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My wife is an aspiring writer but has been held back from really pursuing it by the fear of what other people think. The other night, she shared numerous personal fears related to putting her writing out there. With her permission, we’re dedicating this entire episode to tackling all of those tough questions.

How do you respond to hate? Should you respond at all? What’s the difference between hate and legitimate criticism? Can you still take away something positive from negative feedback?

We’re going to get into all of this and show you why the only thing you have to fear is having no haters at all.

Show Notes
  • 03:00 One night, my wife and I were laying in bed discussing her aspiration for putting her writing out there publicly. She began sharing her thoughts and fears and things she was concerned about.
  • 04:11 I was turned away to the side, facing the wall and she was laying on her back, looking up at the ceiling as she shared her thoughts. As she spoke, I wrote the fears she named in a note on my phone.
  • 04:22 She said, “Are you even listening? Do you not have anything to say?”
  • 04:32 I replied, “Oh no, I was very much listening,” and showed her the notes.
  • 04:53 The kind of pains and struggles you get to in these vulnerable moments are unlike any other. You can ask people what’s challenging them or what they’re struggling with, but it’s also going to be filtered or slightly censored.
  • 06:13 Don’t worry: I don’t always turn our personal conversations into podcast episodes, but with her permission I’m going to share this. I said I’m happy to make it anonymous, but she said she doesn’t mind me personalizing it at all.
  • The Fear of What Other People Think
  • 06:44 Laci primarily posts her writing as Facebook statuses currently. They’re satirical takes on common experiences and observations. People often say her statuses are “the highlight” of their day. She knows people enjoy it, but still struggles with branching out from there.
    • What if people think I’m dumb?
    • What if I’m not smart enough?
    • What if I’m not well spoken enough?
    • What if I can’t come up with more than a Facebook status?
    • What if people don’t want to actually read more than that?
    • How do I get people to follow me when it’s not really a niche?
    • What about the people that don’t get my satire and think I’m just complaining?
  • What if people think I’m dumb?
  • 09:47 In other words: What if people think I’m not cool? What if people don’t like me as a person? What if people don’t resonate with my style of delivery, or art, or writing, or speaking?
  • 10:27 I think the answer to that question is: some people will. Let’s be honest. We don’t want to pad this and just say “Do your best, no one will hate you.” The truth is, some people will think you’re dumb.
  • 11:03 Ok, so someone thinks you’re dumb—what does that mean? It means that they’re not the right person for your audience. Obviously, everything we’re talking about here is assuming you’re trying, and caring, and at least doing your best to put value into the world in your own unique way.
  • 11:54 The “dumb” question is deeper—it’s really: “What if people reject me?” In other words: “Am I acceptable?” We tend to associate with the things we say as extensions of ourself. So when people reject those things, it feels like they’re rejecting us.
  • You are more than what you do. Your title should not confine you, and your job does not define you.

  • 12:50 You are more than the product of your efforts. Not only are you more than what you do, you are separate from what you do.
  • 13:23 If you take away all of your successes, you are still a person. You are still valuable. Similarly, all of the “failures” you feel like you’ve had, are not who you are. People are not failures.
  • 14:53 Your work doesn’t resonate with this one person. That’s ok.
  • If your work is strong enough for someone to hate you, it’s strong enough for someone to love you.

    The middle is what you should fear.

  • 15:28 The place of weak conviction, mediocrity, and apathy is what you should fear. Not being yourself and having some people not like you. Not making the things you want to make and having some people not appreciate those things.
  • What if I’m not smart enough?
  • 15:54 Even if you feel that way, you’re always going to get smarter, so you might as well start now. If you’re aspiring to grow and improve yourself, you’re always going to be smarter and better at something tomorrow than you were yesterday.
  • 16:51 When you have voices of opposition against something that you’ve said, look for ways that you can clarify what you’ve said—not to try to turn the hater—but for the benefit of your audience.
  • Haters vs. Legitimate Criticism
  • 18:09 Legitimate criticism is objective. Learn to take criticism and learn to look for criticism, but don’t worry about people who are just hating. The way you can tell is haters are not objective. They try to attack your personality or the way you deliver. The people that hate, typically don’t even read your whole article or watch your whole video, they just tend to comment.
  • Looking to the wrong people for acceptance
  • 19:03 “What about the people that I look up to—what are they going to think?” Don’t Worry About Acceptance from your Heroes.
  • 19:42 A lot of people build their whole goal around getting this person that they admire to appreciate them. The problem with this is it takes the focus off of the people that you are influencing. Whether that’s a huge audience of thousands, or just with your friends—you are an influence to people wherever you’re at.
  • Believe it or not, regardless of where you are, you are an influence to some people.

  • 20:15 The more that you focus on the wrong type of people—be that the haters, or the people that you admire who aren’t paying attention to you—the less attention you’re giving to the value that you’re able to provide to the people that are listening to you.
  • What if I’m not well spoken enough?
  • 20:33 You’re going to get better by doing, not by thinking about it. You have to be willing to suck at it for a while. You have to wade through a sea of sub par work to get to a place of perfection.
    • You’re not going to be well spoken enough
    • You’re not going to be good enough at drawing
    • You’re not going to be good enough at writing
  • 21:06 Because it’s a journey. You’re always going to get better. The cool thing is, if you start now and start making mistakes now and iterate in public, you’re making a public documentation of your journey that benefits other people.
  • 22:51 The focus shouldn’t be on perfection, it should be on authenticity—which is often imperfection. That’s what resonates with people. People resonate with humanness, authenticity, imperfection, and transparency. That growth actually strengthens the bond between you and your audience. You have to open yourself to them and show those imperfections.
  • Think of any relationship that means anything to you. You’ve been through things with that person. It’s not just surface-level attraction, you overcame obstacles.

