“You can’t do it.” “You’re crazy.” “You aren’t smart enough.” “You are different from the rest of us and don’t belong.” “It will never happen.” “Why do you want to do that?”
Those things are just a few of the discouraging things that have been said to me on my journey as a change leader and barrier breaker. If you are reading this blog, it is because some of those things – and maybe even worse – have been said to you.
But I want you to take comfort in knowing that you must be onto something big if people are dishing discouraging sh*t at you. Why? Because the status quo always puts people into a box. That’s how people in control maintain their control. So, when you start thinking bigger than that box, they will do things to keep you in it. Sometimes, even well-intentioned people can say discouraging things, partly because they’re afraid they’ll be left behind as you pursue your big ideas.
At the same time, some discouragement may be more subtle. For example, the person may say that he or she didn’t “think you would be interested” in a new opportunity, when it’s clear that you would be. Or, the person may claim that “I don't really understand what you're saying” when it’s obvious that he does. These are all roundabout ways of saying : “You are different and you are crazy.” Interestingly, these are the same people who will jump on the bandwagon once you become successful and may even try to claim some of the credit.
Most of the time, negative comments come when you least expect them. While you may be caught off guard, you still can regain some control by trying to figure out what’s behind the words of discouragement or criticism.
For example, people may discourage you because they are jealous of your ambition or don’t want you to pass them by. It’s not that you can’t do it – it’s just that they can’t put aside their own pettiness or insecurities to root for you. When I told people that I wanted to run a business – when almost all of my career had been spent in IT (information technology) – people laughed because they thought I was kidding. When they realized I was serious, they started saying discouraging things. Was it difficult? Yes. But things worked out for me and I wound up running a couple billion dollar businesses.
That’s why I’d like to share how I learned to handle the sh*t that was to me:
Be courageous. You may not always be aware that you’re impressing others with your dreams and ideas, but you are. It could be that they were once in your shoes, or they simply support your reasons for change. Change leaders need to be courageous and that begins with dreaming and speaking big when people are criticizing you. Remember: Change leaders will always be criticized before they are congratulated.
Stay focused. If you focus on the negative things being said, then you take your eyes off your goals. Learn to brush off hurtful words by taking the mindset of "I don't mind because you don't matter."
Take control of your destiny. There will be times when it's necessary to change your environment and leave discouraging people behind in order to pursue your goals. Consider the saying, "If you want to see where you are going, all you have to do is look at who you are hanging around." This means that you have to take control of your life and career. Don't turn it over to others to manage. If you know that people in your current environment won't change their mindset, then change your environment.
Be tenacious. In one instance, I went back to a person in power five times before I got what I wanted. Once he saw that I wasn't going away, he started working with me. The key is that I was never belligerent, just persistent.
In summary, the quickest way you can tell that you are onto something big is that people will say sh*t to you. They do it because you are stepping out of their comfort zone, as well as your own. It takes focus and courage not to let the discouraging words stop you. Take comfort in knowing that if you are persistent and resilient, you will have a breakthrough because there are people out there who are willing to sponsor and support you.
You read this article because people have said some sh*t to you. I would like to hear what it was, how you handled it and how it turned out. You will be amazed by how inspiring your story will be to others. Send them to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s continue breaking barriers and making a difference in the organizations we work for and in the lives of others.