The will is a will to create double negatives, critique that which is bad and wrong, and leave someone else to provide the solution, the novel path out of the situation.
This will is strong.
This will comes from the head. The rational part of me wants to deconstruct, tear down, break things apart. This is the proverbial serpent eating itself.
The novel path out of the situation is irrational. The smartest guys in the room are quick to shoot it down. This can never work, and I’ll tell you why. No, I don’t have a solution for what will work.
The best triumphs in our history are the ones where everyone said that it won’t work, you are defeated, there is nothing you can do.
The majority of our Congress, White House and Supreme Court is full of the smartest guys and gals in the room who rose up to be where they are by being able to articulate why something won’t work. This is the thing that nobody sees. The chief problem isn’t one of there being too many Conservatives or Liberals, or there being too much taxation or too much spending or too much war or too much welfare. The problem is that all of the solutions are weak answers to an initially successful takedown of whatever the problem was perceived to be in the first place.
Obama was successful because he ran on the fact that he said no to war. Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush were successful in their day because they said no to Bill Clinton. Every talking head on TV and radio personality derives their success from attacking what is perceived to be a problem by half of the country. Getting half of the country to think like you do is enough to get good ratings to remain on the air.
So, none of these guys are successful by creating a big idea and running with it no matter how many naysayers and coldly logical Spocks try to tear it down. The really popular Presidents, the ones that people still love today in large numbers–Kennedy, Reagan and even Bill Clinton–they all had this aura of having something larger than the running dialectic of the day. Even Obama had something of this at first with his Red State/Blue State speech. Nobody seems to remember that.
The beauty of this kind of figure is plain to see. He is in possession of a vision a thing that is bigger than the problem, but also bigger than all of the detractors–both the detractors to the problem and his own particular detractors. This figure is always tragic, because in the end, no man can sustain this kind of brightly burning optimism. Men become greedy, and want to hold onto it as if it is theirs exclusively to own. You can see the radiance of L Ron Hubbard when he was at the top of his game, and you can read the tragic story of his end. The decline of Reagan was tragic. The death of Kennedy was tragic. If a figure like this doesn’t end in tragedy, it means that he’s traded his grandness of vision for the same pettiness held by others, and he descends into a kind of mediocrity, which is its own kind of tragedy, really. Think Obama for this one.
I think people need another figure that has the grand vision that conquers all of the petty attacks. The smiley guy. The only man who comes to mind is Joel Osteen. Donald Trump used to be the smiley guy, but he got caught up in the bizarre, petty conspiracy theories of the fringes of his party. What a great optimist he was in the 80s and 90s! He had currency with Conservatives and Liberals. Arnold Schwarzenegger was this kind of guy. He blew it once he let the petty dialectic of the day overtake him and force him to take a side in a small way that wasn’t befitting to him.
We are in desperate need of a smiley, optimistic man or woman who rarely spares a breath to criticizing her opponents. Their vision is so big, it just steamrolls over mean and uninspired solutions to problems like taxation versus tax breaks. This person has hybrid solutions, and solutions that will work in some parts of the country but not others. Big, great ideas like the Space X competition are needed, where people are spurred on to do great things because the reward is novel, albeit a token one. Instead of plodding through the next grant application, they are pouring hours and dollars of their own into something in hopes of the payoff being that investors will see the value of what they are doing. Spurring economic growth through contests and hyperlocal solutions instead of simply raising taxes or giving tax breaks–now that would be something.
We are in need of this kind of smiley optimist, to provide a stark contrast to the angry right wing talk show hosts and the confused and unfocused left wing talk show hosts. Every politician in the history of politicians started out with some of this smiley optimism, and how long they were able to sustain it tells you how far they were able to go within the hierarchy of their party. Some, like myself, were only able to last a summer as a full-time volunteer before the meanness and baseness of it all got to them–and that’s usually just within their own parties.
We all go through the smiley optimist to jaded realist process when we enter into a new relationship with a lover or an employer. The interview or first date somehow brings the best out of all of us, even those of us who have become hardcore skeptics that criticize everything in all areas of our lives and the lives of others. We find that irrational exuberance required to make the impression on the first date or interview. But then, we quickly realize how impossible it is to maintain that kind of attitude, and we are forced to quickly become the overrated critical thinker who can pick apart anything, or simply become a weary, beat down kind of automaton that manages to schlepp along and keep the relationship or job from completely falling apart.
