Good evening dear reader & welcome to my world for another week. I am off to a conference on the Gold Coast tomorrow & then a few days in Sydney for some R&R before winter hits us. Consequently, I most probably will have a week off next weekend & be with you the following Friday. So, my reflections today are based on some personal experiences over the last few weeks, I hope you enjoy.
It does not matter how you choose to live your life ~ whether you build a business or work a corporate job; have children or choose not to have children; travel the world or live in the same town all of your life; go to the gym 5 times a week or sit on the couch every night ~ whatever you do, someone will judge you for it. For one reason or another, someone will find a reason to project their insecurities, their negativity, & their fears onto you & your life, & you will have to deal with it.
With this in mind, I thought I would talk about being judged & criticized, & more importantly, the strategies I try to use to deal with them. Here is what I have learned about dealing with the people who judge you, your work, & your vision & goals.
The Biggest Critic in Your Life. It is easier to complain about the outside critics, but the biggest critic in my life usually lives between my own two ears. Working up the courage to move past your own vulnerability & uncertainty is often the greatest challenge we face on the way to achieving your goals.
When I started my business, it was not the criticism from outsiders which held me back. It was my own mind worrying if people would think I was a loser because I skipped getting a “real job”. The fact was I felt I had little choices at the time, & as a 49 year old, then what would people think?
When I started writing, it was my fears about what they would think if I wrote about the things I cared about. Those are just two examples of the types of internal fears & criticism which so often prevent us from getting started. It can take a lifetime to learn this just because people criticize you does not mean they really care about your choice to do something different. Usually, the whingers simply criticize & move on.
And this means you can safely ignore them & continue doing your thing.
But this is easier said than done because we all like to be recognized. Some people like it more than others, but everyone wants to be respected & appreciated to some degree. I certainly do. I know whenever I choose to take a risk & share my work with the world, I wonder about what my friends will think, what my family will think, & how the people around me will see me because of this choice. Will this help my reputation? Will this hurt my reputation? Should I even be worrying about my reputation?
Especially with writing, these questions created an internal struggle for me.
On one hand, I believed in myself & I knew I wanted to contribute something to the world around me. But on the other hand, I was scared people would not approve of my work & would criticize me when I started sharing the things I cared about or believed. Eventually, I decided it was more important to contribute something to my world & those around me, than it was to protect myself from criticism.
The Truth about Criticism is created because it is almost always in your head. Even though the vast majority of readers were positive or neutral about my work, the critics were still heard loud & clear. Apparently, the tendency to hold onto negative criticism is natural for most people. According to Roy Baumeister & researchers at Florida State University, we remember negative emotions much more strongly & in more vivid detail. 1
And this brings me to the main point: it does not matter what you do, there will always be someone who finds fault in it. So how do you get over it & really move forward anyway? Here is one approach which might help… Focus on the Road, Not the Wall.
Many racing experts consider Mario Andretti to be the most successful & versatile racing driver of all-time. During his career, Andretti won the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Formula One World Championship & the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb. He is one of only two drivers in history to win races in Formula One, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship, & NASCAR.
During an interview with SUCCESS magazine, Andretti was asked for his number one tip for success in race car driving. He said, “Don’t look at the wall. Your car goes where your eyes go.”
When young drivers are starting to race, this is one of the most critical lessons they learn. When you are driving at 200mph you need to focus on the road in front of you. If you look at the wall, then you will end up hitting it.
The same could be said for your life, your work, & dealing with critics. 2
Criticism & negativity from other people is like a wall. And if you focus on it, then you will run right into it. You will get blocked by negative emotions, anger, & self-doubt. Your mind will go where your attention is focused. Criticism & negativity do not prevent you from reaching the finish line, but they can certainly distract you from it. However, if you focus on the road in front of you & on moving forward, then you can safely speed past the walls & barriers nearby.
This is my preferred approach to criticism. When someone dishes out a negative comment, use it as a signal to recommit to your work & to refocus on the road ahead of you. Some people are determined to take things personally & tear down the work of others. Your life is too short to worry about pleasing those people. In fact I have learnt from my very good friend Bill Wilson, the opinions of these people are none of my business.
In rare circumstances, you may want to respond to the people who dish criticism your way. If this is the case, then I think Gary Vaynerchuk provides a good example of how to do it.
When Vaynerchuk published his best-selling book Crush It, he received dozens of 1-star & 2-star reviews on Amazon. Negative reviewers claimed the book was “absolutely awful” & called it a “piece of crap with no value whatsoever.”
And this was for a best-seller book!
Rather than fight back & justify his work, Gary decided to respond too many of the negative reviews with a sincere apology. For example, a reader named Frank left a 1-star review for the book in which he complained, “How did this book ever get published?”
Vaynerchuk responded to him by saying…
“Frank I am so so sorry I under delivered for U, I hope to meet U & spend 15 minutes apologizing & answering any questions U may have, I guess I needed more details in there for U, I am so sorry.”
Despite using grammar from a high school text message, Vaynerchuk ended up getting a telephone number & called him to talk things over.
After their conversation, Frank wrote a follow-up comment on his book review saying, “If Amazon had a people ranking system, I would have to give Gary 5 stars. One cannot help being impressed by someone who gets back to you so quickly & handles criticism so graciously.”
If you are going to respond to your critics, then getting a response like this should be your goal. Rather than beating the whingers back with insults, win them back with sincerity. Most people do not want to be convinced your work is wonderful, they just want to know you care.
Here is a James Clear summary about dealing with whingers & haters.
Thank you for taking the time to be with me once again. Just a bit longer this week, however, a pleasure putting these thoughts together. I hope my journey may encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson, with my best wishes for the next couple of weeks ahead. I look forward to being with you all again then.
- First & foremost, do not be the person who tears down the work of someone else. The world needs more people who contribute their gifts & share their work & ideas. Working up the courage to do this can be tough. Support the people who display this courage.
- If you are dealing with criticism, then do not let the wall keep you from seeing the road. Focus on the path ahead. Another way I heard it put recently, “Ignore the boos. They usually come from the cheap seats.”
- If you choose to respond to the haters, then surprise them with kindness. You might just win a new fan while you are at it.
- Finally, & most importantly, make the choices right for you. People will criticize you either way. 3