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Be Smart, Not Cynical


I have always been a very positive person—annoyingly so, depending on whom you ask. I try to see the good in others, even when they seem determined to prove there isn’t any. Yes, there have been a couple of times when my rose-colored glasses have left me blind to other people’s less-than-honorable intentions. Did that lead me to trade my Pollyanna for Paranoia? Not by a long shot.

But it did teach me some valuable lessons on not getting taken advantage of. So I suppose that some good came out of those bad experiences after all. The fact that I recognize that is a sure sign that my glass is still half full. See if these tips don’t help you keep yours that way too.

1. Nobody will buy the cow when they get the milk for free. Not too long ago I told someone a great idea—and they loved it. They loved it so much they ran with it and gave me zero credit. You would think that would have taught me, but the thing about cows is they’re kind of slow on the uptake. And so, it happened again. Twice. Now when I have a great idea, I don’t say what it is. I just say, “I have a great idea!” If the person wants to hear it, they can schedule a meeting. If they want to use it, they have to acknowledge where it came from. That can come in the form of a thank you, a pat on the back, a mention, or a paycheck—but it does need to come. Asking for what you deserve isn’t selfish. It’s smart.

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2. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This applies to everything from cookies that are supposedly “delicious” and “fat free” to bargain-basement luxury vacation accommodations. Several years ago my husband and I “won” a trip to a resort in the Caribbean at a charity auction. I was surprised more people weren’t bidding on this amazing luxury package. There wasn’t a whole lot of luxury, given the lack air conditioning and abundance of bugs. And it wasn’t much of a package either—the airfare wasn’t included. It seemed too good to be true, and it was. This doesn’t mean that I won’t still bid on items at charity auctions; it just means that I’ll read the fine print in the program before I do.

3. Be prepared. I used to feel that imagining the worst-case scenario would somehow make it happen. But the truth is, nobody’s imagination is that powerful. Just because you want to think that nobody would ever break into your parked car and take your purse doesn’t mean that nobody would. I know this because it’s happened to me and also to my friend Lisa. Let ours be a cautionary tale: It’s better to imagine that someone might do the unthinkable and protect yourself accordingly than to imagine that nobody would and wind up a victim. Taking precautions never causes crimes, but it often prevents them.


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