Conan's Wake Up Call

March 15, 2017

We felt it along with him. Sometimes, more than he felt it himself…or so it seemed.

Full of righteous indignation, we cursed the out-of-touch network execs. It wasn't fair. They never gave him a chance.

And then, in the closing moments of his final Tonight Show, he said this:

"Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it is 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."

It was a poignant moment. Conan who made a career out of sarcasm and self-deprecating humor, who had every reason to be upset at NBC, took the opportunity to blast negativity; particularly the negativity of his allies! These people were defending him and he told them, Stop! Put down the pitchforks and torches. Focus on the positive. Let go of that bad stuff.

I had always been negative although I preferred the label: "perfectionist". Part of me figured successful people were just more polished than the rest of us. I thought if I focused on my flaws, I would eventually be better; that hyper-awareness of faults, especially your own, would lead to perfection.

It doesn't.

It just makes you really, really tuned in to identifying every little problem. As a teenager, I would point out my own flaws before others, trying to diffuse their inevitable insults. This defense mechanism grew into a social crutch. I began recording other people's flaws, making jokes at their expense or storing them away to replay whenever I felt insecure. I began to only see what was wrong in everything.

Besides alienating any positive people in your life, the larger, more insidious problem is that you start to believe that you are right; that you see the world as it is. Anyone who sees positive things must be delusional.

Oddly enough, despite hearing it from countless self-help gurus, it was Conan who broke thru. I began to wonder if focusing on the positive would cause me to start noticing more good things. Could I hijack confirmation bias to rewire my brain to notice the positive?

It turns out you can, or at least you can start practicing. I started writing down 3 things I am grateful for everyday. It seems trivial but it makes you start looking for good things. You don't want to write the same 3 things over and over. I begin to notice all of things I'd taken for granted. I know it sounds silly. But it made a big impact for me. Do I still have negative thoughts. Of course. But now I have some tools for pushing the needle back the other way.

You believe that you're right; that you see the world as it is, and anyone who sees the positive must be delusional.

Filed under: positivity

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