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The More You Know: Avoiding Cynicism

By Chris Brady

She wasn’t exactly keeping up with me. I turned, amidst the crowd, to discern why. A moment’s glance contained the explanation: she was trying to walk on the tiles of a certain color while dodging the rest. “Do it with me, daddy!” she gushed.

And I couldn’t help but comply. It didn’t matter that we were surrounded by a hundred busy travelers eagerly making their way around us in the world’s busiest airport, this was one of those moments you just don’t miss.

On three flights she sat confidently in her chair awaiting takeoff while singing beautifully made up words and melodies.

She also filled my head with questions. Most I would try to answer, until she dug deeper with “why?” and “how come?” Usually these were directed at the strange behavior of adults as seen through the eyes of a seven year-old, and, usually I was reduced to inadequate answers.

She heard things I’d long tuned out, saw things to which I’d grown blind, and discerned things that never would have occurred to my frenzied mind. She was bright, big-eyed, cheery, and alert. She was playful, positive, hopeful, and carefree. She was happy, inquisitive, demonstrative, and content. In short, she was everything the adults around her were not.

Have we lost so much? I asked myself. The distance between her perspective and our adult reality was enormous. Sure, you could say, she doesn’t yet know about how people can treat one another, how unfair the world can really be, how the pain of loss or tragedy can sting.

She hasn’t seen how the hurtful actions of others seem to remove something from deep inside us that doesn’t get replaced, how lies prevail on the open airways, how evil appears to flourish, how systems and cartels and constructs seem to grow in strength in conspiracy against the simple, good, and holy.

She doesn’t know about legal procedures, corporate hog-wash, fine print, buzzwords, punching a clock, political gamesmanship, back-channeling, gossip, back-stabbing, libel and slander, taxes, government scandal, and the encroachment of political correctness which is anything but what it suggests.

Then it occurred to me that much of what makes her so alive is what she doesn’t know – and therein lies the trick: To make our way upward in age without sinking correspondingly into cynicism. In essence, to know and still glow.

I know God is on the throne. I have the true, deep joy that only faith in Christ can bring. I’m not talking about an absence of that (though I can’t figure out how those without Christ in their lives don’t fall into complete despair). Rather, I’m talking about the friction of adult living that sands the cheeriness off of us, dimming the brightness, suppressing the playfulness, and parking our light under a bushel.

If only we could find a way to stay closer to that original spark of wonder and awe. If only we could retain a bit of that perky positivity.

I don’t have all the answers here, to be sure. Even considering that fact that I might be helplessly self-deceived, thinking that I’m a pretty positive, fun-loving guy; that time with my daughter illustrated to me how far I’m removed from the best of child-like faith and wonder. So I thought about it, and then I thought some more, watching her.

If I may be so bold, allow me to make some suggestions to us all on how to retain a bit of that childhood spark, or bring it back. Just because we are grown-ups doesn’t mean we have to be shriveled-ups or given-ups. What if we all:

1. Assumed that everyone we met was interesting and nice?

2. Entertained ourselves with playful games and songs at the most inopportune times?

3. Asked questions like we didn’t know the answers, and didn’t care who thought what of our questions?

4. Smiled as a knee-jerk response to almost anything that came our way?

5. Looked to each new person as a new friend?

6. Got excited about approaching holidays?

7. Gazed in wonder at something tiny?

8. Gasped in amazement at something mighty?

9. Giggled heartily at something funny?

10. Cried sincerely at something sad?

11. Prayed fervently for something only God could do?

12. Told others “I love you” in heartfelt spontaneity?

13. Tried to make up jokes for the sheer joy of seeing someone else laugh?

14. Made sounds to entertain ourselves?

15. Invented games out of the simplest situations and/or materials?

16. Had a clear understanding of right, wrong, and fair?

17. Had a strong desire for the comfort of family togetherness?

18. Made crafts and art for the sole purpose of giving them to others?

19. Had almost no consideration for the passing of time?

20. Truly wanted to help those who are worse off than ourselves?

Who among us hasn’t seen the above behaviors exhibited by children? Better yet, who among us wouldn’t like to return to at least some of them?

Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we have to act like it! We can know, we can grow, but we can still glow! It won’t come naturally, but we can retain some of what they have to teach us even as we’re so busy teaching them to be like us. Perhaps we should make it a bit more of an even, two-way exchange!

(For these suggestions I’d like to thank my children, who provided them without having to say a word. You show me more about how to live every day.)


Chris Brady co-authored the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Weekly, USA Today, and Money Magazine best-seller Launching a Leadership Revolution.

He is also in the World’s Top 30 Leadership Gurus and among the Top 100 Authors to Follow on Twitter. He has spoken to audiences of thousands around the world about leadership, freedom, and success.

Mr. Brady contributes regularly to Networking Times magazine, and has been featured in special publications of Success and Success at Home. He also blogs regularly at Chris Brady.

He is an avid motorized adventurer, pilot, world traveler, humorist, community builder, soccer fan, and dad.

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  1. Chris,

    I have been enjoying your posts for some time now. Great job on this one, I think you are on to something here.

    Thank you!

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