I see myself as a pretty positive person. I believe people can generally do anything, if they decide to truly make it happen. One of my favorite retorts when someone says they can’t do something is “Not with that attitude!”
In 2008, my parkour friends and I realized that negative attitudes are really detrimental to our training. Every time someone says “That jump is impossible” or “I can’t do this vault,” it’s admitting defeat. And if you admit defeat, you’ll never succeed.
So we started playing a game called “Banana, Mango, Coconut.” We picked the three most common negative words people would say when training (can’t, never, impossible). Every time you said one of those words, you had to do ten pushups. (We ended up replacing those words with banana, mango, and coconut, respectively. “I coconut this jump! I banana do this vault.”)
It might sound silly, but I think this game went a long way in forging a more positive attitude on life. Even if there’s just a small chance of a positive outcome, if you preemptively decide on a negative one, there’s now NO chance of the positive outcome happening.
A great example of this was my Thanksgiving goal. My roommate and I decided to go to Turkey for Thanksgiving (we were already in the region). So I decided, naturally, I wanted to spend Turkey Day in Turkey eating turkey with a Turk.
Almost 100% of people I talked to, after laughing at how ridiculous this idea was, said “I don’t think they have turkey in Turkey.”
I can’t describe how many people said this, and it actually started to bother me. If I accepted that they probably didn’t have turkey in Turkey, there was no way I was going to find it. But if I made it my MISSION, if I had a BURNING DESIRE that nothing could stop me from spending Turkey Day in Turkey eating Turkey with a Turk… if there was ONE PLACE in all of Istanbul that served turkey, I would find it. If there was a non-zero chance of success, I was going to succeed.
(spoilers: I succeeded)
However, I’ve noticed recently that I might be a lot more cynical than I thought I was. A few people have pointed this out, and since then I’ve noticed how it creeps into my thought process in subtle ways.
I’ve found it mostly comes out when dealing with other people - specifically new people I don’t know very well. Today, I was able to qualify at least one aspect of it a bit more:
I find it really, really, difficult to evaluate people who are bad at the things I’m good at, but I expect them to be good at.
For example, lets take someone who is running a small one or two person web company. If I am just meeting this person, I kind of expect them to have at least a basic understanding of copywriting, online marketing, and sales. If they’ve spent a reasonable amount of time on their company, I expect them to have a deep understanding of their customers’ problems, to be able to articulate them clearly, and to be able to pitch their company and product effectively.
In this example, if I met a founder who is absolutely terrible at writing copy, or has never talked to a customer, or can only pitch their solution, not the problem it’s solving… I lose a lot of faith in that person. Too often, I’ll write them off (or, if they’re receptive, switch into teacher mode).
I find it very, very difficult to evaluate someone if they don’t meet my (assumed) expectations for the skills they have. And that’s not fair. My expectations aren’t based on some universal rule, and just because they’re garbage at writing copy doesn’t mean they’re not legitimately good at something else.
The better I get to know someone, the more this goes away. But I don’t want to wait to get to know someone before realizing how unexpectedly amazing they truly are.
I recognize this is a flaw, and I’d like to work on it. I’d like to eliminate my cynicism altogether, but first I need to keep identifying areas where I’m cynical so I know what to work on.
If you have any suggestions (or other areas where I’m cynical that I maybe haven’t noticed yet), leave them in the comments!
Picture is of a backflip in Phuket, Thailand. In my opinion, this was about the only good part of Phuket.
I moved into a new apartment today. It's a cool place, and I'm very close to lots of friends. Should be a lot of fun!
I launched a new side project this weekend. It's called Amazing Airfare. Basically, for $8 a month I will email and text you all the crazy airfares I find. I'm only sending airfare that's more than 50% off. If you get jealous of my $177 trip to Milan/Vienna/Munich/Prague/Paris/Bangkok, or my upcoming $277 roundtrip flight to Johannesburg... this would be a good thing for you to sign up for. :)