The Bolder The Idea, The Louder The Critics
Dale Carnegie once quipped, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do.” Small thinkers, nitpickers and naysayers have always ridiculed the ideas of dreamers, creators and innovators. Mediocrity loves company. Don’t let other’s insecurities keep you from being remarkable.
Criticizing is easy. Breathing life into an idea takes courage. Creation can be messy business. Babies are born in blood and bedlam. Stars form in cosmic cataclysms. No less immutable a law of nature is that ideas are implemented amid a cacophony of criticism – the bolder the idea the louder the critics.
Einstein observed, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Challenging the status quo is risky. Bold ideas are often opposed because bold ideas can shift the balance of power. Ask Galileo.
Businesses say they want to innovate. Too few put their money we’re their mouth is. Organizations looking for tidy, spreadsheet-friendly financial projections find innovation uncomfortable. Bold ideas face greater odds in boardrooms than the Spartans did at Thermopylae.
Don’t let that shake you. Boldness requires audacity. Confidence is not arrogant. Self-confidence helps you make decisions based on achieving success, not avoiding failure – that can make all the difference.
Critics come from every quarter; clients and colleagues, family and friends, shareholders and strangers, tweeters and bloggers. Everybody has an opinion. Some are constructive. Most aren’t. If the critics are yammering, the good news is that you have an idea worth yammering about.
Doesn’t matter if that idea is a more efficient transit system design, eco-friendly beverage packaging, self-cleaning public toilets or a better tube of toothpaste that lets you squeeze out every ounce, somebody who doesn’t like it, or get it, or is intimidated by it, is going to knock it. Take heart, you’re in good company.
Picasso was reviled as a “barbarian”. Pasteur’s theory of germs was denounced as “ridiculous fiction.” No doubt, some shortsighted publisher once dismissively uttered, “Whales, Mr. Melville?” Even as Gustave Eiffel broke ground in Paris on his eponymous tower in 1887, 50 of France’s most distinguished luminaries in arts and letters, including architect Charles Garnier, writer Alexander Dumas and painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, voiced their ire in an open letter to the Parisian daily, Le Temps:
“We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects, and devoted lovers of the beauty of Paris, to date intact, do protest with all our strength and with all our indignation, in the name of unappreciated French taste, in the name of French art and French history, now under attack, against the erection, in the very heart of our capital, of the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower…”
You’ll never please all of your critics. Trying to leads to mediocrity. Focusing on negative criticism causes doubt. Doubt is deadly. Doubt can stop you before you even start. Believe in yourself and your idea. Be bold. Eventually, your critics will be silenced.
Ultimately, the value of an idea is only realized if implemented. Boldness is in the doing; having temerity enough to believe it can be done, and conceit enough to believe you’re the one who can do it, critics be damned. Theodore Roosevelt put it this way, in a speech delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, in 1910, not far from Eiffel’s “bolted metal monstrosity”:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Dare greatly. Blow their minds or die trying. Go down swinging if necessary, battered, beaten and bruised, tasting your own blood. If it’s not worth everything you’ve got then the critics were right all along.
Of course, if you’re anything like me, you are your own worst and most vocal critic. Silencing that voice is a topic for a whole other post.
Ken Peters is Co-founding Partner and Creative Director of Nocturnal Branding Studio, a full-service branding and design agency located in Phoenix, AZ. He's been known to design for everyone from Silicon Valley giants to start-up cat toy manufacturers. His work has garnered him everything from a host of awards to a grateful kiss on the cheek. He also makes a mean teriyaki chicken dish, but it hasn't earned any awards. To talk to Ken email him at:firstname.lastname@example.org