Whenever you attempt a new goal, no matter what it is, you have to be aware of critics or criticism.
I’ve had my share of them over the decades.
It used to trouble me, as I didn’t understand how some people could be so negative or hurtful.
But an insight from science helped me.
It came from my favorite science author, Loretta Graziano Breuning. Her book on cynicism, Beyond Cynical, explained that critics have a chemical that goes off in their brain when they criticize someone.
In short, they feel good about themselves because they feel superior to someone else.
This feeling of “one up” comes from a serotonin shot in their brain.
Emmet Fox, a legendary author of metaphysical books, explained, “Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting.”
When someone puts down you or your idea, it makes him or her feel smarter than you; better than you.
Critics like that feeling.
Loretta’s book, Beyond Cynical: Transcend Your Mammalian Negativity, grabbed me as soon as I read the back cover copy:
“Cynicism feels good because it triggers the brain chemicals that make us happy. It triggers dopamine by making things seem predictable. It boosts serotonin by making you feel superior to ‘the jerks.’ It stimulates oxytocin by cementing social alliances. Cynicism relieves cortisol as you fight or flee in your mind. Negativity is natural, but you can go beyond it if you choose.”
Now criticism makes sense.
Critics spread their negativity not to help others, but to help themselves.
It’s a type of drug addiction.
Only the drug is in their brain.
In other words, critics often criticize simply to (unconsciously) make themselves feel good.
They get a chemical rush in their brain, they like it, and they want more of it.
And thus a critic is born.
But are critics or criticism helpful?
I’m not talking about professional critics.
An employed critic’s job is to review art, movies, books, food, music and such. I’m not convinced they truly help people, but that’s another article for another time.
I’m not talking about inner criticism, either.
Getting past your own “monkey mind” of self-talking negativity is part of the awakening process to achieve your goals. But that’s also for another time and another article.
I’m not talking about invited criticism, either.
Visionary giant Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX advises to constantly seek criticism. He says, “A well-thought-out critique of whatever you’re doing is as valuable as gold.”
What I am talking about here are the people who offer their criticism without your asking for it.
These are the people who show up and rain on your parade, before you even begin parading.
They don’t even like the idea of a parade, let alone your own parade.
And they don’t like rain, either.
How do you handle these people?
My rule of thumb is this: when you are starting a path to a goal, don’t share your dream with anyone except those who can help you attain it.
I have a ten-year-old great nephew who wants to build a car company.
Yes, a car company.
He has ideas for the make, model, name, and more. I’m in awe at his enthusiasm and creativity. I marvel at his ability to dream big, fearlessly and relentlessly. I wasn’t like that at age ten.
I was at a party with him once.
He started to share his auto design ideas with a relative.
But the relative started to bat down and criticize my great-nephew’s ideas.
“That’s been done before,” this critiquing relative told him. “None of your ideas are original.”
This same critic added, “Don’t be afraid of criticism. Welcome criticism.”
The critic’s comments were not helping my great nephew.
They were not practical suggestions.
They were not improvements or refinements.
They were dismissals.
Of course, most ideas have been done before.
The trick is to combine them and reinvent them and extend them so they become something new.
There will always be “new” cars that are “just” refinements of other cars. And some of these new cars will sell well.
So my nephew has as much a chance as anyone to create a car company that succeeds.
Besides, he’s only ten. Let him dream.
I don’t think my great nephew was swayed or stopped by the unsolicited criticism, which is a testament to the fortitude of him and youth.
In fact, when I checked on him later, he was still exuberant about making cars.
He told me, “You’re getting the first one I make, Uncle Joe. It’ll just cost you one thousand dollars for parts and stuff.” (He’s a kid. He has no idea of money yet.)
But not everyone is like that.
Even today, I keep my big goals to myself.
I don’t invite negativity.
I only invite support and input from people who might be able to help me achieve the goals.
You have to protect your dream in the early stages.
It’s much like an unborn child. You don’t want people judging you or it before it is even born.
If you are wanting to start a business, for example, I wouldn’t invite criticism.
Instead, invite people who have acknowledged success in the area of starting a new business.
Ask their advice, suggestions, and input, but not criticism.
I see uninvited critics as people who kill dreamers and dreams.
“If you have no will to change it, you have no right to criticize It.” — Mark Twain
I agree with Twain.
If you have something to offer to help a dreamer achieve their goals, then offer it.
But to condemn, criticize, complain, or any way rain on the parade, or darken a person’s sunshine, isn’t helpful. If that’s all you got, you should remain quiet.
Mark Twain also said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
My own policy is to encourage people.
“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.” — Charles Schwab
Since I have no idea what the future holds, there’s no possible way for me to accurately predict if any idea will work or not.
