Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cynicism & Professionalism

I started this post on Saturday, and since then I have seen multiple blogs referring to Conan's last I'm behind the trend...sue me.

Last Friday was Conan O'Brien's final night hosting The Tonight Show. I am very disappointed that he will no longer be the host. I have been a big Conan fan for a long time, and I hate to see his short-lived run on The Tonight Show end. I do believe he'll be back on the air in some form, but for now I guess I won't be watching much of anything after the news.

In the midst of what looked like a huge potential fight with NBC, and probably wanting to really let them "have it", Conan chose instead to say the following:

"Before we bring this rodeo to a close, I think a couple things should be said.
There's been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can't say about NBC.
And this isn't a joke.
To set the record straight, and this is true, tonight I'm allowed to say anything I want.
(Man laughs)
Um, and no it's not a joke, but thanks sir. Tonight I really am allowed to say whatever I want and what I want to say is this.
Between my time at "Saturday Night Live," "The Late Night Show," and my brief run here on "The Tonight Show," I've worked with NBC for over 20 years.
Yes, we have our differences right now, yes we're going our separate ways, but this company has been my home for most of my adult life.
I am enormously proud of the work we've done together. And I want to thank NBC for making it all possible.
I really do.
(Audience applauds)
A lot of people have been asking me about my state of mind and I'll be honest with you, walking away from "The Tonight Show" is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
Um, making this choice has been enormously difficult. This is the best job in the world.
I absolutely love doing it and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium.
I will fight anybody who says I don't, but no one would.
But despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment. Every comedian...every comedian dreams of hosting "The Tonight Show" and for seven months, I got to do it.
And I did it my way with people I love. I do not regret one second of anything that we've done here.
(Audience applause)
And yeah.
And I encounter people when I walk on the street now who are just uh who give me sort of a sad look.
I have had more fortune than anybody I know.
And if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-Eleven Parking lot we will find a way to make it fine. We really will.
I have no problems. And, I don't want to do it on a 7-Eleven parking lot.
(Audience laughs)
But whatever, uh, finally I have something to say to our fans.
This massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming for me.
The rallies, the signs, all the goofy outrageous creativity on the Internet uh, the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain.
(Audience cheers)
It's pouring! It's been pouring for days and they're camping out to be in our audience.
Really, you...Here's what all of you have done.
You've made a sad situation joyous and inspirational.
So to all the people watching I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life.
And all I ask is one thing...and this is...I'm asking this particularly of young people that watch...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. (Audience claps) I'm telling you.
It's just true.
As proof, let's make something amazing happen right now. (Intro Will Ferrell)

Translate this to your place of work. You spend a lot of hours at work with your co-workers, some are your friends, some are just co-workers. You don't always agree with them, or your employer. Maybe you don't like the way things are run in your department, team, or project you are working on. Maybe you don't like the way the business owners or managers are running the business.

Whatever the situation, it is very easy to get cynical. This cynicism generally happens in your own mind, then you pass your cynicism on to someone you trust, then to another team member and suddenly your cynicism is running rampant, or at the very least has possibly tainted a good many co-workers. Sometimes we're affected by the cynicism of others as it passes through like the plague of death in the 10 Commandments (one of the greatest shows ever), only passing by those who were prepared for it, and took measures to fight it.

So how do we fight the urge to be cynical? It seems it is a very strong human emotion we all possess, and fall prone to embrace all too easily. Here are a few of my thoughts on how to overcome cynicism. They are not scientific, just thoughts that I have had as I thought about Conan's speech last night.

1. As Conan said, "Work really hard, and be kind." This statement is about as simple and true of a phrase as I have ever heard.
2. Forgive. We all make mistakes. No company, manager, co-worker, team member, or subordinate is perfect. And you know what? Neither are you, and neither am I. Let mistakes go, and get on with the business at hand.
3. Candid, professional communication. Talk it out, find common ways to make the workplace better.
4. There is an upside to everything. Find it, and use it to be better yourself and others.

Now, the only question that remains unanswered is what to watch after the news?


  1. American Heritage dictionary defines cynicism as: An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others

    I have found, in my experience, that most people are cynical some of the time. Oft times on a team, the "cynic" and the "optimist" roles rotate. And some days everyone is on the same page... for better or for worse. But I think it's always useful to keep in mind that most people are mostly trying to do the right thing most of the time.

    Whether or not people's intent and their results end up in the same place or not, well that's another story (says the cynic ;) )

  2. Agreed. I truly believe in the intent of others to be "good". In general I believe in forgiving, but not indefinitely, or for situations that are egregious (to generalize).
    Thanks for the feedback.