If you’ve ever created something and put it out there for the world to see, you’ve probably felt the dejection that is brought about from the acrimonious words of people you’ve never met. It seems that there are legions of naysayers out there, willing to spend two minutes of their time to criticize, condemn and otherwise smash the hopes of hard working creators. They almost always work from behind the veil and relative anonymity of a screen. Many creators spent hundreds of hours developing their content only to have their hearts ripped out by an internet troll. It’s both pathetic and sad. Pathetic in the way naysayers seek out new content to trash instead of offering constructive feedback or encouragement. Sad for the many creators who have felt stifled and given up on their dreams. To the naysayers I have only one thing to say: You can’t stop us from creating. This article is for the bold. The ambitious. The people whose purpose in life isn’t to tear down, but to build. This is for the creators.
Never in my life have I felt more vulnerable than when I put my books up for sale. The amount of time and effort that goes into such an endeavor results in a product that is so personal that any attack on it feels like a direct assault on the creator. My work was like that. Some people hate it. Some even called me names. I’m working on material right now that I’ve been told is a bad idea; that I’m investing time into what will amount to nothing more than a failure. But I’m still creating. I’m not alone and neither are you.
Ariana Huffington launched The Huffington Post in 2005 to a litany of naysayers who suggested that she simply didn’t understand the internet and that the site would fail promptly. She sold it to AOL for $315 million six years after the launch.
Sara Blakely founded Spanx in 2000 amidst a chorus of negativity. In fact, she now says “It’s smart to keep a young entrepreneurial idea secret, even from friends and family.”
Anderson Cooper was told repeatedly that he would never be on the air.
The Lord of the Rings was completely dismissed by literary critic Edmund Wilson in 1956. He called it "balderdash" and "juvenile trash."
Or how about the Bloomberg article that derided Apple’s new product offering, the iPhone as “nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks.”
I hope you creators see a theme here. It’s nearly impossible to find a great invention, achievement, literary work or other creation that wasn’t met with harsh criticism. The great ones not only ignore naysayers, they press forward and create anyway. After all, we don’t create to please the naysayers. We create for the people who will consume what we create. We create to satisfy our own overwhelming need to create.
Here’s the thing about naysayers: They can’t stop us from creating unless we allow them to. To overcome them we have to do two things: First, tune them out. That’s right, completely ignore them. Don’t check the reviews to your book. Just don’t. If you have the means, assign communication tasks to someone else so you can focus on creation. My wife curates all emails sent to my website in addition to managing my social media accounts. I simply don’t see the harsh criticisms that come through (sorry naysayers, you’ll have to find another way).
The second thing you need to do to overcome naysayers is to fill your mind with positive messages. Seek out media that reinforces a positive attitude in you. Read, watch videos or listen to recordings. The key is to build yourself over time. Naysayers tear down. Creators don’t just build content, they build themselves up as well.
I wish I could be there to cheer each of you on as you create. I truly do believe in you. Don’t listen to the voices telling you that you’re not good enough. They’re wrong. Surround yourself with positive messages. Keep creating.
Sometimes, the path of least resistance is the best course. If you’re driving to see family for the holidays, it probably makes more sense to take the highways rather than the “off road” path. Often however, the difficult path is exactly the one we need to be on, particularly when we’re working toward a big goal. This is because resistance serves as a compass, pointing us straight towards our target. It makes intuitive sense; nobody expects to achieve anything great without encountering difficulty. So, if you’ve got a grand ambition that you’ve been putting off because you don’t know where to start, first identify where the greatest resistance is and then, move toward it.
Resistance prevents action. It doesn’t take place when we’re simply contemplating an idea. It’s the “doing” that is stifled. We come up with myriad excuses to justify not taking action. If your goal is to write a book, you’ll find that there’s a million excuses to put off writing. In other words, there is a force working to prevent you from writing. That force is resistance.
If you dream of starting your own business and have a vision, a plan and desire but you still haven’t taken action, you’ve encountered resistance. Sometimes it’s fear, sometimes it’s uncertainty but it always exists within the confines of our minds. Though it’s born and fed in our minds, its action that will ultimately defeat it. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you overcome resistance and begin (or continue) your journey towards achieving your dreams.
“I’ll do it when I’m done with school.” When school is done, other responsibilities take over and action gets punted further into the future.
The cure for this is to continually take small steps. Sure, writing 500 words today isn’t enough to publish a book. But repeat the process over and over and you’ll get there. Probably before you would have otherwise started.
Resistance points the course. Determine what and where it is and move towards it. Take small steps, always keep your vision in mind and forget about what other people think. The naysayers have never achieved what you will achieve. You got this.
For more on the topic of Resistance, check out Steven Pressfield's book "Do the Work".
One of the principal influencers in my journey of personal growth and learning has been books. A variety of books from a variety of authors. Books expose us to new ideas and different styles and methods of going through the process of becoming all we can be. They can be empowering and they can help us overcome sticking points in our own philosophies.
