“…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.
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:
- Write down your dream.
- Now exploit your cynicism. “Why will this dream fail?”
- Create a list of ways to overcome your cynical doubts (or roadblocks).
- 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?
- Ideal: Build an eco-friendly single level house on some property.
- Cynicism: Not enough money. No expertise. Lack of family consensus.
- Solutions: Sell my house. Take some cash from savings. Align myself with a trusted contractor.
- 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
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