Friday, March 13, 2009

On Being "Negative" ( I am one, by the way)

What is the difference between, “being a cynic” and “being a pessimist”?

Both adjectives have been used quite liberally to describe me by two who probably understand me more than anyone else!!!

How did I get to be such a negative person? Why do negative feelings come so naturally? As a teacher I feel it is my responsibility to talk to you about being negative.

Negativity is easy. It is far easier to say “no” than “yes”. It is far easier to look for reasons “why it cannot work” than look for “why it should be done” and “how to do it”. It is so easy to complain, whine, blame others, blame the system, the government, the society………… My parents are not rich, my teachers are not good, my college does not bother about students, the system is corrupt, you need recommendations and references to get a good job……. Some of the many grouses expressed by the many I teach. Try to calculate the ratio of the time we spend talking positive and good things to the time we spend talking trash, criticizing, making fun of, and cursing someone or something. We don’t even have to talk negative to be one, we just have to think negative!!!

Of course most of these views are correct. But the point is, Do you have the mettle to stop whining and do something useful to somebody?

Option 1: If yes, you are a success waiting to happen!

Option 2: If no, you are belong to the vast majority of human beings who spend a lifetime wallowing in self pity and do nothing worth mentioning in an entire lifetime.

Something tells me that if given these two options, as educated (not merely literate!!) human beings, we should take option number 1.

I have initiated a process of introspection and correction and I would recommend you guys do the same.


Satindra said...

Interesting place to start introspecting. I have been at the other end of the spectrum most of my life. I do not remember ranting or ever play the blame game seriously as far back as I can remember.I might blame someone momentary but I think God built in me an automatic system to banish the blame almost immediately. Somewhere, I guess, I feel it is a sin. In fact I kinda use to loose my temper when someone around me would turn to whining and blaming.

I am a much more tolerant now to the pessimists, cynics and even the whiners of the world. I realise we need them all. They are the ones who look into the minutest details of everything important. They are the ones who organise major tournaments and events in the world.They insure governments function smoothly and trains run on schedule. In fact they are the ones who make those precise schedules in the first. They help make our dining experience a prized memory. Leave it to a reckless optimist and you are sure to have a nightmare to haunt you for the rest of your life. I would'nt want a fiery flamboyant female to be my surgeon if I ever find myself on an operation table. I would actually run out of a plane if I learnt it was being piloted by an irrational optimistic bloke like me. We definitely need our cynics and pessimists to run the world. Of course they sometimes run it aground like they have done with meticulous precision with the beautifully planned sub prime lending. That of course, is another story.

But we also need the eternal optimists to make the world a beautiful, buoyant, wonderful rollercoaster experience we would like to talk about sipping tea on a wintry night in a camp in the hills into the wee hours of the night when we are old. We need our interesting storytellers and courageous adventurers who realise the dangers of their venture only after they have already jumped, head first, right into the middle of it. Otherwise who would write 'Old Man and the Sea' and who would have discovered America or India... and who would discover a new planet inhabited by people more intelligent and more advanced and more cultured than the earthlings. Without both optimists and the pessimists we would not have the bulls and the bears.
Yes I am a lot more accepting of the cynics and the pessimists of the world today than I was a couple of decades ago. As to being able to say 'no' I absolutely find it impossible to say so. Harpreet my wife, God bless her soul, used to say thank God you are not a woman or you'll always be pregnant.

Ashish Pillai said...

Thank God Sir that there are people who find us pessimists and cynics acceptable!!

But one wonders, is it something you can control???? If it is, can you strike a right balance between unbridled optimism and chronic nay saying??

Every time an issue crops up, my tendency is to look for what could go wrong??? I have realised of late that this tendency is sometimes very de-motivating to people around you..... That is something which is something I cannot afford being in the profession that I am in.

Satindra said...

