Did you ever notice that there are no statues for critics?
President have them. Statesmen have them. Military heroes have them. Even business leaders have them. But NOT critics. Hmmm… there must be a lesson here.
So what propels critics? In some cases ego. In other cases a desire to tear you down. And occasionally, an honest desire to actually help you improve. Often it is hard to determine the underlying motives.
Not saying you should ignore critics. If the criticism is valid, take it and learn from it. If the criticism is invalid or comes from someone unqualified, just ignore it. Either way, don’t dwell on it or take it as a personal attack (even if it is…). It is often the price you pay for visibility and success.
Here is a story from early in my career.
I was transferring to a job where I would be dealing directly with customers, rather than being a back room engineer.
Stan, my boss, offered some unsolicited advice which later proved invaluable. As he wished me good luck, he added, “You are now going to be highly visible. Don’t take any criticism personally — to those critics, you are just a target.”
At the time, I wondered why he said that. But it wasn’t long before I was hit by some undeserved criticism. Thanks to Stan, I saw it for what it was, and didn’t take it personally. I was just a convenient target.
Fast forward 30 years, and here is another story.
In this case, I was only an observer. One of our colleagues had just published a book, which became quite successful. Unfortunately, that success prompted some petty jealousies within our engineering community.
Another colleague was ranting on about how the book wasn’t really that good. To which my business partner said, “Well, it’s better than your book.” Miffed, the critic replied, “Well, I haven’t written a book.” The touché by my business partner, “That’s my point.”
As a consultant, you will often be the target of criticism — often unjustified. If so, you can always comfort yourself with this century old quote from Teddy Roosevelt:
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.
That quotation has hung in my office for years, as a reminder of what is REALLY important!
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