Easy to be Cynical


“Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.”

I recently saw this quote, from Sir Richard Branson. The second line is what caught my eye – it’s easy to be cynical…much harder to be successful.

After seeing Rory Vaden speak about success this weekend, this idea made a lot of sense to me. What do you think? Do we take the shortcut of being cynical more often than we should? What opportunities are we passing up when we choose the easy path in the short term?

Why cynicism seems easy:

1. It gives us an out. We can dump the responsibility somewhere else, so the failure isn’t our fault. This also means the success doesn’t get to be ours either. After all, trying is a risk, while blaming a poor economy, not enough time or not having support removes all of the risk.

2. It’s popular. How often do you hear your friends taking the easy path to cynicism rather than doing the work to be successful? “I know people who work out but don’t look any better”, “my boss likes so-and so more, so I know she won’t give me more responsibility” or “just because you write a book doesn’t mean anybody will buy it!” These are all real concerns, but in the end they are ways to avoid the chance of success for the certainty of the status quo.

3. Pain avoidance. The thought of doing something big and then failing can be scary. We know the pain will be great and we know we’ll hear, “I told you so!” from our friends. Cynical comments like, “I know I’ll never get published” allow us to substitute a small pain now for a potentially bigger one later. Bonus: Our friends will usually support our cynicism better than they will our attempt at success.

Now that you know this, what can you do about it?

Lead by example. You probably don’t want to replace all of your friends just to avoid cynicism. The good news is that many of your friends will probably be willing to support your attempts at success, if you’re willing to support theirs. If you change the “why bother” to “let’s do it!”, chances are they will follow your lead.

Make the decision. Of course, you have to decide to make the changes that will lead to success. Rory calls it “Taking the Stairs“. However you want to think of it, you may need to make a conscience decision to make a change (or changes) to see success. Change the question in your mind from “Should I?” to “How can I?”Stop thinking about if or should, and start thinking that you will, and just focus on how.

Follow through. Once you’ve decided to make the change, you need to keep it up . Don’t burn yourself out with 20 changes by next week. Keep focus on the decision you’ve made and use that momentum to stay on your path to success. If possible, have an accountability buddy who will keep you honest about your progress.

Cynicism may seem easy now, but it always leads to less success in the future. If I had listened to those voices (“who will read it”, “am I good enough”, “who cares”), I would have never created this blog two and a half years ago. I’m not making milions (yet), but I am doing something I enjoy. What about you?

Are you substituting cynicism for a shot at success?

Editors Note: I saw the quote mentioned here: http://jorgensundberg.net/content/top-10-personal-branding-quotes-those-who-made-it.

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