Discipline: Stomp Out Cynicism

Chad Fowler
Nov 24, 2015 · 1 min read

Here’s an exercise you can put into place right now which will have a lasting, significant, positive effect on your life and the lives of those you work, live, collaborate, and play with. There are two versions: an easy version and a harder version. Start with the easy version unless you’re the kind of person who has to do things the hard way.

The easy version

Whenever you have a cynical thought, keep it to yourself. Never utter, write, or otherwise convey it. Put it away. Think it to yourself all day if you have to, but never express it.

The harder version

Whenever you have a cynical thought, keep it to yourself. Analyze it. Scrutinize it. Prove it to be wrong. Discover the personal fear within you from which it grew, and make a plan to address that fear fully. Be thankful to the negative emotion for giving you the opportunity to understand your own weaknesses.

Cynicism is born of laziness and fear: It’s easy to complain about something. It’s harder to fix it. It’s both scary and liberating to trust other people to try to be their best.


As @dhh pointed out on Twitter after I originally posted this, I might have worded this more absolutely than intended. I meant this to be an “exercise” (see the first sentence). Skepticism is healthy. Sometimes, cynicism is the right reaction. But, I believe most of us could use a lot less of it.

    Chad Fowler

    Written by

    I help startups succeed. CTO, speaker, author, investor — currently @microsoft @blueyard