Jobs was fired, Gates was sued, Trump was condemned -- and I was once terminated from a contract position that was paying me over $100,000 a month in consulting income. What do these four examples have in common? In all four cases, other people, driven by their own agendas, did some temporary damage to four business leaders. However, the subsequent actions have led to massive successes in those business leaders' lives.
In 2010, I was traveling the world, leading the sales team of a company that had exploded from launch to almost 10 million a month in revenue in less then three years. I was having the time of my life and being rewarded handsomely for it. Then on Feb. 2, 2010, I received a call from the company lawyer. He wasted no time in telling me that they had just terminated my contract and no longer required my services.
Yes, over $1.5 million per year in personal income disappeared for me in a two-minute phone call. My subsequent actions resulted in a favorable settlement, but they more importantly positively altered my life forever. Today, I run a major publishing and high-tech company, my fifth book is receiving incredible feedback and the speaking gigs are coming in regularly. I’m writing this article from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, where I just finished delivering a key-note speech to a wellness company at their convention.
Ironically, five years later, the company that fired me has never rebounded from the massive decline that occurred as a result of sacking the rainmaker.
A mentor once told me, “The greatest thing about business is the people. The worst thing about business is the people." There have been more than enough articles written that have proven that anyone who is blazing a trail, disrupting the status quo or making rain, is going to attract criticism -- in all shapes and sizes.
In my ongoing studies of the world’s greatest leaders, I have realized that there are actually three strong reasons that we need to thank our critics:
1. Personal growth
We are all energy systems in nature and as such, we only exist in one of two ways -- growth or decay. We are either growing or struggling to see the light. Unfortunately, human beings only grow when there is a slight whiff of danger in the air. We only grow when our rhythm is disrupted -- and critics have a way of doing that. Firstly, understand that if you are doing anything great, you will attract critics. The critics will attack you personally and professionally.
What experienced entrepreneurs realize is that a healthy dose of criticism is an indication that you have succeeded -- but it still hurts. When something hurts, we learn from it and we grow. Jobs came back to Apple with his lessons learned and turned the company into one of the most valuable in the world. Like the child who burns his hand on the stove, we tend not to repeat the actions that cause us pain, most of the time!
In Noam Wasserman’s blockbuster success book, The Founder’s Dilemma, the author chronicles the journeys of some of America’s most successful founders. It is an amazing book, that teaches very valuable lessons. In every story, we see the founder’s unshakeable resilience. Whether you’re building a company or pursuing a dream, its not easy. In business, we will face constant surprises and attacks that will often leave us weeping like babies (when no-one is looking, of course), but every experience makes us stronger.
Every critical word increases our desire to succeed. Every competitive attack thickens our skin to the point where nothing can shake us. Our critics are actually doing us a favor by increasing our resilience to attack.
After a few similar attacks or harsh words from the haters, we tend to secretly evaluate what has been said or done to us. Often, it’s a subconscious response to the stimuli and reveals itself in phrases like, “Ouch that hurt, how can I avoid that again? What can I do differently?"
True entrepreneurs will do deep analysis in the aftermath of an attack and re-evaluate their business and plans. Often, these post mortem sessions lead the entrepreneur to make changes in their lives and businesses that lead to even greater prosperity. Jobs started Next and wound up working with Pixar before being welcomed back, Gates is now arguably the greatest philanthropist that the world has ever seen, Trump is running for president -- and I have not ended up that bad either. The innovations, changes and advancements that have come out of the critic’s acts are too many to list, but most are incredibly positive.
Think about your own career and life. Pause for a second and think about the greatest attack that you have ever endured. I would suggest that the vast majority of our critic’s actions have actually ended up making us better, stronger and more prosperous. So, let’s take a second and genuinely thank our haters, critics and naysayers for the positive impact they have had on our lives.
Finally, if you are in the middle of an attack right now, seek out the guidance of a trusted mentor, and keep your head up. This too shall pass!