Cynicism vs. Idealism

219607977fa2ec9cd9fa224e20703460This post started out about service and support, and how resistant we seem to be to those things, culturally.  But as I wrote, I realized that I was really writing about a particular distinction.  That distinction is a cynical vs. an ideal view.  As you know, I love distinctions, because we can apply them immediately.  It's not a complicated series of steps that if we follow, maybe, just maybe, this time we'll solve all of our problems.  Distinctions are clean and simple, and if you really get them and start noticing which side of the distinction you are coming from in your life, you can completely change your world. If you enjoy reading about distinctions and applying them in your life, I have a fantastic book I can send you by a brilliant coach named Dusan Djukich.  Please e-mail me or leave a comment if you'd like that.

Without any further ado...

When I'm training new coaches, they say something funny to me.  It goes like this:

"Adam, I have to do all this marketing and write in my blog and stuff, and I hate all of that stuff.  It sucks!"

If we remove the content and just look at the underlying context within which they're operating, they're basically saying:

"Adam, I have to do X and I hate doing X".

That's a recipe for procrastination, frustration, and dissatisfaction.

These coaches think they have to do these things because of some mistaken assumption about what builds your clientele.  There's only one thing a coach needs to do to build clientele: coach people.

I coach people because I love doing it.  It's an amazing feeling to create breakthroughs in partnership with someone, and actually have them change their lives.  If people would commit themselves fully to doing the things that scare them (a major part of any kind of transformation), and I could still eat and get by, I would do the work for free.

But they don't.

However, that doesn't mean I can't provide service outside of a coaching relationship.  I'm frequently making posts like this one on Facebook:

"Who can I serve right now?  I've got some time available and I'd like to work with you if you've got something you're struggling with or want a breakthrough.  Get in touch with me."

That's a sweet deal.  My coaching is not cheap and requires a significant investment on the part of my clients.  And yet here I am giving away some of that for free.  You'd think that a lot of people would be messaging me after an offer like that, but typically those posts net about one response.

We have a funny relationship with service.  Most of the people I talk to immediately explain that they can't possibly pay me anything for it and that they'd rather not "waste my time".

That's a very tragic relationship to service.

That reveals a few things about the people in question:

  1. They probably struggle with receiving service of any kind.  Simply being served and supported is problematic for these people.  It means they're now in debt or have an obligation to the other person.  That sucks.
  2. They're probably quite unlikely to look for opportunities to offer other people service themselves, if they can't see something in it for them.  Remember, the world is a mirror — their belief that it's a waste of someone's time to provide service without receiving anything in return is a reflection of their own story.

95cb9c01218546a286ebcd0c52b67b12We have a choice.  We can relate to the world cynically or idealistically.  For a long time, cynicism was my go-to.  I called it (proudly) skepticism.  I was proud of the fact that it was hard to take advantage of me.  And I was right — I analyzed everything that people did with a fine-tooth comb.

What I didn't realize was that, while it was hard to take advantage of me, it was also hard to provide me any support.  Any gift, kindness, or genuine offer people had to provide went through the same meat grinder.  "What's this person's angle?"

That's definitely an acceptable way to view the world, but what I learned was how lonely and cynical it makes the world.  It created my world as one where people couldn't be genuine in their desire to provide me directions without having a plot to mug you.  It created my world such that an act of kindness was really just part of a plot to take advantage of me.  It's a world where I could never be supported until I had the money to pay for it (because unless I'd paid for it, I knew there was some hidden cost).

The other funny thing was that I didn't realize the obligations I created for myself.  Because of the lens through which I was viewing the world, any time someone was able to successfully do something for me (in spite of my best efforts to foil them) I had no choice but to repay them.  If a homeless person held the door for me, I was now obliged to give them some money.  If I didn't, then I was at least obliged to feel bad.  Support was collapsed with burden.

That's ironic — what if that homeless person just genuinely wants to do something nice for people, since he's got nothing else currently to do with his time?

It took a lot of work to move beyond this, but after the breakdownthrough (yes, that's a new word, and yes, that's how I think we should start relating to the entire process of transformation), it became okay to let people serve me, because I was okay with serving them.  I understood that receiving service is as much a gift to the person providing it as it is to myself.

So what's the take-away in all this?  I don't really know what yours is.  I can tell you what mine is: there is a fundamental context that you get to choose between: cynicism and idealism.  You can choose to view the world you live in through a lens of cynicism, or one of idealism.  (sometimes we break this down into the universe either being one of abundance or scarcity — it's a similar context).

There's nothing wrong with choosing either lens — but just notice which one you're choosing, and what the costs and consequences of doing so are.

I spent 35 years operating from cynicism; I'm ready to choose something different.