Critics are worthless.
It’s a known thing. Teddy Roosevelt said it best:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Look, it’s predictable, a little sappy, painfully apt, and in practice, true.
Despite the obviousness of it, it still seems like criticism, or the threat of criticism is one of the biggest problems we all face when we start down the road to doing some awesome.
But why? And what can you do about it?
Silence your Inner Critic
I’m not going to get deep into this. You know that you shouldn’t waste your time with bullies and naysayers. And I’d guess a cursory google search of the above heading would blow up your computer with usable tactics to help you gain self-confidence.
But really, I’m not here to give you basic self-confidence. My point isn’t to boost a deflated ego. I don’t have time for that bullshit. I put you in charge of that. It isn’t something that you should be given. It’s something that you should take every. day. of. your. life.
Your inner critic is a waste of time and a clear path to personal and professional failure. And not the good kind failure. Not the, “I’m learning, fail fast” Steve Jobsey kind of failure. Not Teddy’s “erring” More of the sad sack kind of failure.
Get over it.
Maybe read this book? The Magic of Thinking Big.
Thank god we’re done with that!
Silence your Outer Critic
Let’s get into the real world, y’all. Your outer critics are the problem, not your inner ones. And these people are everywhere. They’re the jerks telling you how bad your new business idea is, and they’re your mom and dad dismissing your new interest in screenwriting–in fact, that second one can often be the real killer. These critics sap your potential creative energy, deplete your stockpiles of will power, and fundamentally weaken your attempts at greatness. They are passion killers, a poison of the worst kind.
But how can you silence them? You surely can’t tell your mom to stick it? I mean, you could, but it would probably make next Thanksgiving even more awkward than normal. Maybe you could try to convince her that your ideas or hobbies have value? But that sounds laborious and desperate, so let’s nix that as an idea too.
Here’s an idea. A simple one. As profound as it is cliche.
You can silence your outer critic by believing in your actions fully. Commit to what you’re doing. Look, if your passions, values, and beliefs are fully in line, a criticism to the contrary is nonsensical. It shouldn’t compute. Why would someone disagree? It’s like someone arguing that the sky is a deep shade of green. It’s just not correct.
Full committal is key.
But here’s where the rubber hits the road, kids. How do you “believe in yourself.” Well, this concept requires a few fundamental premises to act properly. Namely, you have to know what to “believe” in.
Namely, you have to know what to “believe” in.
Aligning your Passions and Value
For my tastes, believing in yourself is s a bit of a nebulous concept. I mean, what are you? (Wrap your head around that, and try to not to have an existential breakdown.) This is even truer when undertaking the type of endeavors that have real stakes and result in appreciable returns. Just believing in yourself might get you through the day at your shitty job, but it’s not going to have the punch to keep you coming back to something that will seem at best confusing and at worst crazy to those types that are handing out the critical responses.
The trick is to align your passions and values. But what are your passions, and what are your values? If you’re like most people, you probably believe you have values, but you’d struggle to write them down on a sheet of paper. Or worse yet, they’d just be a rehashing of basic Judeo-Christian beliefs and ideals, like “I think stealing and murdering is bad.” They are, but that’s not what I’m talking about, btw.
No, I’m talking about the very literal things you value in this world, and how you hope those values should impact your day-to-day movement in this world. More importantly, how do you prioritize them? Are they prioritized the way you want them to be? What value is most important? Which is least? Which could you do without? And then, within that prioritized list, where do your passions fit in. If they’re at the bottom, is that where they belong. Do your spending habits, time expenditure habits, daily actions, etc, show this prioritization?
In my next post, I’ll show you how I go about considering my values and passions. What tools and exercises I’ve used to help me flesh these out. How I go about regularly re-assessing them. And most importantly, how do I make sure that what I’m doing from a high-level strategy all the way down to tactical execution is in full concert with my values and passion.
See you there!