How to build immunity to criticism

by Jason on November 30, 2011 · 2 comments

Angry @ The Terrorists (detail) by Gregg O'Connell

“Is it possible we are defined by our enemies and out willingness and ability to create and annoy them?”

That’s a quote by Dan Kennedy from his latest newsletter, which came at a great time, that time being the day I was going to write this post.  It (and the article it’s from) perfectly complements my thinking on this matter.

If you’re going to be successful, you’re going to have critics (or enemies, as Dan says.)  Put another way, criticism can actually be a signal that you’re on the right path (or not; more on that later.)

But it royally sucks to get called out, especially online, where the cost for someone to call you names is basically free, minus their time, which would otherwise be spent looking for cat pictures.  And the key to all of this is remembering exactly that: it cost that person nothing to complain about you, and you should take the comment at exactly that value.

So here’s the vaccination.  You can do either of these or both, and there may be similar techniques you can use, but this is what I know from personal experience:

Post YouTube videos on a subject people don’t agree with.  This is almost too easy, once you remember that the average YouTube commenter is, well, read this.  I’ve got maybe 100 videos out there, 2-8 minutes in length (don’t bother looking if you don’t know me, they’re from earlier projects mostly and not tied to my name) and a few have attracted some… attention.

Best. Training. Ever.

I can’t tell you how hard it was to ignore the first few.  Actually, I can, it was impossible.  And I replied.  And then a reply to that came back in (of course) all of two minutes.  And I felt myself getting dragged into an argument that had no real point, no real outcome, but dammit if they weren’t wrong.

So I let it go.  And the world didn’t end.  And more comments came in (people smelled weakness, maybe, and felt like they could get a shot in without repercussion.)  And I let those go, reluctantly.  And it got easier.  And the comments became funnier, to me, even though they were getting nastier and nastier.

So that’s method #1.  It takes some work, unless you somehow knock it out of the park on your first or second video (I’d guess maybe 5% of mine got attacked.)

Method 2 is to run an email newsletter.  Doesn’t matter what the topic is.  But when you do, use something like Aweber (affiliate link) where you can set it so that when people unsubscribe, you get anotification.  Because that notification will also include the reason for the unsubscribe, as entered by the user. Which sometimes will be kind, like “no time right now,” but often will be most unkind.

Oh, and be sure to set it up so people can hit reply to the mailing to reach you.  I swear, this arrived last week after I wished the people on my list from the USA a happy Thanksgiving: “Thanksgiving is evil and so are you.”

Oddly, that person stayed a subscriber.  I fixed that for him.  Cheerfully.  Because really, who cares about guys like that?

Criticism is going to happen to you in your life, and the more of a profile you have, the more you’re going to get.  As Dan Kennedy suggested at the beginning of this post, it might actually be a key ingredient to success.  So get used to it, get immune to it, and go forth.

Now, the other side of the trick is figuring out what criticism should be ignored and what’s actually valid.  Are you, in fact, being an ass?  I rely on friends and most especially family for that feedback.  Looking myself in the mirror isn’t so hard, but if looking them in the eyes is a challenge then I know all I need to know.

Photo by greggoconnell

Vaccinations for Entrepreneurs

by Jason on November 14, 2011 · 2 comments

Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe by USACE Europe District

As far as getting out of my idiotic comfort zone goes, the number one tactic that I’ve found useful is entrepreneurial vaccinations. This isn’t about health care plans.  If you’re serious about building your business, you need to start a regular course of vaccinations… for your mind.

Here’s the thing, as distilled from one coach I had at the beginning of the year and then repeated in a different way: lots of nasty stuff is going to happen on your path to success.  You’re going to have late (or lost) payments. You’ll have to make difficult decisions about staff and other relationships.  And some people won’t be happy with you, for no reason you can figure out, and they’ll complain loudly. And then Tuesday’s messes happen.

The key exercise to be able to handle this without getting 100% derailed is to vaccinate yourself in advance.  A vaccination works by subjecting your body to a small dose of a disease, small enough for your immune system to deal with, and then if and when the real deal gets into you, there’s a system in place to handle it without you dying.

Business vaccinations work the same way, but to get the dose small enough you just have to pretend something bad is happening and let your imagination do the work.  The first thing this gets you is awareness that such an event might occur, so you’re not completely blindsided when your reality goes sideways.  The next is basically an emergency preparedness drill.  You rehearse how you’ll respond in your head, and even though no plan survives contact with the enemy, you’ve got a plan to start with, which makes all the difference in the world.

So how do you know what to prepare for?  Hopefully by now you’ve made a list of your goals and objectives for the next few time periods, like the next 3 months, 6 months, year, 2 years, and onward, so you’ve got targets.  At each stage, what do you think could happen?  Are there interviews with leaders in your field who’ve already done what you’ve done?  Pay attention to them, especially when they talk about the challenges they had to overcome.  And consider getting a coach who works with many businesses, who can tell you what kinds of problems are common.

And then rehearse your reactions and responses like your business depends on it.

Photo by USACE Europe District