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How To Be A Successful Optimist. Principle No. 8

The final principle of successful optimists is easy to say and hard to do. It is simply this: try to kick out your cynicism.

It’s hard to do because cynicism has become embedded in our society and is even held up as wisdom. But there is nothing wise, or even likeable about cynicism. Cynicism, in fact, is a bit like smoking. You may think it looks cool but it’s really bad for you – and worse still, its really bad for everyone around you. For the cynic, a better world is a little too hard to imagine, and therefore not worth doing anything towards. What’s worse is that cynicism pretends to be your friend, by warning you against the harsh realities of going up against the world. It’s almost as if it’s saying, “but I don’t want you to get hurt”. But making the world better is a contact sport. We don’t tell rugby players not to go into a scrum because the other team want the ball, do we?

As such cynicism is both a recipe and an excuse for laziness and we should have no time for it. But it’s hard because it is so seductive – an easy and plausible excuse for keeping your head down. How many times do I tell myself it’s just not worth the effort, that I’m an idiot to even try and make a change? Or that the person with the crazy idea for improving things I just met will probably get squashed? Daily. And then I have to have a stern word with myself because I’ve come to understand that cynicism is the ultimate enemy of getting anything done. It is the ultimate enemy of a better future.

As this is the last blog in this series, can all eight principles (including this last one) be encapsulated in a single idea?


If it comes down to one thing it’s probably this: if you want to be a successful optimist judge your value not by what you own, but by what you create.

This has been re-published with permission of the author.

Mark Stevenson (Tweets) is author of ‘An Optimist’s tour of the future’ and gave a talk about these 8 principles at Sunday Assembly London.