“A critic is someone who comes onto the battlefield after the battle is over and shoots the wounded.” -Anonymous
Growing up, I thought I was a hot shot at basketball. It was my thing.
But then I entered high school, with the big dogs on the champion varsity team.
The day of tryouts, I was confident and cocky. I got this. I’m on the team for sure. But I was shocked to find myself neck-in-neck fighting for the last roster spot with (who I thought) was one of the worse players in the gym. In the end, I got the spot — barely.
The whole year, I barely played. My coach seemed to openly dislike me. During our biggest game of the year against our rivals, my girlfriend and her mom drove all the way out to watch me play. But it was a close game; the coach kept all the best players in while the rest of us sat on the bench. Only when it became clear we were going to lose, he reluctantly called me in the game’s last 45 seconds.
I was so embarrassed. I felt like a fool.
After that year, I didn’t believe in myself — seemed like no one else did, either. I decided to not even try for next year’s team. Why embarrass myself again, when no one believed in me anyway?
Nowadays, I approach things very differently when people don’t believe in me.
I love it now.
You should, too.
Before, I’d feel ashamed and embarrassed when I found out people didn’t believe in me. I was very careful to avoid putting myself in a position where people would laugh at me, or think I was stupid. I had begun living my life for other people.
But finally, I got sick of trying to please people, the same people who laughed at and ridiculed me. I hated it. Why try to be someone they liked, the very people I disliked the most?
So I started doing what I wanted to do.
I started living life for me.
I chose to study English in college, one of the “worst” degrees you can get. I started telling people I wanted to be a writer, a life coach, to work for myself.
I got a lot of backlash. Some people were very blunt — you can’t do that. There’s no way you can do that. Others were more measured in their doubt — are you sure you want to do that? Being a life coach is really hard. Besides, you’re only 25…what would you even have to offer?
But I’ve learned how powerful a chip on your shoulder can be. I’ve learned how to use criticism and negativity and doubt as fuel. As Ryan Holiday once wrote:
Bad things are fuel. You don’t just want fuel — you need it. You can’t go anywhere without it.”
People give you a lot of fuel when they don’t believe in you; you just have to use it.
A Chip On Your Shoulder is a Powerful Thing
Back in the day, I was crushed when I found out someone didn’t believe in me or thought I wasn’t good enough — my basketball coach, teachers, employers, bosses, even friends.
Now, I love it. I’ve found out just how powerful a chip on your shoulder can be.
Ever since I’ve started succeeding as a writer, I’ve seen more and more criticism and complaints and attacks and trolls coming my way. I get emails all the time from disgruntled readers criticizing my work and calling me names. Just the other day, I read a whole article devoted to how terrible straight white self-help male writers like me are the worst people in the whole world.
It still hurts sometimes. I’d be lying if I said it never hurts.
But I’ve learned how to use that as fuel. You should do the same. I do things for my people — my friends and family and readers who tell me every week how helpful my writing is to them…do things for your people, not the ones who hate you for what you are or who you are.
Now when people make fun of me, or criticize my work, or tell everyone how awful I am, I use that as precious fuel to write more, to do more stuff that might piss them off.
And I’ve found that’s how I produce some of my best work.
I dedicated my first book What Extraordinary People Know to my wife. “To Kimi,” it read; “For believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself.” It only takes a couple people who really believe in you to silence all the other negative voices telling you you can’t.
I’ve learned how to use doubt, criticism, and rejection as fuel, instead of letting it crush me with shame, regret, and self-loathing like it used to.
When you start getting criticism for your work, when you find out someone doesn’t believe in you and wants you to failure…
Use it. Use it for the fuel that it is.
A chip on your shoulder is a powerful thing. Use it.