So if I see or hear of someone pursuing a dream, I cheer him or her on.
I got the nickname “Mr. Fire” decades ago for this trait of always “lighting a fire” under people to go for their dreams.
Besides, encouraging people lights up my brain.
It’s my brain drug.
It feels good to help, to serve, to encourage.
Goethe said, “Correction does much, but encouragement does more.”
I’ve found being encouraged a type of fuel for my success.
Actor Kevin Bacon said, “A good director creates an environment, which gives the actor the encouragement to fly.”
When I was filming my first acting role, the director (Liz Tabish) made me feel safe and encouraged me.
As a result, my first starring role in an indie movie was easy and fun.
And according to the early reviews of Cecilia, I did pretty well, too.
In the end, you have to follow your dreams to feel fully alive, despite encouragement or criticism.
Of course, at some point you have to complete your project and release it to the world.
And that’s when you can expect critics and criticism.
When I was recording my first album back in 2012, a musician friend warned me, “Gird your loins! When you release your music, everyone will slam it. Just remember there are people who don’t like the Beatles, and I think they were gods.”
A friend of mine once said that “success breeds contempt.”
It helps explain why so many of my friends turned against me when my levels of success started to escalate beyond the sky.
It stirred the critics.
My point here is to keep your plans to yourself until they are complete.
And after that, remind yourself that there will always be critics.
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right–for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Life is really about pursuing your own passions and purpose, despite the odds and the critics.
Whatever your goal, whether to attract money or health or a relationship or some big audacious dream, there will always be people who will say you can’t do it, or explain why it won’t work.
“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn–and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” — Dale Carnegie
Just remember that critics are drug addicts.
They get high on putting down others.
So understand them and forgive them.
And also realize there are always people who will cheer you on, believe in you, support you and encourage you.
“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” ~ Epictetus
Look for those cheerleaders in your life.
Surround yourself with them.
And let the critics criticize and complain.
Stay too busy going for your dreams to even notice them.
To quote author Elbert Hubbard, “The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment.”
PS – You can find clarity and support in my Miracles Coaching program.
It shouldn’t surprise you that I’m writing yet another article here — my fifth — about the rock icon I love: Melissa Etheridge.
I saw her concert in San Antonio last night at the beautiful Tobin Center.
She rocked, of course, and tore down the walls of the new building.
Her power and charm remain high.
She is a bolt of lightning on stage.
I still marvel at her performances.
To my delight, Melissa spotted me from stage.
It was fairly easy for her to see me, as I was in the second row, basically not blinking throughout her entire show.
She blew me a kiss.
And when she was exiting at the end, she turned, pointed at me, and mouthed the words, “I love you, Joe.”
I thought I was hallucinating.
But the three people I was with all confirmed it. They saw it, too.
It gets even better.
After the show, I managed to get two minutes with Melissa.
I asked her if she had received my latest album, the one I created after my songwriting lesson with her, and the one she helped me name.
“Oh, I so got it,” she said. “I love it. It is great. And I’m so glad you called it The Great Something.”
The title “The Great Something” came out of my private music session with her.*
Apparently that moment was memorable for her, too.
And then she added what I needed to hear most.
She held the album in both hands, looked me right in the eyes, and said with all the sincerity of a turning point moment, “Keep at it. Do more.”
“Keep at it. Do more,” Melissa said.
Getting the encouragement of a music legend – who I happen to be a two decade fan of – was enough to fortify me to climb mountains.
I needed to hear it, too, as I’ll be performing with my Band of Legends for the first time on July 21st at The Townsend in Austin, Texas.
I am so grateful for Melissa, her music, her message, and how she has influenced my life.
I even wrote a song for her, called “Melissa Said,” as a way to show my gratitude. (It’s on The Great Something album.)
I’ve often said that a secret to success is to have someone believe in you almost more than you believe in yourself.
(That’s just one reason I created Miracles Coaching, so you can have someone believe in you, too.)
At this point in my life, I have numerous supporters.
But I’ve had a lot of them along the way, too.
Melissa Etheridge is one of them.
She’s been a coach, a mentor, and an inspiration.
Thank you, Melissa.
I love you, too.
PS – * Here are links to my previous four posts about my private songwriting lesson with Melissa Etheridge:
Bonus: Here’s Melissa Etheridge burning up the guitar as she tells you “Hold on, I’m coming!”
The big mistake most people make when it comes to using the Law of Attraction – or using anything to achieve their goals and dreams – is wanting to know how.
“How do I make it happen?”
“What are the exact steps I should take?”
“How do I get from here to there?”
The thing is, you rarely if ever know how in advance.
