Dealing with Criticism

One Monday morning, as I finished my breakfast, I overheard an interesting conversation on the radio between the co-hosts…

Female Co-Host: Oprah’s in Toronto this week filming her show, but I guess you’re not a big fan?

Male Co-Host: Ugh, Oprah. Can’t stand her. Actually, I guess she’s not so bad now.

Female: Why don’t you mind her now?

Male: Well, I heard she’s struggling…

Can you believe that?

The radio announcer’s reason for not hating Oprah anymore is because she’s struggling.

Everyone’s a critic and there’s no shortage of people willing to take pleasure in your struggles (the Germans have a word for this called, “Schadenfraude”).

The hateful attitude towards successful people is more popular than ever today.

Here’s another example. Recently Tim Tebow, the new quarterback of the New York Jets football team, attended a New York Yankees baseball game. When Tebow’s image was shown on the big screen, the crowd booed him, even though he plays for a New York City team. Despite Tebow being a nice, upstanding young gentleman, who if you had to pick a guy to date your daughter, he’d be the one, the crowd booed him.

If Oprah and Tebow get their share of hate, you will too.

Perhaps it’s true that you can’t be great without the hate.

In fact, it’s likely that the more you accomplish in your business and community, the more you will attract naysayers, critics, and jealous people who will attack your efforts.

You need to be mentally prepared for this. You can’t let the inevitable criticism affect you or slow you down.

Besides, here’s the truth of the matter that few people are willing to admit.

Remember that male radio co-host who hates Oprah? Put him in a room with Oprah and what would he do?

He’d love her. He’d fawn over her. If he wasn’t too nervous, he’d surely ask for a photo and an autograph, and then he would tell that story to anyone who would listen for the next three years.

Haters are hypocrites.

And that’s the type of action that your haters would take too. Or at the very least, they certainly wouldn’t have the guts to call you names in person.

They are only willing to dish criticism and hate in the anonymous fantasyland of the Internet. In the real world, they’d like you just like everyone else.

Never forget that.

How do I know?

Because I’ve received my fair share of criticism on my websites and blogs, but never once at any of my speaking engagements has anyone come up to me and criticized me.

This experience has led me to a few conclusions. First, as I mentioned, that the only critics you’ll have will remain anonymous and protected by the Internet. It’s rare that anyone will challenge you in person.

Second, there’s no point in arguing with these anonymous online critics. If you’re ever tempted, just remember this quote from Black Swan author, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, “Your reputation is harmed the most by what you say to defend it.”

No good can come of the confrontation. You’re better off directing your energy and effort towards doing something good for the people who are your fans, particularly if this is a business matter. After all, as Dan Kennedy says, “The only vote that counts is the one from people who vote with their wallets.”

Third, you should get over your fear of criticism before you start getting it. And I have an odd suggestion on how you might do this.

In the last couple of years I’ve come to a strange conclusion. I believe that everyone would be better off if they stood up in front of a crowd and admitted their biggest mistakes, flaws, and embarrassments.

Then, with that out of the way, they could get on with being completely comfortable with themselves and confident around others. No more hiding, worry, or stressing about what other people thought.

After all, things couldn’t get any worse (read: more embarrassing) than standing up and revealing your weaknesses, and so they’d quickly realize that the “worst” never turns out as bad as they fear.

Where on earth did I get such a strange idea?

We have Dan Kennedy to blame for this one.

Several years ago I read his autobiography, “Unfinished Business“. The book was hard to find, and few people have read it, but it might be the most important Kennedy book you could read. Put on your list to read before you get to his “No BS Direct Marketing”, “No BS Wealth Attraction”, and even “No BS Time Management” books (which should be in your top 10 to read right after).

Why is Unfinished Business so important?

Reading that book made me realize that it doesn’t matter how many mistakes someone makes and how much criticism one receives, all that matters is that they are out there taking action and adding value.

Kennedy lays out all of his dirty laundry in that book, from his divorce to his battle with alcohol, to his bankruptcy, stuttering problem, and financial hardships of his early years.

As I read the book, I realized that Kennedy didn’t care what other people thought about him. And even if he did care, he wasn’t going to let their opinions stop him from taking action, moving ahead, adding value, and speaking to the people that mattered.

When I was done the book, I started to test the waters following Kennedy’s lead.

I ignored the critics and wrote for those who mattered. I started creating articles for my fitness list about my failures, about my mistakes, about my father’s passing, about his flaws and the lessons I learned from them, putting it all out there.

I’ve written about my weaknesses, my mom’s worries for my future, my anxiety issues, and much more. Doing this has shown my readers that I’m human, still learning, and not anywhere near perfect, and it has only served to improve the relationship with my readers.

This raw, emotional, and powerful way of communicating, I like to think, has shown my readers that I care, and that I’m right there in the battle with them. That we’re all here trying to get better – by taking action, adding value, and never giving up, no matter how ugly it gets.

We all have our crosses to bear.

We all have our battles to fight.

We all have our critics to combat.

And throughout all of this, we all have an opportunity to inspire our readers by showing them how we are fighting through our own struggles.

Because that’s what it’s all about.

It’s not about the critics. It’s about those who count.

It’s about showing other people that they can succeed, no matter how rough things are.

Don’t be afraid of sharing your struggles. People will be impressed by your candor and will offer their support.

You will be rewarded with a stronger connection with those that matter.

When you do good work, with passion, honesty, and integrity, people will see this and will want to support you.

They will rally behind you.

So get your message out there.

Lay it on the line.

Never give up.

Stay strong.

Get stronger.