I first realized that I did have the ability to speak confidently with people when I read How to Win Friends and Influence People for the first time as a teenager. Before that, I was so debilitatingly shy that my lip quivered when a girl tried to talk to me! Read voraciously and indiscriminately. If there are nuggets of wisdom that you can use, take them and make them your own. Below is a list of books (In no particular order) that have had a significant impact on my life. I’m eager to hear your thoughts too! What books have most impacted you? List them in the comments below!
What are your favorite books? Please list them in the comments!
Love for others can come when we strive to see the good in them. This can be particularly difficult when contention and dispute arise. Think for a moment about the stories our minds create, even without conscious effort. We create them for ourselves, and our adversaries in any conflict, small or large. In our story, typically, we view ourselves as the heroes. Those with views contrary to our own are the villains; we create a story about them that depicts them as liars, cheaters, and all around bad people. It’s a mental exercise; we don’t sit down and craft a detailed narrative of the story. Its purpose is simply to justify our emotional reactions to various interactions.
Think about it. The last time you passionately disagreed with someone, in your mind were you the “good guy” and they the “bad guy?” The stories we create about people can color our opinion of them for the rest of our lives. For this reason, it takes a conscious effort to actually change the story. The first step is simply asking yourself, “Is it possible that during times of contention, people may have motives just as noble as mine?”
I’m just as guilty of creating negative stories about people as anyone else. It seems to justify what I consider to be a righteous position, but it comes at a price. The simple, passive mental exercise of depicting them as villains causes me indignation and anger. It’s not just a mental exercise either; it comes with negative physical manifestations as well. My heart rate increases and my blood pressure goes up. For what? To prove that I’m right? For a long time, I didn’t know that there was a better way.
Concocting these stories is a way of protecting ourselves from a negative self-image. Unfortunately, it also stifles us; these stories aren’t created in the forefront of our critically thinking mind. They’re manufactured by the subconscious. That means that creating the stories is the easy way to justify our feelings as a result of a challenging interaction. The difficult, and infinitely more productive and mature alternative is to think deeply about it. In this way, our conscious mind can actually change the story.
The first step is to catch yourself when you create a negative story. Force yourself to think about people as individuals with valid opinions and families who love them. Stop making them the villains of your story and take personal ownership of your circumstances. In a nutshell, stop blaming them. In my personal journey, I have noticed that I don’t have to change my opinions; I just need to become accepting of the opinions of others.
It’s important to remember that as you become more open to the opinions of others, they might not be open to yours. That’s okay. Learn to accept this as you move on by recognizing that they are at a different point in their personal journey then you are. This is about our growth. For me, by simply looking at people differently, my capacity for love grows. I become less burdened with grudges. Forgiveness comes easier. I can move on.
This is a lesson that can be applied to your life in a simple way. I once read of an executive who, every time he entered a room came up with at least one positive thought about everyone there. Even if he didn’t know the person he created a positive story about them.[i] “She has a nice smile” or “he has a firm handshake” are two very simple yet positive stories you can tell yourself about people.
I’ve found this is something that works wonders when I’m driving. If someone cuts me off, I could yell and cuss, cursing them and everything they stand for (I’m ashamed to admit, that I still succumb to that type of reaction on occasion). Or, I could simply say, “That person must be in a hurry. I hope everything is okay.” Either way, I’m not going to change the fact that they cut me off. But, by changing the story I tell myself about them, I can effectively save myself a great deal of stress and unnecessarily elevated blood pressure.
[i] Sharma, Robin. Extraordinary Leadership. Narrated by Robin Sharma. Audible, 2008. Audiobook
If you’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution and reached a point where things just stopped, you’ve already experienced The Wall firsthand. The Wall is a form of resistance that often comes after we’ve made decent progress. Unfortunately, the end still seems so far away that we justify simply stopping. The Wall can be a good thing, though. It’s a very real form of resistance that, once overcome, builds confidence in our abilities and desire to take more action.
I’ve hit the wall more times than I can count. I’ve written books half way, given up on diet and workout routines, halted career opportunities, and stopped learning about interesting topics. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was resistance at work, that unseen sinister force that wanted me to give up. We’ve all been there. Here’s the good part: once you get a victory under your belt, you can see resistance for what it is: an evil force wanting you to be miserable. For me, the victory came when I published my first book. It wasn’t good but I did it and I learned a great deal in the process. Once I had that win, I knew I could do it again and do it with a higher degree of quality in the finished product. Getting the victory is critical, but identifying resistance is the first step.
Nobody is immune to The Wall, but putting victories under your belt does make it easier to overcome it the next time. I’ve experienced The Wall so many times in my life that I’ve learned to recognize it when it happens. And it happens often. Every time I write. Every creative endeavor I’ve ever undertaken. It happens with my physical fitness goals. It happens with my businesses. The Wall is everywhere. Now that you know what it is, you can probably look back and see countless times when you hit The Wall.
Randy Pausch said, in his incredibly moving “Last Lecture,”
"The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people."[i]
Translation: The Wall is not for us. We press forward. We go over, through, or around, whatever it takes. The Wall is there to stop other people, not us.
[i] Carnegie Mellon University. “The Last Lecture.” YouTube. Pausch, Randy. December 20, 2007