When you realize that you and/or your work aren’t for everyone, it’s liberating. It’s at this point of realization that you can stop your appeal to the masses, and can instead find your audience. So, in an effort to help you push through the noise, here are three ways to shut out the critics when they come your way:
First, realize that anyone who has ever done anything great had many critics along the way.
I am fascinated by the Wright brothers, because anyone who takes a giant leap with their work has my attention, and to go first is a pretty scary thing. (Some believe that Gustave Whitehead was the first man to take flight, but I still believe it was the Wright brothers.) The two owned a bicycle repair shop and spent any extra time they had working on their idea of creating a flying machine. They executed on their idea, and created modern aviation on December 17, 1903. They helped make the world a smaller place, so that the rest of us could fly and enjoy far away places. Their sense of adventure and innovation showed through their work, but the road to get there was anything but easy. They had their share of critics along the way, but they kept pressing forward, because they knew they were onto something great. Critics in the European aviation community converted much of the press to an anti-Wright brothers stance. The Wright brothers certainly made their share of mistakes, but they kept experimenting and eventually found a way to make their idea work. They had to know who they were and that their work was going to make a difference so that they could defy both the odds and the critics simultaneously. Of course, the Wright brothers aren’t the only ones who had to learn how to tune out critics, but the principle has always been the same: stay true to yourself, take risks, be innovative, do the work, and repeat.
Second, realize that we are all different and not everyone will like you.
This is just the truth. People’s personalities will clash, and as much as you want to be accepted by everyone, it will never happen. This is why it is so important to be yourself rather than trying to please everyone, because you will never be able to make everyone happy; you just won’t. The people who will love you and/or your work will be there for you no matter what, and the ones who don’t will still have their opinion no matter how hard you try to please them. Find the people who appreciate you and your work and fight to make a positive difference in the world.
Now, please don’t hear me wrong. This isn’t a call to do whatever you want, but more of a call to find who you are and to be yourself, but to also care about other people and to produce great work for them at the same time. Great work always displays some piece of the work’s creator. You are you, but your work is an extension of who you are for this very reason. It is also for this reason that relationship brings an even deeper appreciation for one’s work. When I get to know someone, it helps me understand where the work came from, and that brings a deeper appreciation for their effort, their attempts, and their convictions. Relationships bring importance not only to the person, but to everything they do. If we have relationship, if it matters to you, then it matters to me.
And third, produce results.
Nothing shuts critics up faster than producing results. If people keep criticizing you and your work, don’t give them your precious time if you know you’re heading in the right direction, define what success is to you, focus on your work, and fight for success. Find the problem you want to fix, and fix it. We all need that from you.