Whether we like it or not, the actions we take in life are always subject to criticism from others.
This holds especially true in the world of music, where personal tastes can be so subjective and opinionated.
Criticism can often be a tough pill to swallow, so here are 5 things to think about when you encounter it:
#1 - YOU CAN'T PLEASE EVERYBODY
I have a confession to make. Personally, I can’t stand the taste of seafood.
I’d say about 99% of the time, seafood tastes absolutely revolting to me. Of course, when I mention this to someone at a restaurant, they look at me like I’ve committed a cardinal sin!
But… me not liking seafood doesn’t mean that seafood is a BAD thing and should never be served again. It just means that I, Steve Such, don’t like seafood.
Some people like jazz. Some people like metal. Some people like hip-hop. Some people listen to all three. Some people don’t listen to any of it.
Just because a person doesn’t like something (or criticizes it) doesn't mean that it has absolutely no place in the world. It just means that it’s not their cup of tea.
No matter how good your intentions are, you simply can’t please everybody. When you try to, you'll end up holding back and playing it safe.
Instead of trying to please everyone, ask yourself “What is my gift to offer to others in this life?” Once you have the answer to this, just go out there and make it happen. Criticism may come your way from time to time, but you will also 10-20x the amount of positive impact you can have during your time here on this planet. Why? Because you weren’t playing it safe.
Once again: You can’t please everybody, so stop trying to.
#2 - YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY BE ON TO SOMETHING
Steve Jobs was criticized for creating computers with a “closed system.” The founders of AirBnb were laughed at for their concept (“You want a complete stranger to be able to pay to stay in another stranger’s home without ever having met?!”). Geddy Lee was criticized as having too high of a voice (the singer of Rush, one of the most successful rock bands of all time). Many of our world’s most respected figures faced heavy criticism before eventually being honored as an innovator.
Imagine if any of these people had quit at the first sign of criticism… what a shame that would have been!
The point is, whenever someone starts to criticize you, it might be a sign that you’re actually on to something. Many of your worst critics are simply those who are uncomfortable with any type of change. They “like it the way it is and want to keep it the way it always has been.”
Ignore their criticism. You may just be on to something.
#3 - YOUR CRITIC MAY BE JEALOUS OR ENVIOUS
Counterintuitively, some people choose to criticize you because they might be jealous of the very thing they are criticizing you for.
If “John" constantly teases you for being “too nice,” maybe it’s because deep down he wishes here were as nice as you.
If “Jane” writes a horrible review about how much she hates your album/playing/etc., maybe she's really trying to take the focus off of her own personal struggle as a musician.
Criticism can often be a coping mechanism for someone’s own securities or lack of action in their own life. Always keep this in mind when facing your nastiest critic.
#4 - WORRY ABOUT YOURSELF
If you encounter someone who criticizes your talent, profession, or character, ask yourself: “Why am I seeking validation from this person in the first place?” "Should his/her approval really matter to me?”
Think about this: if you aren’t receiving some form of this criticism from time to time, it might mean that you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough past your own personal limits and fears.
After all, it’s your life to live, not theirs. It becomes virtually impossible to let criticism effect you negatively if you stay focused your own happiness, goals, and purpose.
#5 - ARE YOU HEADING TOWARD THE MOUNTAIN?
I’ll end with this. Renowned author Neil Gaiman spoke the following words at a college commencement speech:
"Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.
And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain."
If someone criticizes what you are doing, stop and ask “For the thing they are criticizing me for, am I at least getting closer to the mountain?"
If the answer is yes, ignore their criticism.
As long as your actions and efforts are always moving toward the mountain, don’t let criticism stop you in your tracks. Instead, use criticism as fuel to get you to the mountain faster.