The other day I was asked to write a blurb for Peter Vajda’s new book, Becoming a Better You.
In one of the first jobs I held after graduate school, my boss, John, took me aside and asked, “Why are you so angry?”
Angry? His question surprised me. “John, you’ve got to be kidding. I’m the fun guy!”
“Fun guy?” John countered. “I call it sarcasm and it is caustic.”
In spite of or maybe because of that exchange, John became a treasured mentor to me. It did take me ten years to figure out what John meant; ten years to realize that I used sarcasm as a defense mechanism to shield my feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness.
I always saw myself as a funny guy, the guy who was quick with a quip and could make people laugh. Then I began to listen to that laughter and it sounded forced, hollow. What I thought was humor, others experienced as sarcasm – painful sarcasm – especially to one(s) to whom it was targeted.
I worked to keep my sarcasm under control and found I could not let it go completely. If I weren’t the “funny guy,” then who would I be? After all, this was my identity. But fewer people laughed and those who did, well, their laughter sounded shallow.
The better Peter is nothing like this – good for him.
His book is the story of what he learned in his journey to becoming a better person.
But I want to focus on Peter’s old self for a minute. Do you know any people like the old Peter — quick with a quip and able to make people laugh? If you do, be careful. Because if they’re like the old Peter and use their wit to hide their cynicism and biting sarcasm, keep your distance.
Tweet 50 in my career advice book Success Tweets says…
“Jettison the negative people in your life. They are energy black holes. They will suck you dry, but only if you let them.”
The old Peter was a negative person. He thought he was witty and funny, when he in fact was sarcastic, cynical and cruel. Peter figured out that he didn’t want to be this way and changed. Unfortunately, not a lot of people are as insightful as Peter.
Witty, cynical, sarcastic people negative – and they are dangerous because they are seductive. They always have something witty to say about others – usually others’ shortcomings. At first, they seem to be funny and amusing. But spend time with cynics, and you’ll find that they have little joy in life except in pointing out and reveling in others’ problems and failures.
Ambrose Bierce may well be the world’s biggest cynic. I often see quotes attributed to him on line.
In the early 20th century, he published a book called The Devil’s Dictionary. Even I admit that some of his definitions are pretty funny. However, I get tired and frustrated after reading more than one or two. Here are a couple of quotes from The Devil’s Dictionary…
“Optimism: The doctrine that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly, everything good, especially the bad, and everything right that is wrong… It is hereditary, but fortunately not contagious.”
“Calamities: Two kinds – misfortunes to ourselves, and good fortune to others.”
No wonder ole’ Ambrose was called “Bitter Bierce” by his contemporaries. First, he bashes optimism, then he suggests that human beings see the good fortune of others as a personal calamity.
Here are a couple of other entries in The Devil’s Dictionary…
“Politeness: The most acceptable hypocrisy.”
“Perseverance: A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.”
Do you know any people like Ambrose Bierce or the old Peter? If you do, my best career advice is to hold them at arm’s length. While you may find them to be witty and entertaining at first, they will drag you down in the long run. They will not help you create the life and career success you want and deserve. Take it from a career success coach, these kinds of people will not help you create the life and career success you want and deserve. Walk, no run, away from them as fast as you can.
You can download a free copy of Success Tweets at http://www.SuccessTweets.com/