I’ve never been to TED. But I’ve watched quite a few of the videos online, and some are really something to be impressed with. Today I watched a few, but the Jeff Bezos speech left me quite inspired.
Something called out here is something I learned a little after high school, that it’s harder to be kind than it is to be clever.
Growing up, I was a scrawny little thing with toothpick arms and a shaggy haircut. I had a tendency to get into trouble, nothing all that serious, but enough that larger young lads might have something to pick a bone about. I learned very quickly that the only way to defend myself was quick thinking and a quicker tongue. Honestly, it served me pretty well. I avoided fights that likely wouldn’t have ended in my favor and managed to keep my siblings at bay, most of the time at least.
This particular skill set was a big plus through elementary school. In fact, being a quick thinker could make people laugh and gain attention too.
But something changed as I got older. I wasn’t making remarks or being quick witted for any necessity anymore. There was nobody to avoid for fighting. Those remarks came as a reflex from long term muscle memory. In fact, that ability morphed itself into a whole different thing altogether. I was still a pretty nice kid, but would always jump at the opportunity to make fun of something, be it another person or in situations where humor was all but useless. I’d become someone who thought he knew everything regardless of the situation. Of course, as is usually the case, nothing could be further from the truth. This was all still in high school.
It wasn’t too long till the house of cards fell face up. It was pretty obvious after going to college that I didn’t know much of anything. Of course, knowing that was liberating, and still serves as a guiding light.
During this process, long as it was, it became apparent to me that not saying snide remarks, not attacking others who put themselves and their ideas in the light, not criticizing without need, is much harder than being the cynic.
It is so true that no one ever erected a statue of a critic. Those that refuse to build themselves but are happy to seek out and destroy others’ work are a dime a dozen. Putting yourself and your work out where others can see takes more bravery than 10,000 critics’ interpretations. Cynics rarely ever add value to anything, they stifle it.
This doesn’t even begin to touch upon how truly difficult genuine kindness is. That’s another topic for another day. But my journey as a would be cynic ended when I entered the real world. This video tells the story from a much younger man, who learned it in a much more profound way:
Though the video offers a great deal, I think the finishing point is the most important. It struck me how silly we are to worry about all the things that must happen in the moment, yet there are much bigger things at play.
It’s difficult to describe precisely what I mean at this point, but I’m thankful for everything that has happened.