Monday, April 22, 2013

One Bad Apple . . . Don't Let Negative Things Dictate Your Life Path

Hey you, don't let one person's negative comment, opinion, observation dictate your life's path.  DON'T DO IT!  

I can warn you about this because I took this very dubious path.  I let one person's negative comment  change the trajectory of my life. It caused me to suspend my writing career.  That one negative comment made me reject my most beloved vocation. My calling.

What I'm saying to you is to be aware of the criticism, the negative comments said on the fly, the opinions that come your way. Be aware of them--even listen to them--but take them with a grain of salt and don't let them get in the way of your work, your joy, your dreams.  In fact, I would strongly suggest that for every negative comment you encounter, be even more aware of positive critiques, comments and opinions you receive at the same time.

Did you hear me?  

I said that during the time you receive negative comments and criticisms--you will usually receive positive and encouraging comments at the very same time. It makes me so angry (though I am infinitely guilty of this as well) when someone gives more credence to the negative comments than the positive comments they receive.  In many situations, we (because I'm including myself in this practice) can have 10 different people giving us 10 positive reviews and instead of happily accepting that we have done an excellent job because we have gotten acknowledgement from the majority of our audience--we focus on that one negative comment or review.  

Why do we do this?  Why would one negative review cancel out 10 good/encouraging opinions?  How horrible are we being to those 10 people that liked/enjoyed our work or creations?  Why would we think those 10 opinions invalid suddenly? Why would we give more weight to the one negative person, the one negative review?  That's crazy!  But we do it all the time. 

Let me explain how this practice has hampered MY life.

During my college years, I won several awards for writing. I gained over $5,000 in scholarships that helped me in afford college.  I was on my way to becoming a published author, which was my next step.   In my Junior year, I decided to take a Creative Writing course on another college campus.  In the Creative Writing course there were 15 students and each session focused on the work of one student.  We were to offer a story, everyone had to read it and then we were discussed the stories; providing constructive criticism, opinions or accolades.

When my turn came I receive many accolades from about 10 of my classmates.  Three had some pretty good constructive criticism that I thought would make my story stronger.  One did not like my story at all but enjoyed my writing style.  But one guy (and I'll never forget him) let me know that he thought I was a poor writer.  He was British.  He was tall.  He was older than most of the class. Please notice how after many years I still remember details about him?  You can ask me what the other people in the class looked like and to save my life  I could never tell you. But I could, to this very day, tell you what this guy looked like, what he sounded like and, unfortunately, what he said.

It didn't matter that 13 other people thought my story was not only good, but valid. That my writing style was very readable--and they told me so.  It did not matter that I got an A in that class.  It did not matter than I had won monetary awards for this very same piece of work.  All that mattered was that this guy said that I could not write and that my creation was a piece of junk in his eyes.

I never took another creative writing class again.  It was an entire decade before I let anyone else see a any piece of fiction I wrote.

Did you see what I did?  I let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch!  I let one negative opinion dictate my life's path.  Who knows what I may have achieved if I hadn't let negativity shut me down.  If I didn't let the doubt that was voiced at me turn into a ball of rejection and fear inside my mind.  Who knows, I might have had a dozen published novels at this time.  I might have made a living writing, instead of simply being content doing it as my side vocation, my hobby of sorts.

When I think how my life could have been considerably different if I would have let the several dozen positive opinions color my world, instead of focusing on the one negative opinion--I just get sick.

We do this over and over to ourselves.  This bad habit that we exercise is so extreme, so pervasive in our society, that we have beauty product commercials seriously examining this psychological issue!  Don't believe me?  Watch this commercial/documentary by Dove Soap. Seriously, it expresses exactly our problems with ourselves.

Learn, my dears, from my cautionary tale.  

Look at the ratio of comments, opinions and criticism with an eye toward truth.  Honor people!  If you have 10 positive opinions/comments, don't let one negative opinion out rank the 10 good ones.  Disregarding those 10 people's opinion is a terrible thing to do.  Those 10 people in my Creative Writing class deserved better consideration from me, deserved to be honored for their energy, their encouragement and their opinion. In essence, I was saying that their opinion did not matter and that was very, very wrong of me and I apologize to those people for my neglect of them.

So, in the future--I beg of you--if you receive 100 good reviews and 3 bad ones . . . don't focus on the bad reviews!  Give energy in the ratio that you receive.  Seriously! If you have 100 reviews and 3 are bad, then you are allowed to spend only 3% of your time feeling bad about those reviews.  Three percent, that is all.  If you have 10 reviews and receive 1 bad one, then you are only allowed to use 10% of your time worried about that review, that's it!  Then move on.  

You are not to shut down.  You are not to stop doing what you love.  You are not ALLOWED to do anything but keep going.

This should apply to all things in life.  I should have been ashamed of myself, disregarding 10 good reviews/opinions/comments like they come lightly or a dime-a-dozen.  Good reviews are very, very hard to get and I should have cherished them much, much more than did back then.

The lesson I learned from this episode of my life is . . . take the bull by the horns!  Live life against all adversity--especially, the doubts in your head.  It's the only way to success.  And YOU are going to be successful, you have to be.  I'm counting on you.  After all, I've always wanted powerful and influential friends!

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  1. Great sentiments. I have already paid forward the wisdom.

  2. Wonderful post, loved the video, appreciate the advice and agree wholeheartedly! Thank you!

  3. Thanks guys I'm glad you read it and appreciated it. It makes writing it very worth while. Thanks again.

  4. "If you have 10 reviews and receive 1 bad one, then you are only allowed to use 10% of your time worried about that review, that's it!"

    I would round that down to 9%, personally.

    (1 bad = 1), divided by (10 good + 1 bad = 11), is 1/11 or 0.09

  5. Scott you are my hero for May 9, 2013! Excellent comment and excellent math skills. Thank you so much this has helped me greatly today.


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