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.
One day my cell phone rang.
It doesn’t ring very often because very few people have the number.
I didn’t recognize the calling number, and there was no Caller ID name listed, so I figured it was a random sales call and declined it.
But a minute later, the phone rang again.
Again, I declined it.
But a few minutes later, I got notified of a message.
Curious, I played the voice mail.
I was shocked at what I heard.
It was a slightly muffled conversation between two people, a man and a woman, bad mouthing my music.
It was like being a fly on the wall, listening to a couple bash your first born.
Specifically, they were quite openly thrashing my first singer-songwriter album, Strut!, from 2012.
“It’s trash!” the woman said.
“It’s really garbage!” the man said.
I was shocked.
I recognized the woman’s voice.
I thought she was a friend.
Their entire conversation lasted several minutes.
Since the woman had “butt dialed” me by accident, she didn’t have a clue that their exchange had been recorded.
But it was.
I’m not sure how you would feel if you overheard people you know trashing something you created out of love and passion, but I was confused.
I reached out to my music support team, my friends who helped create that first album, and told them what happened.
They were angry.
They wanted to call the woman and give her a piece of their mind.
I didn’t want to do that.
I wanted to process the Twilight Zone-ish experience and see what I could learn.
As I meditated on the bizarre event, I realized a few things –
Of course, I wouldn’t call someone and tell them my opinion of their books or music or them, but realizing that not everyone loves me or my work, while baffling, was somehow comforting.
And then I thought about all the good things regarding my first singer-songwriter album.
For example –
So, obviously, my music must not be “trash.”
It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but what is?
And I admit that my later albums – such as One More Day (a bestseller that sold out almost instantly after it was released and includes Grammy nominated singer Ruthie Foster on one hypnotic track) – reveal a more polished singer-songwriter, but I doubt that the first album was that bad.
Not everyone loves Elvis, the Beatles, Lady Gaga, or Neil Diamond – and those people are legends – but not everyone likes any of the hundreds of thousands of new, alternative, jazz or any of a staggering amount of music coming out today, either.
So, what are you or I going to do?
Let the critics win?
Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography –
“I believe that the trade of critic, in literature, music, and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades, and that it has no real value–certainly no large value…However, let it go. It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden.” – Mark Twain
I’m with Twain, but I didn’t get to the same conclusion overnight.
All of this was a day-long process.
It took me more than a few minutes to get clarity.
After I realized that what I was given was an opportunity to clear up some limiting beliefs I had about approval, I was free to turn the event into a teaching lesson for you and me both, hence this post.
As I wrote in my book, The Attractor Factor, I pulled a TIISG: Turn It Into Something Good.
As you pursue your dreams and goals, you will probably encounter a person or two that doesn’t approve.
You have to continue forward anyway.
There will always be critics.
Their job is easy: put you or your project down.
Your job is harder but more rewarding:
Allow them their opinion, and continue towards your vision.
After all, everyone with a butt has an opinion.
And if you’re really worried about being butt dialed a bad review, just turn off your phone.
PS – If you want to see for yourself how bad my music is, go review all 15 albums I’ve created over the last 4 years at All Healing Music.