I keep finding situations where my cynicism gets in the way of success. I also see it in many people I know. Sure, there is something to be said about suspicion; people are taken advantage of every day. But there is also something to be said for having an open mind.
There are different kinds of cynicisms. Here are the ones I see the most:
- The Cynicism Of Youth
- The Cynicism Of Experience
- Plain Old Cynicism
Let me talk about each one here.
The Cynicism Of Youth
This is the saddest and most costly kind of cynicism because time is our best friend and our worst enemy in life. When we are young, we’re healthy, we feel good and if we experience even a little financial success, we tend to begin thinking that we have the world by the tail and that “we know it all”.
We look upon older folks with a jaded eye, thinking that they are old fashioned and can’t teach us much. That is the cynicism of youth and it is costly. It causes us to forgo savings and spend our money foolishly because we think we can always earn more. And in a sense, that is true. But most often, young people miss the opportunity in saving for their retirement and understanding the value in starting early.
One hundred dollars invested for 50 years at 12% turns into $28,000 (Think of a 20 year old saving till he’s 70). That same hundred dollars invested at the same rate over 10 years is only $310 (Think of a 60 year old investing till he’s 70). The amount of difference is massive and entirely doable for a 20 year old but very daunting for a 60 year old. Yet because we seem to have to pay a price during our youth, most of us don’t begin saving then. We’re cynical.
But just as bad…
we often write off or discount the advice of those around us who are older. We think that what they did in their life often doesn’t apply to us. We’re not very patient with them. We know more about what’s going on in the world today than they do. They are “yesterday’s news”. In my view, this is worse than the first example because there is so much to learn from other people around us (older and younger).
The key is that “there is nothing new under the sun”. This quote comes from Solomon in the bible and is more true today than ever before. I recently read an article from a famous online marketing master who said those words and I don’t think he knew that it actually came from the bible because he attributed the words to an author. But anyway, the point is that we can learn a lot more from the experiences of others than we ever learn from our own. In fact, all knowledge is based on the experience of others. Why do we stop gathering it after we graduate from college? Do all older people all of a sudden become obsolete? Anyway, I think I’ve made the point.
We need to be coach-able and often, when we are not, we offend those who would love to help us. And don’t forget, you can also often learn what things NOT to do from those who are older than you. That is the cynicism of youth and just two examples of how it hurts us.
The Cynicism of Experience
This is the cynicism that comes to us as we get a little older. We begin to think we’ve heard it all before. And it’s likely that we have heard much of “it” before. We hear someone younger than us trump up a cliche that we heard 20 years ago. We’ve tried and failed at some things. We’ve tried and succeeded at some things. We’ve been there. We’ve done that. And we don’t have a lot of patience for sitting through the same old story over and over again. So we often shut things down before they ever get started. We don’t sit through sales presentations because we’ve done that before.
Well, frankly, a lot of this is probably justified. But we need to be careful because this can easily turn into “plain old cynicism” which I’ll describe below. The fact is that there is information in the world that we’ve not heard about before. More important than that, we need to be reminded of the things we forgot. Ok, there are a few of us that remember everything. You can stop reading this now. Most of us need to be reminded about the ideas and tools and tricks we used to stay positive and motivated in our lives. Our cynicism of experience can truly hurt our chances for success.
Go ahead and pull out that old motivational tape you have. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ve forgotten or at least how little you’ve been using what you learned.
And then don’t forget that we can learn from the youth around us as well. There are classic ideas that don’t change and human nature doesn’t change much either. But culture does and new tools and technologies that can change our lives come out every day. Young people tend to grow up with those tools embedded into their lives and can teach us how to use them to our benefit. If you don’t respect them and take the time to listen to them, you lose an opportunity to enhance your life with that new technology and learning.
And this brings us to…
Plain Old Cynicism
I had a very close relative who passed away a few years ago. I knew that he was cynical. It was part of his personality and life. I still remember when we were younger, I tried to share the story about a glass being “half full” or “half empty” with him to teach him a little bit about positive thinking. His response was something like, “Yeah, but my water is always full of mud.” I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t much I could do to change his viewpoints on (his) life. That viewpoint was a curse on him for most of his life.
If you’re reading this, I doubt that you are that cynical. Cynical people don’t often even get this far through an article about cynicism! But there are less conspicuous forms of cynicism that hurt our prospects for success. Here is an example in my own life.
I don’t really like hype any more. When I was younger, I participated in hundreds of business rallies and motivational seminars (do you sense my cynicism of experience here?). I sang songs and did all of that. So when I read an advertisement from a success guru or marketing guru, I tend to be highly suspicious. I get turned off pretty fast. But recently, I got a great idea from one of these gurus (for free) by listening to one of his free content videos. This is an idea that is drastically improving my online search results and I had this same person shut down in my mind for over a year (because I thought he was “hypey”. I just didn’t like him.
I’m going to be a little more careful about judging some of these guys in the future. In fact, I’ve learned that many of these people who I’ve turned off because of my personal prejudice about hype are doing some amazing things. So, although I don’t plan to be like them, I do plan to be more open minded to some of these gurus in the future.
The bottom line is that we need to be more open to ideas regardless of where they came from. We need to be more open to experience (when we’re younger) that we’ve been in the past. We need to be coach-able and there are people out there who will want to coach us and help us if we are willing to respect them and to use their advice.
We form habits in our lives by repeating things over a reasonably short period of time. Let’s not make the cynicism of youth or the cynicism of experience turn into plain old cynicism.
I wrote a related article on humility for success earlier this year. And I’d like to credit (you won’t believe who) Tony Robbins for reminding me about the cynicism of experience. I definitely had it but I don’t think I do any more.
P.S. I thought of this after finishing this article. I’m not suggesting that you go out and start buying every positive thinking and guru program on the market. In fact, please don’t. There is such a thing as healthy skeptisicm and I have that too. Just don’t close your mind to the ideas that helped you to get where you are and to possible new ones that can help you to accomplish even more today.