5 Ways Criticism Can Make You Stronger
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I just read an anonymous blog post that called me “The World's Worst CEO.”
I know I’m not. (At least I hope I’m not!) But moments like these, when I’m challenged, cause me to think about where I’m going and where I’ve been.
The past five years have been some of the hardest years I have ever worked. I’m not complaining; I’m actually laying the groundwork for telling you why I've worked this hard, and where my inspiration to work this hard originated.
The reason I push myself is that I believe my work is contributing to humanity. I know, that in my own way, I’m playing my part to make the world a better place. Am I curing cancer and single-handedly creating world peace? No. However, I’m working on building a platform for entrepreneurs, thinkers and creators to possibly do these game-changing things. At Alley, with the facilities we manage and the moments we strive to create, I like to believe that we are part of the positive change that needs to happen in this world.
On my journey, I’ve met and worked with some of the most talented, brilliant and thoughtful people one can hope to meet. My team at Alley (you can see a bunch of them in the picture above) is comprised of hard-working, creative individuals who push themselves every day because they truly believe in the work we are doing. Am I the world's best CEO? No. I tend to shoot from my heart and speak from my soul. I never went to an Ivy League school. In fact, I barely graduated college.
I’m good with who I am. But the reason that anonymous post hurt me is that it proves that no matter how much you try, no matter how good your intentions, people are going to perceive you however they want to perceive you. And in this day and age, anyone can write anything about anyone, regardless of proof. I love and believe in free speech, but given all the platforms people have, it’s easy to end up in the crosshairs. That’s especially true if you’re in a position of leadership.
So how do I manage the criticism? Here are some ways I've learned to deal with negativity that I hope you can use as well.
1. Understand that you cannot control the world.
As much as we try to be in control of everything, the truth is we are not. I love the saying, “Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.” You can plan for every outcome, you can work super hard and cover all of your bases, but the truth is you can never know exactly what is going to happen. I am not saying do not plan, but keep in mind that things may not go as planned and calculate that in your planning.
2. Be the best version of you.
Having established that you cannot control everything, the question becomes, “What do you do?” The answer for me has always been to do the best I can with what I have. In fact, it is the only thing that I can truly control. I dig deep to find the best version of myself and to find the confidence to move forward with adversity at my back.
3. Use the negativity as inspiration.
The things this person wrote about me were completely untrue. I was accused of every bad behavior in the book, from bad management to discrimination. None of that is true, obviously. I was raised by an unbelievably strong-willed woman who taught me to respect everyone as I wish to be respected. If I made any sexist or racist jokes, my mother would crack me a good one, so from sheer terror alone, I would never cross that line! All kidding aside, I consider myself to be extremely progressive. Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that I judge others based only on merit, decency and hard work. The notion that someone would ever question my ethics only makes me more motivated to showcase who I am to the world. (Hence, this article!)
4. Your reputation is everything.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received is to never do anything you wouldn't want to see in the newspaper the next day. This advice came from one of the most successful people on the planet. I will spare you the name-dropping, but the advice has stayed with me and become a part of who I am as a businessman and a person. The way I protect my reputation is by simply being myself. Again, I do not make the best decisions 100 percent of the time, but I make moves in good conscience and with the values I have learned throughout my career at the forefront of my mind.
5. The dog howls at the moon, but the moon does not howl back.
It’s very important to distance yourself from negativity in life. I do that by limiting the influence naysayers and haters have on my plans. Many situations occur that can bring me down to a certain level if I engage, especially since I am the type of person who doesn't run from a fight. One thing I always ask myself: "Is the juice is worth the squeeze?” Does proving that I’m right and someone else is wrong justify confrontation? If someone is saying something about you that is a complete fabrication, in most instances the best thing to do is to not even respond. Think of the dog that howls all night at the moon. When is the last time you heard of the moon howling back?
I know that last statement seems to conflict with what I am doing with this article. However, I made a promise to myself and my community that I would share the lessons I learned throughout my career. I do this because part of what I do is share experiences that I feel can help people grow, not only from a business perspective but personally as well.
The truth is, more likely than not, that the more you grow the more people will hate on you. I guess the best advice I can give is to have an attitude of “bring it on.”
So, bring it on, and lets all hustle through it.