Cynicism Is Only Good With Beer And Peanuts

“I was going to buy a copy of ‘The Power of Positive Thinking,’ and then I thought: What the hell good would that do?” – Ronnie Shakes

If you want to become company president or make your own business grow, you have to be strong and positive.

Smart people are often tempted to criticize the companies they work for. Some smart business owners ridicule their own customers. You can get away with a little of this for a while, but eventually it will catch up with you, and you won’t like what happens. That’s because cynicism feels good only to the cynic. For everyone else, it feels mean.

I am an experienced cynic so I can tell you from personal experience — it is as beneficial as sugar. You get a quick, momentary rush, but the long-term effect is unpleasant.

To a cynic, a cynical comment is a clean swipe at truth. Thus, to crotchety Ambrose Bierce, a cynic is simply someone who “sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.” It certainly feels that way for a moment or two. But that’s only on the outside. Inside, even the hardest cynic feels the pulse of insincerity. Clara Middleton, the wonderful character in George Meredith’s “The Egoist,” put it this way: “Cynicism is intellectual dandyism without the coxcomb’s feathers.”

 Cynicism And Leadership — Why They Don’t Get Along

Leadership comes from understanding that it is much better to lead people not by their noses but by their imaginations. You can break apart a unified group with cynicism, but to bring it together and get it to move forward, you need sincerity and conviction.

Cynicism is fundamentally a destructive process, and it works mostly on an individual basis. Leadership, by its very nature, must rely on qualities that work with people as groups.

The odd thing about cynicism is that it usually happens to the best people. Employees who don’t get it or don’t care to are usually not cynical. They are simply not there.

Cynics are generally smart people who feel disenfranchised. Angry that things cannot be the way they think they should be, the cynic vents his energy into negative observations and denigrating humor.

If you find yourself acting cynically, stop. It will give you only a temporary feeling of relief or vindication. But in the long run, it will diminish your career and damage your psyche.

Even if everything around you seems wrong and everyone above you seems stupid, you must resist the lure of cynicism. Here’s how to be positive even under the worst circumstances:

First, understand your company’s primary purpose and determine how you feel about that. If you have some serious problem with it, quit. It is not going to change, nor should it.

If you are OK with the basic plan but unhappy with aspects of its implementation, take a big breath and think about the following:

1. Nothing is ever perfect

2. You may not be either.

3. Rome wasn’’t built in a day.

I’m not suggesting that you need to compromise any of your personal standards. But some of the frustration you feel might be related to impatience or an incomplete view of things.

Redirect the energy you’ve been putting into cynicism into an intelligent and enthusiastic embracing of the company’s mission. This may seem very awkward at first, but as you get used to it you’ll experience a steady increase in personal power.

You can have different ideas about tactics and even strategies — and as your power and influence increase, so will your ability to see your own tactical and strategic ideas implemented — but you cannot disagree with the fundamental purpose of your company. If you find that you can’t embrace that, get a new job.

In “How to Become CEO,” Jeffrey J. Fox puts it bluntly: “Cynicism about one’s own corporation is the hallmark of losers, not future presidents.”

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]