Of course in relationships, the constant critical thinker isn’t valued as much, if at all, the way he or she is in a professional setting. But, even in a professional setting, the critical thinker’s role will always be diminished. This person will only go so far. They might make a good middle manager, but their lack of charisma and irrational exuberance for the company will prevent them from reaching the C-suite. The same goes for politics. The successful constant critic usually ends up being a pundit or talk show host instead of a rising star politician. The rising star politician most continually manufacture new irrational exuberance–be the smiley guy.
Joel Osteen is probably the top smiley guy in America today. His level of “smiley guy”-ness may be too much for politics. Even the most optimistic of politicians–probably Reagan looking back over the past sixty years–have to be ready to throw a jab in there now and then and take the other guy down. But, what presidents like W and Obama didn’t/don’t understand, is how to get those jabs in without always finding yourself on the defensive. You should never drop into the defensive mindset in public if you are a leader–the whininess and petulance can be heard in W’s voice back in clips during the 2000 primary race when he’s debating McCain, and Obama’s whiny and defensive tone seemed to come forth the day he stopped campaigning and started to govern. Even in some of his 2008 campaign speeches, if you listen closely, you can hear the faltering, cracking voice of someone not supremely confident and optimistic.
Your perfect Smiley Guy has to make pretty much every average guy feel like he’s in on the joke. With John Stewart, who’s more of a bitter cynic in Smiley Guy’s clothing, the average guy who doesn’t want to call himself a liberal feels like he’s not always in on the jokes. You don’t feel like you’re in on the jokes with John Stewart unless you have a college degree, or aspire to be pseudo-intellectual. With Joel Osteen, it’s very easy and natural to suddenly feel like you are on the inside with him, and that the superior deck of cards he’s holding will be used to help you and not humiliate you. With John Stewart and Colbert, you feel like you could just as easily be the butt of their jokes if you happened to suddenly find yourself in the public eye.
I think Reagan and Clinton had the magic that Joel Osteen does, which is why they were wildly popular in the third years of their presidencies. I suspect that FDR had the same charm, as did Abraham Lincoln–all of the portrayals of the morose and depressed Lincoln don’t show you the smiley guy he had to be to win the presidency.
My own efforts to be the smiley guy have had mixed results. I can’t help but continually have the sense of their being almost a physical law around being a smiley guy, which the really good smiley guys somehow have managed to defy. The law is like gravity or thermodynamics. If I spend four hours a day being extra optimistic and smiley and unflappable, it’s almost a guarantee that there will be four hard hours to follow in which I drop quickly into becoming morose, bitter and jaded. Each force has its opposite and equal force, and being optimistic is no different.
So, how do those guys like Reagan and Joel Osteen do it? Is it because they are filled with Jesus? Were they faking it until they made it and once they made it, the money kept them smiley? I am pretty certain that I’d be more smiley more of the time if I was less worried about making ends meet.
The thing about being the so-called cynical realist is that you are often proven wrong as much as the smiley guy is validated for being an optimist. You worry to death about whether or not you are going to be able to afford something, and somehow the money comes through. The new job arrives, and the new salary offer comes with it–one that you weren’t expecting even the least bit. Your anger and negativity toward others is often refuted when they turn out to be not nearly the monsters and cretins you made them out to be. Whether or not you realize how many times you are proven wrong while being the cynic is another thing altogether. Most hardcore Debbie Downers are pretty good at finding only the terrible things around them to validate their negativity.
It’s almost impossible to become a Smiley Guy once you’ve gotten used to reacting to unpleasant turns of vents in a negative way. Even if its just a mildly distasteful request from a boss—if you’ve gotten used to expecting the worst, it is always going to seem like it is that much worse.
So, all of the motivational speeches and sermons you might gorge yourself on will not make a difference if you are still pretty much conditioned to react in the moment a certain way. Now, it doesn’t hurt at all to surround yourself with optimistic thinking, and stop seeking out the people who are all-critic, all the time. If you are always jumping down to the comments section of a news article and getting caught up in the negativity, you aren’t doing much to change anything about yourself, and you will not walk away any more enlightened on how the worlds’ problems should be solved. People who are arguing for the sake of arguing or at least for the sake of trying to win are not people who expect to solve problems. And, 90% of the crap that people post at the bottom of a news article is just that–arguing for its own sake.
