Say “No!” to the Power of Cynicism

Scrappy Project Management Mindset Series – Part 1 of 4. If you’re going to lead projects to success you’ve gotta have a powerful mindset that supports you. This week I’ll share some mindset medicine that will keep you scrappy. – Kimberly

I’m proud to say I’m a self-declared possibility thinker, a menace to mediocrity on a mission that matters, and have been called a force of nature by those who know me and my work. But lately I’ve wandered into the line of sight of a few cynics, and they’ve taken pot shots at my commitment to the extraordinary. At first I tried hiding in the shrubbery, hoping they’d lose interest and go discourage someone else. But I guess there aren’t many possibility thinkers out there to verbally joust with these days, so I received a few more volleys of negativity. I fought back with inspiring quotes of people far more wise than I am, but they just escalated their snide remarks and brought in reinforcements. They seemed bent on convincing me of something . . . maybe that I was unrealistic, irrelevant, out of touch with reality, wearing “rose colored glasses”.

Even as committed as I am to embracing possibilities in a sea of skepticism, I faltered momentarily. Even I have my limits. It was like a punch to my gut. I wondered why anyone would take time to discourage me. What possible threat could I be to them, me and my penchant for asking “What’s possible?”, “What seems impossible?”, and “What would make the impossible possible?” Then I “got” it. I’m a reminder of the hopes and dreams that they abandoned. By embracing the possibility of the extraordinary, I call into question their choice to settle for what is.

Cynicism is a powerful force in the universe. It crushes hope in the bud, lest that hope lead to disappointment. It withers new ideas on the vine, lest those ideas come to naught. And it darkens the world of those who, basking in the sunlight of possibilities, fall under it’s vast shadow. Hope and possibility will always seem naive compared with know-it-all negativity. Nevertheless, I choose hope and possibility. I won’t bend to pressures to accept the status quo or adjust my expectations to be more “realistic”. Thinking creates reality, and I am totally committed to a mindset open to the possibility of a better future. And, having imagined it, I accept responsibility for contributing to creating it.

Don’t let the C.A.V.E. (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) people get you down! What are you committed to in spite of the cynics?

Want to get even scrappier? Check out all 5 “Scrappy Guides“, including August’s Scrappy Women in Business by me and 11 gal pals,  Scrappy General Management by Michael Horton, released in October, and Scrappy Business Contingency Planning by Michael Seese, released in November 2010.


4 thoughts on “Say “No!” to the Power of Cynicism”

  1. User Avatar

    Ha! They’re killing me! Cynics would never go to the moon or invent a cure for smallpox. Cynics will not solve the problems we face as a planet. Give me a bunch of practical optimists any day! Edison said “I didn’t fail 1000 times, I found 1000 ways not to make a lightbulb.” Cynics would give up after 50 tries.

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    Yes, great topic. Cynics are an interesting lot. Like other forms of ‘diversity’, they are an important element for any team as they provide a solid sounding board for new ideas. You just don’t want too many of them or they will suffocate creativity.

    The stongest cynics I’ve worked with were most often the more experienced employee (they’ve been around a while). From these valuable contributors, I’ve come to understand some of the factors that drive them:
    – They often have a deep knowledge of the subject area from extensive education and experience. As such, they may be looked upon as the ‘expert’ in the area, and thus not feel great about someone else coming up with a better way. It is threatening to them;
    – They have been beaten down by many years of punishment for failures or observing others get punished for risk-taking, and thus have become risk averse–they find potential why-nots in everything new;
    – Due to their experience, they have likely tried something similar to the new proposed approach and failed. To them it is a waste of valuable resources to try something they already tried;
    – They are happy with the status-quo. They know how to get things done the way things are today and thus don’t want change as that will mean they have to adjust to something new. In a world that is already changing too fast for most people, even more change not going to go over easily.
    – They have a family and huge responsibilities, so are less likely to want to risk their career on a new idea. In fact, I wonder if the new hire-and-fire workplace we have today has created even more cynics than ever;

    Keep in mind, the deep experience and knowledge often contributed by cynics is valuable to a team. Besides, who else could be more motivating to creative drivers like Kimberly than a die-hard cynic who says it can’t be done!

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    Wow, thanks for your thoughtful note, Laura! Yes, I agree that a diversity of perspectives is powerful. I hand’t thought about the possibility that their cynicism was a helpful diversity of thought. I wonder if I could get my mind wrapped around that to the point that next time I encounter cynicism of this sort I say “Whooooo Hoooooo!” and embrace it! I’ll work on that! Thanks, gal pal! – Scrappy Kimberly

  4. User Avatar

    I like Kimberly’s article.
    It’s not what you say, so much, but how you say it.
    Cynicism could be seen as “contrast” or “diversity” of thought. Diversity in thought is a good thing. It’s actually diversity in thought or contrasts in ideas that lead to advancements and leading-edge thinking. If everyone thinks the same way, things don’t expand or evolves. It’s the conflicts that leads to solutions, revolutions and evolutions.

    But — I think Kimberly is commenting on the way the thought is expressed. “Cynicism” smacks with judgment of the impossibility which, in turn” is an “argument of one’s limitation”. “Arguing for your limitation” is a strange phenomenon. Even when you are winning the argument, you are losing.

    I like Kimberly’s article very much.

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