Yesterday, I quoted this excerpt on Facebook from Conan O'Brien's last show:
"All I ask is one thing, particularly of young people. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism; for the record it's my least favorite quality. It doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen"
I was so moved by his words, and therefore surprised by responses more critical than concessionary. The majority suggested that $40 million in the bank would make anyone positive; that were we too, famous, rich, and successful, we'd shirk all negativity and run off into the 'happiness sunset'.
In my experience, this isn't the case.
Cynicism is a mindset, and – like happiness – is generally not specifically situational. I've worked with many wealthy, famous people riddled with cynicism, as well as poor foster kids in the Bronx that inspire me with their determination to suck the marrow out of life. The perception of opportunity is just that, a perception. The reality of our human condition – wherever we come from – is the result of the choices we make every day, and in every moment.
One friend suggested that choices and optimism weren't going to get her 40 million dollars, a gig playing piano on Broadway, or the ability to fly. I disagree. Let her first put all of her energy into creating a product or idea of terrific value, practicing incessantly, moving to New York, banging on every door along the Great White Way, and taking flying lessons. Then she can say whether or not these things seem impossible.
This may sound like a Pollyanna fantasy to some, but I believe it is cynicism and 'realistic thinking' – rather than reality – that get in the way of our wildest dreams. I have found in my own life that it is my fears and mindset, rather than any 'facts on the ground' that have hindered what I shout to the world to be my goals.
What's more, when we relinquish fear and cynicism (along with its buddy pride), even if we don't attain exactly what we're yearning for, the process itself becomes a dream. The journey is only a hellish letdown when it's a battleground for insecurity and ego, rather than an opportunity to learn, grow, and experience new things.
What does Conan O'Brien have that any of us don't? Not today, but inside... What did he have when he was 5, 10, or 15 that any of us didn't have at the same ages? The universe wasn't determined to give him any success that it isn't still offering to the rest of us. It's up to us to know and fight for what we want... our choice whether we allow life to happen to us, or will it to move through us.