I certainly believe that it can and should be controlled. While cynics and pessimists are so important in foreseeing what can g wrong and are in insuring every thing goes smoothly they need to recognise this trait in themselves and learn to control their urge to blurt out spontaneously especially when they are in leadership or mentorship position. Maybe, they cannot and should not control it but they certainly can and should control talking about it too soon. Remember two ears and one tongue.

Arunesh Garg said...

Dear Ashish I was just going through Your blog and comments by Satindra sir. I am sincerely trying to figure out what you actually are upto through this write-up. I was writing a piece recently. I am quoting it for your reference. May be you will find it interesting and relevant to point you are making:

"I have always believed that there are certain things that come naturally to you as a human being and are beyond your control. Perhaps it is not only our deeds alone that govern our success in any endeavour we undertake. The fact that we are there at the right time, right place and with right resources is having a major share in determining our success. Some call it a matter of chance; the game of probability; actions of God; destiny; you may give it any name. Further, there are of course certain things which are beyond your control like you cant have a choice as regards your parents, your time or place of birth, your basic education, education of your parents, your siblings, your physical traits, your family set-up, the kind of enviornment you are braught up in, the money your family possesses, blah blah blah....i can go on and on. Is it not that all these factors play a major role in shaping our success apart from obviously our actions?? So, can we say that only we are responsible for our success or failure?? I am at a loss to understand. Believe me or not given a situation everyone of us puts in our best effort in a particular endeavour based on our knowledge, resources, constraints and potential of success in a specific action. It is just like a decision situation where we choose the best out of the available alternatives in light of the constraints impinging upon us. This is only what we can do. Please correct me if I am wrong. As human beings, if we meet success in a particular venture we pat ourselves for the so called right decision. On the other hand, if we fail there is always a tendency to blame the factors beyond our control. This may be due to because we dont want to brand ourselves as a failure; we dont want to loose faith and trust in ourselves, in our abilities; we want to keep ourselves motivated all the time by telling to the inner self that not me but something else is to be blamed for my failure. Perhaps being negative or cynical about extraneous factors is a way to keep ourselves in high spirits. To my mind, there is nothing wrong in it; only thing we should be scared of is not being in a position to critically evaluate actions that led to failures by just being under the semblance of something beyond control causing the failure. Just try to figure out why someone else could grasp on to an opportunity and not you. Here, I would also like to articulate that priorities in life may vary from individual to individual. So, please see to it that in a given situation are you delighted based upon your priorities. Only because someone else is earning more money, or working in your dream industry or company, or is occupying the sought after saddle in an organisation should not put you off. What is required to be realised is that may be what someone else is earning is very obvious but what he is losing is veiled. Perhaps his loss is more than yours. I have always felt that the terms success and failure are only relative ones, and success is a matter of chance at times. So, just keep trying; it may come knocking any time.

Rememeber you may have lost in a game but you are not defeated. Never loose hope. To the best of my understanding, this is true for those who are still looking for job; are in jobs but looking for their dream industry or company; and also for those who are making a fight to sustain in their current jobs or their lives. That way it is true for each one of us."

Ashish Pillai said...

You have raised absolutely fantastic points Garg Sir.... but before we go into that, I guess I should clarify the trigger that initiated the whole piece. There was a decision to be taken at home and as I was consistently looking at the cons and was totally against it. Thankfully my view on the said issue was seconded by Satindra Sir too. But during the course of debates and discussions, Aashima and Inderjit (the artist guy) concurred that "we should look at it positively" and that we should go ahead..... They also concurred (and to a great extent I agree)that i usually over analyse and dissect issues to death. According to them, I focus more on the negatives than the positives. What struck me was that this is exactly what I have been blaming my students for ever since I am a teacher. I want my students to remain optimistic and as you say try to give your best shot at what you think is your priority. What I dont want them to do is get into a habit of looking for scapegoats and extraneous reasons every time they are in trouble.

In fact you have come very close to giving a scientific explanation of negative attitude. In fact that I guess will be my next blog!!!