On Cynicism and Saying Yes

I love Januarys and Mondays. I love fresh starts and do-overs. Aptly, I love this time of year when graduates get to celebrate the closing of one chapter and the start of another. The emotional space between an end and a beginning is powerful.

(Why has no one learned how to bottle that yet? It could certainly solve this energy crisis we’ve got going on.)

One of my favorite things about this time of year are the snippets here and there that pop up from commencement speeches. No matter who gives them, they are always full of little nuggets of inspiration that I wish I would have absorbed when I was emerging into the real world. Dorky habit confession: I sometimes watch good ones on You Tube when I’m feeling in a rut and pretend like I’m 21 and yearning for knowledge.

Here is a portion from one I think is particularly awesome:

Now will saying “yes” get you in trouble at times? Will saying “yes” lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”

– Stephen Colbert commencement address at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, 2006

Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but is the farthest thing from it.

Cynics don’t learn anything.

Cynicism is a self imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us.


Yesterday I read another “Healthy Living Blogger” discounting Paleo as a fad diet. Don’t worry, this time I didn’t feel quite so ragey. In fact, it didn’t even really make me upset. Call it a fad, what do I care? Stripes are a fad too, but it doesn’t change the fact that I look cute when I wear them. HOLLA! 🙂

I think my lack of rage comes from the fact that I know what I am doing is right for me because I am making progress. And it is still bringing me joy. I am following my own heart and mind and not letting the negativity of others confuse me.

Oh and also: I found this picture back in the archives the other day and when I showed Garrett he said to me “Dude, I think the aspect ratio is off in that picture.”

Sorry buddy, the aspect ratio was totally normal.

But luckily the aspect ratio of our current lifestyle is slightly more flattering. And improving each day! Sometimes it’s hard to recognize progress, but I’ll tell you what, this picture fills me hope that maybe those people who talk about getting better with age really are on to something!

As I get older, I try and let the cynicism around me — at work, in life, and on the internet — roll off my back. It’s a discipline, but it is discipline worth practicing. And it’s worth it because we all have things want to try. I’m not one to tell you that you should try the the things I try, because I HATE being told what to do. But the truth is, we all have secret desires that we wish we had the courage to pursue. Every last one of us. But desires and reality don’t always overlap.

So I’m not going to tell you what to do. But I will say this:

Maybe you want to train for marathon. Maybe you want to try out a CrossFit gym. Maybe you want to change the way you eat. Maybe you want to pursue that dream you had when YOU were 21 and graduating college. Hell, maybe you just want to wear a belt.


Because the clock is ticking, you all. The days are coming fast and furious whether we like it or not. Many of life’s pursuits take courage and sometimes that can be hard to find amongst the daily trials of life and the sounds of cynicism. So today I just wanted to try and be one little voice trying shouting louder than the rest.

What do you want to change in your life? Because it can be done. Someone before you has done it and someone after you is going to do it again. So really, what are you waiting for?


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16 Responses to On Cynicism and Saying Yes

  1. A'Dell says:

    I am going to wear a belt today, JUST FOR YOU. A hot pink, patent leather, belt.

    • Holly says:

      AWESOME! I bet you looked adorable. I want a hot pink, patent leather belt! That is off-the-charts sass!

  2. AndreAnna says:

    I love your posts. They make me want to punch puppies a little less this morning. 🙂

    • Holly says:

      Love you more, daaaaahling! I’m brewing up a good comment for your WODThreads post. What an awesome company!

  3. Denise says:

    Well said! The fact that you quoted Stephen Colbert makes me like you even more.

  4. sizzle says:

    Love this! Couldn’t agree more.

    There isn’t much I need to tell myself to do because I’m already in the mindset that life is short and I do my best to pursue what make me happy and be the best me I can be. I’m always grateful to come across folks like you, Holly, who do the same.


  5. Kathryn says:

    Love this! I think I’m a cynic and it’s for that very reason: “Cynicism is a self imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us.” Pure white fear.

    I’m slowly learning to let that go …. 🙂

    Eat what you want, wear what you want ~ do what you want! I sometimes wish people online would remember you don’t have to write, or say, every little thought in your head!

    Thanks for this.

    • Holly says:

      Do you know what’s funny, Garrett said almost that exact same thing to me once during a…tiny little disagreement (HA!) He was like “Holly, just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean it needs to be expressed at every opportunity” and you know, it was a bit of an eye opener. Sometimes my opinions are totally valid and true. Sometimes they are knee-jerk, fear-based cynical responses. It was something that has stuck in my head and made me try to be a little more conscious of what I put out into the world, ya know?

  6. Amy says:

    Yes, to all of this.

  7. Kathryn says:

    Yep I know. Really hard to hold back sometimes but usually very worth it. 🙂

  8. Kristin says:

    Thanks for this. So true and something everyone needs to hear once in a while. Love Stephen Colbert!

  9. This is a great piece Holls! I love commencements too, so inspirational. Remember that “Always Wear Sunscreen” speech/song? <3