Take a lesson from Conan: Cynicism is dead

No one has all the answers. But some people have some pretty good ones once in awhile.

People spend lots of time looking for answers. Living life usually hands you answers and lessons left and right, but sometimes you have to go deeper than day-to-day happenings. You need a book, an adviser, an inspirational meme. Whatever you don’t learn from the Dalai Lama, you will learn from Grumpy Cat.

I try to glean what I can from experiences, and from others. But I’m easily distracted, and stubborn. That doesn’t bode well for personal growth. When you’re never wrong, why grow? Wink. Hah.

“Little Women” was one of my top books for lessons growing up, a musty old copy found in a closet. If scatterbrained Jo March could grow, learn, and find the answers to life’s problems, so could I. And she didn’t even have Twitter.

Whether you find your answers, from those Top 20 lists on Buzzfeed (for example, “20 Reasons Why Liz Lemon Is Our Spirit Animal”), or from your family, church, music, clouds, or whatever, the message is what matters.

While I have learned some answers from Liz Lemon on “30 Rock” – namely, that moving to Cleveland won’t solve all your problems – another NBC personality sent me a very important message, one that I sometimes remember to heed, and sometimes forget to value.

Conan O’Brien, who I already worshipped from my “Simpsons” fandom, found himself with the job of any comic’s dreams – host of “The Tonight Show.” Jay Leno passed the torch, absconding to his own prime-time show. But, alas, mere weeks into his dream job, NBC took back the seat from Conan, leaving the desk chair – and his mind – spinning.

As support for Conan poured in, he fought against the anger and disappointment one would surely feel. But, he got where he was by being honest, fair, and decent – and ridiculously funny.

He could have been as spiteful as legally possible. He could have told his side of the late-night war. But, on his last show, he chose to stay classy and send a message to young people who might still have their dream ahead of them:

“Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality, it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, it’s just true!”

I’ve been cynical. More like a cynicism ambassador. It’s a trait that’s hard to avoid in the news world. You see a lot of harsh stuff.

I struggle every day with pointing out faults, casting blame and generally being pessimistic. While you may be right, it doesn’t help anyone to state unpleasant facts. It’s easy to play armchair quarterback and point out how and why mistakes were made; it’s tougher to lend a hand to help others recover their life fumbles.

Conan, if your brief foray into “Tonight Show” history was for anything, it was to show me that cynicism is dead. It had its time in the sour Lollapalooza days of grunge, but there’s sunnier days in Seattle to be had.

So, my beloved Coco, I will try harder to peel back my cynical skin. Kindness breeds kindness. Positivity reaps untold treasures. No man who helped create “Simpsons” season four can be wrong.

So, while you don’t necessarily have to be Mr. Rogers, try to keep your cynicism below “Curb Your Enthusiasm” levels. I’m going to try to look on the bright side of life, and who knows where it will lead? Stay classy, Mahoning Valley.

Are you a cynic, or a former late-night talk show host? Tell me about it at ssepanek@tribtoday.com, or comment on this story at www.tribtoday.com.