Why I Admire Cynics

April 1, 2017 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

“…cynics are merely idealists with unusually high standards.” Alain de Botton

‘Tis true: “I admire cynics.” Albeit, “driven” cynics. Cynics that see the problem, but also work to discover solutions.

Alain de Botton, in The Course of Love, explains in the quote above what I intend to compose in a blog post. I warm to the idea that cynics are not necessarily simply negative people. Instead, they are people with a dream that doesn’t agree with the plans of others to achieve an individual or corporate goal. Or, perhaps they don’t even agree with their own plan. They believe they see a fault or a failure looming.

It’s not because they are negative. It is because they possess high and lofty ambitions. And with that ambition cynicism is quite a normal frame of mind. Let’s face it, lofty ambitions most often fail—which the cynic is quick to point out.

What If

Cynics have a reputation for always whining and describing why some action is unreasonable or can’t be accomplished. But I don’t think that defines all cynics. For instance, I am a dreamer. If you saw my wish list for the next decade you would probably laugh. And rightly so. My wish list includes building my own eco-centric single level house on a nice sized lot. Shoot, I can’t afford that. And I’m too old to even consider it. Plus I don’t need it. Yet, there I dream: full of confidence and cynicism existing conjointly.

What if I used my cynicism as a tool to overcome obstacles and build that crazy house? What if cynicism were a tool, not a roadblock? My chances for success probably just doubled.

From Idealist to Cynic to Over-Achiever

Tim Ferriss offers some helpful suggestions:

  1. Write down your dream.
  2. Now exploit your cynicism. “Why will this dream fail?”
  3. Create a list of ways to overcome your cynical doubts (or roadblocks).
  4. Finally, write down, “If this were to fail, what is the very worse thing that could happen?” Surprisingly it is generally not that overwhelming.

So what if I followed Tim’s suggestions for my house?

  1. Ideal: Build an eco-friendly single level house on some property.
  2. Cynicism: Not enough money. No expertise. Lack of family consensus.
  3. Solutions: Sell my house. Take some cash from savings. Align myself with a trusted contractor.
  4. Worst Case: If it fails, chances are I would lose little or no money and I would have to find a new place to live.

Actually, it’s not all that bad. The cynical questions are, “Am I prepared for the risk?” “Does the ideal rank high enough on my priorities to take the gamble?” We’ll talk in a couple years.

How about you? Can you turn cynicism into achievement?

Cynicism Might Be the Root of All Great Accomplishments

Photo courtesy of demaerre at istockphoto

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