and supernatural elements.
According to, Realism, in the arts, is the accurate, detailed, unembellished depiction of nature or of contemporary life. Realism rejects imaginative idealization in favour of a close observation of outward appearances.
Again as I did with idealism, I will limit my choice of definitions to these ones given above and share my thoughts.
I first heard the word realism a few years ago when I did an elective course in the English department of my university. That’s more than fifteen years now and that word hasn’t left my head.
The concept of realism, going by the definitions already given, the explanations of my lecturer then and my interpretation is that realism is simply a subject matter regarding closeness to reality. The subject of realism simply looks at what is on ground and how real that thing is or how close to reality it is. Since one of the definition says Realism rejects imaginative idealization, it therefore means realism does not want you to think about what does not exist. It simply says you should follow the existing patterns.
Now let us look at realism within the context of dreams and aspirations. When you share a dream or an aspiration, the person who is listening to you or examining your dreams under the lens of realism would try to look for what already exists and analyze the possibility of your dream based on the results that already exist. In other words, if nothing like your dreams exist, the examiner in the subject of realism with tell you that the dream is not possible. Simply put, when someone tells you that what you are talking about is not possible, don’t get angry. You just need to understand that they have quickly carried out a search in their heads and the search engines in their heads returned with “no results matching your query!” Their attitude is not because your dream is not possible. Their attitude is because they have never seen anything like your dream and they cannot imagine how it will happen.
Who are these Realism Examiners?
– Parents
– Co-workers
– Friends
– Partners
– Lecturers
– Mentors
– Neighbours
Should you take realism seriously?
My immediate answer is yes! If you don’t take realism seriously then you will become a mere dreamer. You will have aspirations and not a reality check. You will have dreams and not listen to the voice of wisdom. When wisdom attempts to speak, you will shut her down because you think wisdom is a hater who does not like your aspirations. You need realism to help you understand what you are doing right and what you are not doing right. It is realism, at the end of the day that will bring your idealism to life.
At the end of the day, you will realize that realism is not there to crush your dreams. Realism is not opposition to your dreams. You are to use realism to checkmate yourself and see when you are simply dreaming without acting.
Realism is now the concept of being your own critique before anyone else comes hard on you. This is about asking yourself the hard questions of life in order to bring to pass all the dreams of your heart.
Call to action
1. Have clarity of purpose
2. Create a plan
3. Set specific and time bound goals
4. Be flexible
5. Be patient
6. Get a skill
7. Whatever you want to do in the future, start now!
Dear friends, in the few years I have spent out there after graduation, I have come to realize that what you want is possible. The only thing is that it may not happen in your time. A few things will happen when you want them to, some others will happen faster and some others later. Usually, the biggest or the most important ones we want may happen later than we want. Remember I talked about timelines as being the main differentiator between idealism and realism. Please be patient and stick with your dreams no matter when it happens. Don’t cut comers, don’t get your hands dirty and trust that your good plan will work out. Remember, the vision is for an appointed time. Though it tarries, wait for it. It will not tarry!
Please don’t stop dreaming. Have a clear plan. Follow the plan and in a short while, the dreams in your head will become a reality.
Thank you.
Fola Daniel Adelesi
Text delivered by Fola Daniel Adelesi at the Town and Gown of Covenant University on Thursday 7th February, 2019.

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