Once you complete a goal and can hold it in your hand, or show it off to friends, you can explain the how of it.
You’ll then have a complete beginning-middle-ending story.
The puzzle will be revealed.
You can then explain the steps you took.
But not before you attract it.
Recently I surveyed my list, asking what book they would like to see me write next. While virtually everybody wanted more books like Zero Limits and AT Zero on ho’oponopono, a few wrote in some suggestions.
Those people were usually wanting to know how to attract something specifically, and how I did it.
They wanted stories of people revealing exactly how they attracted their goals.
They were asking for step-by-step plans.
This is the big mistake.
Let me explain:
When I was making a name for myself as a copywriter and marketer back in the 1990s, a lot of things occurred that I couldn’t predict, let alone know how to make happen.
For example, the Internet came along.
Who saw that coming?
I was one of the first to be online already – on what were called Bulletin Board Systems (a kind of miniature, local only, limited reach Internet) – so when the actual Internet was born, I was already there.
The speaking and writing I was doing in Houston, where I lived at the time, now being posted on CompuServe and AOL, broadcast my name across planet Earth.
It helped make me cyber-famous.
It was certainly an essential step in my career.
But I never saw it coming.
It was never on my to-do list.
How could it be?
Are you starting to see how this works?
During these same early years, I wrote a little book called Spiritual Marketing.
I released it online, free, and it touched millions of lives.
I never knew it would do anything. I released it to the world in the hope that it would help people.
But The New York Times wrote about it.
And Bob Proctor urged me to publish the book.
And it became an early print-on-demand book.
It was also my first Amazon bestseller.
But I wasn’t following a “how to make it happen” plan.
No such plan existed.
These synchronistic events were happening as a side result of my passion and persistence.
They were happening organically.
They were happening on the way to my dream.
I couldn’t predict them because I couldn’t see them.
They were on the unseen road ahead, to be discovered as I kept moving forward.
And along the way in this adventure a publisher contacted me. He later published my book, Spiritual Marketing, but with a new title: The Attractor Factor.
That became the most powerful and popular self-help book I’ve ever written.
And The Attractor Factor was given to a television producer in Australia. She read it and contacted me.
She said she wanted me to be in a movie she was making about the Law of Attraction.
It was to be called The Secret.
That movie changed my life.
It put me on Larry King’s television show, twice, and got me invited to speak in countries I didn’t know existed.
How do you make those things happen?
After all, none of them could have been foreseen.
When people ask for the step-by-step exact plan to make something happen, they are making the mistake of thinking there is such a plan.
There is a general formula, but not a specific one.
There are formulas for helping you choose your intention, start taking action, and maintain momentum once you get going.
But there isn’t a specific “do this and then do this” plan.
Even Mark Twain knew it.
Twain said, on his 70th birthday, “You can’t reach old age by another man’s road. My habits protect my life but they would assassinate you.”
Thinking you can copy the specific things I did in my life to attract and achieve specific results in your life is a big mistake.
Thinking there is a “how” to get where you want to go is an error.
You attract the results you want with the formulas I have revealed, in books like The Attractor Factor, Attract Money Now, and most recently in The Miracle.
Other self-help authors have other formulas.
Mine goes something like this:
You’ll notice there isn’t a specific task that will work for you and everybody else.
There isn’t because there’s no way to know it in advance.
Steve Jobs knew this, too.
Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
Melissa Etheridge told it to me this way –
Have faith that it’s all working out in your favor.
Have faith that “The Great Something” is – as I sing in my title track song on my new album – your “hidden ally” in life.
Have faith in yourself, the Universe, The Great Something, and your journey.
And then one day, after the dust has cleared, and you realized you attracted your goal, you can look back and tell the how of it all.
You can then connect the dots.
But all you can do today is the next obvious action step.
It’s the next “dot” that will lead to your success.
Dot by dot, by dot, you will get there.
Now go do today’s “dot.”
PS – Check out www.MiraclesCoaching.com
How can “self-help songs,” well, help your self?
My six singer-songwriter albums all contain original tunes of “song therapy.”
They often contain positive messages of motivation, transformation, and inspiration.
It’s my way of helping you through challenges and tough times with songs of encouragement.
In many ways, my songs are “coaches” in lyrical form.
Stephen Oliver said (used with his permission) “I just received my copy of your new CD, “The Great Something”. As soon as I got into my home office (I’m a freelance writer), I put it on the stereo. I’m listening to it as I write. Now I’m in a quandary. I can’t decide whether it’s incredible or ‘merely’ fantastic. Either way, I love it. I’ve already added it to my night time playlist, along with all your other CDs.”
