Among our most universal human longings is to affect the world with our actions somehow, to leave an imprint with our existence. But, our culture has created a reward system in which you get points for tearing down rather than building up, and for besieging with criticism those who dare to work and live from a place of constructive hope. Cynicism, like all destruction is easy, it’s lazy. Cynicism is a poverty of curiosity, imagination and ambition. It is really a calcification of the soul. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope. The Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant did a study in which he gave subjects an actual New York Times book review, modified to make it either extremely positive or extremely negative, then asked them to rate the critic’s intelligence. “Which version makes the reviewer sound smarter?” Grant asks. “People rated the critical reviewer as 14% more intelligent, and having 16% greater literary expertise, than the complimentary reviewer. Grant feels that “prophets of doom and gloom appear wise and insightful, while positive statements are seen as having a naïve ‘Polyanna’ quality.” We focus on the negative: there are 558 emotion words, 62% are negative and 38% are positive.
Confidence is belief in yourself, certainty is belief in your beliefs. Confidence is a bridge; certainty is a barricade. We should use our opinions to start discussions, not to end them. There is an enormous difference between entering into a discussion for the purpose of proving how smart you are and engaging for the purpose of stretching your mind and giving free rein to your conscience. One path may earn you a reputation for brilliance; but the other will lead you toward wisdom. We will not get the cooperation that is needed if everyone insists on their own narrow version of reality. The only completely open mind is an empty one. Put aside what we think we know and use that knowledge as a platform for learning more. A good critique should not close down thought and response.
When judging someone’s work, don’t be cynical and tear it down. Don’t criticize, build on it. It is easy to criticize something, to show how “intelligent” you are. Show your true intelligence and build upon it, make it better, take it to an improved level.
Albright, Grant, Popova, winnegrad
Ron Winnegrad has been a Perfumer and teacher for 46 years. As a perfumer, Ron has been able to express the world he sees through a rainbow of olfactive and emotive visions. As a teacher, Ron has helped others to see fragrance through his own multi sensorial lens.