“Look at a man the way he is, he only becomes worse. But look at him as if he were what he could be, then he becomes what he should be.” Goethe.
Whenever you’re pursuing a personal project or a dream that you care deeply about, you will inevitably encounter criticism and rejection. People are going to tell you flat out “No.” Others will be more subtle and will say things like “oh, it’s been done already,” “the market is saturated with this kind of stuff,” “you were never that good at this sort of thing,” “it’s better to be safe than sorry,” “if I were you, I would stick to what I know,” “that’s a cute idea, why not just make it a hobby” and so on and so forth.
Your dreams and goals don’t matter to most people.
They could care less whether or not it’s possible for you to realize those goals. In fact, many will take the time to list the obstacles you will experience and how overcoming them is beyond your ability. Some have told so many others that their dream is not possible that they’ve become good at this. If you let them, they will volunteer their time to persuade you of your limitations and how it won’t work out for you either. So if you don’t guard your dreams, others will invite themselves to discourage you.
Let’s explore five tips to help you deal with and even embrace criticism.
Tip 1: Shrug off Most Criticism
Instead of evaluating your performance, some people will personalize the criticism and start evaluating you. For example, instead of saying how the report you submitted was missing important details, they will tell you that “you’re a lousy person”. As soon as you encounter harsh destructive feedback, you just have to leave. Your value as a person is not a matter of debate, and people don’t have the freedom to treat you like a doormat. If they didn’t like your work, then that’s fine but if you have any self-respect, you should take your stuff and leave. No one has the right to treat you as a punching bag.
Now if you work was beyond the normal standards and you’re submitting low quality work on a constant basis, then it’s time for you to ask yourself difficult questions about why your work is not up to par. If you are uninspired by your job, then it’s time to be mature about it and do some soul-searching until you figure out what inspires you.
Not only should you shrug off destructive criticism, you should only shrug off criticism from people who don’t believe in you or your dreams. Unfortunately, most of these people tend to be people you already know. If I were you, I wouldn’t take seriously any advice from family, relatives, or friends unless they are %100 on board with you. Again, if they don’t believe in you, chances are they don’t believe in your dreams either.
Tip 2: Avoid the Criticism of the “Successful”
Many people assume that if a person is good at one thing, then that person is somehow qualified to give feedback on everything. Most people are prone to this bias because of social conditioning. They’ve been raised to believe that wealth (which is the dominant definition of success in our society) is an indication of global success; that just because a person is good at his or her business, then that person is also good at everything.
Asking for advice from people who are successful, but are in completely different field, won’t get you very far. Why would you ask the opinion of a rich architect about your online business career? It doesn’t make sense. You’re operating in a completely different paradigm. Similarly, if you want to get in the tech industry, it wouldn’t make much sense to ask for advice and listen to a person who runs a clothing store even if they’re wildly successful. I am not saying there aren’t general principles for success, of course there are. But asking for general advice and receiving general criticism isn’t exactly what you need to move forward, and sometimes they give you good advice for bad work and bad advice for good work. You can’t trust the “successful”.
Tip 3: Find the Experts
Useful criticism, in my opinion, can only come from those who are successful in your very field. I also like to refer to them as the experts in your field. This is the feedback that you want to have. It’s important to ask experts because they’re already doing what you want to do. It would be stupid to ask for feedback elsewhere. If you want to start a business, it’s foolish to ask for advice from life-long employee even if you like and admire that person. So find the experts and do everything within your ability to get in touch with them and ask for their feedback.
James Altucher recommends that you sit and think really, really hard about ideas that can help the person you want to get in touch improve his or her business and email that to them. That makes it more likely for them to respond to you instead of just asking them to have coffee with you.
Tip 4: Don’t Let Rejection Discourage You
Let me first say, if you haven’t experienced a rejection in the past 6 months, then you’re not trying hard enough. If all you care about is “behaving” and trying to please everyone then you will not get rejected… that’s the mindset of an employee. Employees don’t dare to create new things unless they’re allowed, and by being a life-long employee you will ensure you’re “rejection-free,” until they no longer need you and fire you.
On the other hand, if you’re daring to get rejected and be told “no” to your face, then take pride in who you are. You’ve finally developed the courage to leave your comfort zone, to exit the bubble, and do something new and creative. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “I love when people tell me “you can’t” and that’s because when I do it, I’ll be the first person to have ever done it.” Treat rejection as a number game. You’re going to hear more No’s than Yes’s. This is just how it works. Keep moving and get rejected faster. You will get to your yes in no time.
Tip 5: Embrace Constructive Criticism
If you’re a sensitive creature afraid of getting your self-esteem hurt by criticism, then you need to change your mindset as fast as possible. Good constructive criticism is directed at the work and not at you. That’s how it is. However, if you assume that your work should be great from the first try and beyond criticism, then you’re living in fantasy land. Getting good at something requires long-term investment. Do yourself a favor and stop thinking of success as a lucky strike and start expecting failure. You will be much happier and more successful.
In order to receive the kind of constructive criticism that’s going to help you, you have to understand that real experts will rarely come out and tell you the truth directly. The real experts, in my experience, are humble and they will disguise their advice in something along the lines of “you should work harder next time.” But when you identify that expert, and they give you their advice or opinion, ask them the following question:
“I appreciate your advice. I really want to get better at this, and so I was wondering if you could give me a very honest opinion. Can you please be honest with me?”
This question will give you the truth and it will literally set you free from your imperfections, bias, and the lies you believe about yourself. In fact, when I heard honest feedback, I knew at a deep intuitive level that the advice was right. And so I took it and ran with it as hard and as fast as I could. Try it.