And Jimbo Berkey said (used with his permission) “After listening to your newest album, “The Great Something,” I am convinced that it is the most powerful and compelling message that anyone who hasn’t begun this journey could ever encounter.” (Jimbo went on to buy 20 more copies of the CD to give out to people.)
Let me explain how you can use self-help songs like the ones on The Great Something in your life:
When you are facing a situation where someone or something is about to “set you off,” take a breath. The self-help song “The Hook” (on my One More Day album) contains the message “Don’t Take the Hook!” It’s a reminder that you don’t have to take the bait. In general, whenever you get upset, it’s when you went unconscious. Something or someone flipped your internal switch and you got mad or sad. The song “Don’t Take the Hook” is your reminder that you have choice; you don’t have to get engaged or outraged. You can always walk away. You can even walk away singing, “Don’t take the hook!”
“The Glad Game”
But if you do take the hook and find yourself upset, you can always play The Glad Game to recover. I wrote this self-help song because of the famous book, and many movie adaptations of it, called Pollyanna. “The Glad Game” (on The Great Something album) is your reminder that you can find the good in any situation or person. You may have to really look. But it’s always there. Always. This upbeat swing-rock-dance song will show you the way.
“Look for the Light”
One way to find the good, or play The Glad Game, is to “Look For the Light.” This self-help song, also on The Great Something album, is a reminder that there is light (or good, or glad, or positive) in any and every situation. This song was born when someone asked me how to handle political fighting and opinion conflicts that split people. I spontaneously said, “Look for the light.” There are always people doing good things, and good causes you can find and support. But you may need to pause and look for it.
You’ll find yet another way to use lyrics as affirmations in my self-help song “Empowerment” on my album The Healing Song. This instrumental cried out for my voice, so I allowed inspiration to guide me in speaking hypnotic commands of inner strength. Listening to this track alone can strengthen your mental core, so you can have, do, or be, whatever you imagine and work toward. I listen to this song every time it shuffles up on my playlist. It’s powerful.
“There’ll Be Days”
After my private songwriting lesson with rock legend Melissa Etheridge, all of my music became more focused. The self-help song “There’ll Be Days” (also on my latest album, The Great Something) is my favorite song for conveying wisdom in a traditional singer-songwriter folk format. It’s a reminder that some days will be tough, and some will be tender, but you can get through them all if you smile and remember this song. I know it doesn’t sound humble at all, but I think this song is pure genius. At least I can’t stop listening to it. It’s hauntingly beautiful.
“The Great Something”
When you need reminded that you aren’t alone, and that the dark night of the soul will pass, you might listen to “The Great Something” (the title track on The Great Something album). This self-help song was directly inspired by my lesson with Melissa Etheridge. She advised me to write in the first person. I took her advice to heart and wrote the most personal, raw, and revealing song of my life so far. I listened to it earlier today to remind myself that “The Great Something” – what others might call Divine, Universe, Nature, Gaia or something else – is with you always.
Everybody has thoughts, but not everybody knows they are not their thoughts. The self-help song “Some Thoughts,” on my One More Day album, is an upbeat tune reminding you that some thoughts serve you and some thoughts suck. But you can play the jukebox in your mind and just select a different song/thought at any time.
The self-help song “You Gotta” (on my album titled Sun Will Rise) is a pep-talk in song. With saxophone, guitar and an upbeat drum (by the drummer with the same name as me), this one is designed to urge you to get up, get moving, and move toward your dreams. “You gotta dream, dare, grow and go” is an affirmation and command. After all, any dream you want to attract requires movement from you, as life is a co-creation.
“Everybody’s Going thru Something”
The most popular music video I ever had created is the one made to breathe life into the self-help song, “Everybody’s Going thru Something” (on my very first album, Strut!). I wrote this song to remind us that we all have dreams and we all have pains. If we can be more understanding, we can bring more peace to the world. (See the music video at the end of this post.)
The smokey-bluesy-jazzie self-help song “Remember” (on the album Reflection) is a hypnotic-poetic ballad revealing the creativity technique I used to make numerous albums. The technique is called The Remembering Process and Daniel Barrett, my producer, and I wrote a book explaining it called, naturally enough, The Remembering Process. With baritone saxophone and a smooth groove, this spoken word song offers you another way to enjoy creativity. For some reason I want to say this song is really hip.
If this intrigues you, please see All Healing Music, the portal for almost all of my healing music (many recorded with Guitar Monk Mathew Dixon) and self-help songs (all recorded with my band of legends: Daniel Barrett, drummer Joe Vitale, Glenn Fukunaga).
Remember, what you listen to also programs you.
PPS – You may also be interested in a blog post I wrote last year about Motivational Songs at http://www.mrfire.com/music/motivational-songs/