Motivational speakers are generally going to give speeches about how to make money, because they justify their paychecks that way. But, we all know the results of having the benefits of a motivational event wear off near the end of the week, and how we go back to being the same people we were before. Unless there is some way to fundamentally change your outlook from being consistently negative, or consistently reactive, or consistently swinging back and forth from negative to positive, you will continue to be the same kind of person you were before, even if you do get initiated into a secret to make more money.
My personal goal is one of dying free of a lot of the crap I seemed to have arrived with. Once I hit puberty, it was like I remembered all of the things about me that I’ve taken with me through several lifetimes, and I fell back into ways of being that were comfortable in their familiarity. Before I hit puberty, I had plenty of terrible character traits as well. And I can find journal entries of my mom’s where she describes me having them at an extremely early age. After I got to be much older, and I’d dropped the bad habits of smoking cigarettes and drinking to get drunk, I discovered my childhood flaws were right there waiting for me. I started to pick my nose a lot when I got stressed. I lost my temper more easily over some petty nothing of a perceived slight. I let my mind wander and thoughts race into pointless fantasies when I should have been focused on my work. I reacted in a sycophantic fashion to strong male personalities. I scowled at beautiful women, scowling all the more fiercely the more I felt lust for them.
Before I ever become someone who is trying with all of his might to be successful in the worldly sense, I feel like I need to become an all-around decent human being. To some people, this seems ludicrous–they already are decent people, they need to become much more than that. But, for me, I feel like there’s been too much “cart before the horse” and a lot of the dead ends I’ve reached in my career are due to me simply not being mature enough in deep areas of my mind and soul that haven’t gotten the attention they deserved. All of this is painful to the ego, for sure. It stings one’s pride to look more clearly at one’s self and see for the first time just why so many people gave up on you so quickly.
But, on the other hand, I don’t want to overspend my time with my flaws, and ripping open old wounds that have actually healed quite nicely. One particular approach that I think could benefit me a lot is to find a way to always be positive. To always put a positive spin on something that isn’t going right. And, to shrug off people and events that seem geared toward bringing me down and bringing out the worst in me. Surely it should be quite obvious to a man approaching 40 that the world is full of a lot of people who would delight more in seeing an other fail than even their own success. I truly believe that. Think about that a bit longer. Imagine that there are a majority of adults in this world right now who, consciously or not, take more pleasure in seeing someone they know get taken down a notch or two than seeing their own selves find success in life. I’m not even talking about them feeling better about your failure than your success. Or, feeling better about their success over your own. Even that might at least be only Byzantine or Machiavellian–but, I’m talking about the really sad, sick souls who would rather see, for example someone from, say, the opposite political party fail than see someone from their own party (or country, or family, or self) succeed.
That’s not Machiavellian–that’s diabolical and Satanic.
The whole point of the parable of the loaves and fishes was not to show off how awesome Jesus was at performing miracles. He’d already done that plenty of times. The whole point was to show how good things can multiply when we are willing to give of what little we have without worrying about how everyone will be fed or even how we ourselves and our families will be fed. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but once I started giving money to charity that I thought I couldn’t live without, my salary started going up. I never had a year where I thought “I would have been able to afford this and that thing, had I only not given money to charity.” Such is the mentality of people who are actively preventing little children from being processed humanely at our borders. They believe that to even give these little ones a small token of generosity will mean nothing left to go around for our own. People who have become wildly successful forget this. They don’t even realize how much they had to give of themselves to get where they are. The most beloved leaders and celebrities are always giving of themselves in ways most of us would shudder to imagine. I don’t mean anything disgusting by that, either, I just mean that they are constantly letting others have pieces of themselves and their time with little left of their own to hang onto. In exchange, they get the fancy houses and nice cars, but some of them appear to have given maybe even more of themselves than they were really prepared to give.
But, all of us start to feel mean and weird and bored if we aren’t giving at least some of our time to somebody in such a way where the expectation of a payback isn’t there. Even if it’s only for a few minutes a week, I think we all feel like we have to put something of ourselves out there in a way that is purely altruistic–to give and not expect to get back.
I think some of us, and I put myself at the front of the line, also believe that we are being very generous when our entire attitude and body language indicate that we would rather be curled up on the sofa by ourselves indulging in television and wine. It’s only natural that celebrities and politicians put this kind of energy out there. They can’t always be expected to pay attention to people who are demanding every bit of the famous person’s attention. But, we who would think that we are mostly givers probably need to examine more what kind of narrative is going through our minds when we do have to go out into the world and put on faces that show interest in others without betraying just how much we’d rather retreat to the comfort of home and be by ourselves.