    Your audience can overcome those obstacles with you too if you just allow yourself to be open.

  • 23:38 Be willing to grow, be willing to start when you’re not perfect. Start when you’re not “good enough.” Start when you’re not “well-spoken” enough. Just be willing to iterate in public. This picture of growth can encourage other people as you’re going through it and retroactively when people come across you in the future, they can go back and follow your journey. It’s an opportunity to teach along the way.
  • 24:37 You’re always going to wish that you started sooner. So start now.
  • What if I can’t come up with more than a Facebook status?
  • 24:47 What if I can’t come up with episode, 96? I can come up with it and I will, because it’s on my schedule to show up. That’s it.
  • 25:34 I didn’t start this podcast with this many episodes in mind. This many episodes came from showing up and being committed to consistently putting stuff out and putting out valuable stuff that helps people.
  • 25:50 “But the question is ‘Can I actually write more than what I’ve previously written?’ I think that’s a much bigger unknown.”
  • 26:35 How do you get from:
    • Facebook status to blog post…
    • from blog post to essay…
    • from essay to book?
  • 26:46 Maybe find some related statuses and put them in order (possibly rewriting them), and between two of them: write an equal-length transition.
  • Get out of the mindset of writing for the medium.

  • 27:33 You don’t get talkers’ block, right? Just get a friend and record yourself telling them a story. I bet you that you’re not going to have a hard time telling them a story.
  • 28:30 Listen back, transcribe what you said and you have a bunch of words. Sure, you might need to rewrite some of it, but it’s much easier to rewrite than it is to come up with something.
  • 29:50 No matter what your personality type is, it’s a muscle for all of us. it’s something we have to work at. The best thing for me has been a cyclical series of steps:
    1. Write something.
    2. Read what you wrote.
    3. Record yourself reading.
    4. Listen to your recording.
    5. Transcribe what you said.
    6. Rewrite the transcription.
    7. Repeat multiple times.
  • 30:40 Now do it again, but remove the transcript and speak it. Record yourself, listen, and transcribe what you actually said when you spoke it from memory—now rewrite that.
  • 32:08 Start with the medium you are most comfortable with and translate it to the other ones. Gradually familiarize yourself. Mediums are like languages. You become fluent in them by practicing them—by speaking in those languages more often.
  • 33:20 The cyclical approach I mentioned helps you get familiarized with those mediums. By branching off from the things you already feel comfortable with, you eventually break down the barrier between yourself and the medium. It’s no longer something you have to mentally translate beforehand. You’ll be able to hop on a microphone and just start talking. You’ll be able to open a blank document and just start writing. It’s an intimate familiarity.
  • What about the people that don’t get my satire and think I’m just complaining?
  • 36:00 Some people are just not going to get it. Everyone comes at a subject from their own viewpoint, and not every context is going to resonate with them.
  • 36:36 You are a very unique person and you come from very unique circumstances. The way you deliver and talk about things will resonate with a percentage of people out there—those are the people that you want.
  • Don’t change what you’re doing, don’t change how you’re expressing who you are through this work.

    Continue to seek ways to connect with the audience that does get it and don’t worry about the rest of them.

  • 37:52 If you want your work to resonate, you will have haters. Plan to have haters. If you want to get big, if you want to be noticed, if you want to grow your audience, you’re going to have haters.
  • 38:30 Look at any video on YouTube with over 1 million views, and no matter how happy and positive it is, you’ll find people complaining in the comments. Every single time. You can’t make everyone happy.
  • How do I get people to follow me when it’s not really a niche?
  • 40:31 You may not think you have a niche, but your unique voice can create a kind of niche. Even if you talk about different things, you can color the commentary with your perspective and style.
  • 43:17 It takes time to build an audience. In this era of instant gratification, we want everything quick, we want it fast, and the internet accelerates everything. We see other people with a bunch of exposure, followers, likes, subscribers, and audience and we want that immediately. You don’t see all of the behind the scenes that led to where they are now. In most cases, they’ve been working at this for a while and you notice them when they started to get noticed.
  • 497 of the 500 most popular symphonies were made after the composer’s 10th year of work.

    Your best work is ahead. Be excited and press on.

  • 45:39 If you really go after this and you stick with it and you’re consistent with it, your best work will still be after your 10th year. That should excite you! Forget the recognition, forget the exposure, forget the followers, just realize that it’s going to take time.
  • Possible ways to respond to haters
  • 46:08 If you filter out the subjective emotional response, you can sometimes find something objective that you can receive.
  • 51:36 There are 3 kinds of responses you can have to haters:
    1. Engage/provoke
    2. Let it eat you up inside
    3. Ignore (this is what you want to do)
  • 54:08 People may try to insult you personally, but don’t take it personally. It’s not about you personally. People are airing their own insecurities.
  • 55:01 When you see something you disagree with, just move on. This is what mature people do. They’re not worried that someone else believes something they don’t.
  • 56:46 Here’s the problem with haters: These people can’t move on because they’re insecure with themselves. If they let something they disagree with go without contention, then they feel like they are admitting that it’s right.
  • 1:00:40 How to repackage haters’ comments in a way that provides your audience more value.
  • As the Maker, You Have the Power
  • 1:06:07 Did you fall flat on your face and make a fool of yourself? Get past your emotions and show what you learned from that experience. Teach. Share your lessons in an interesting way.
  • 1:06:54 It’s easier to tear something down than it is to build up. That’s why more people hate than actually create.
  • 1:07:07 If you are the type of person that is even thinking about putting yourself out there and that scares you—that’s good news. Because even if you’re scared right now, you’re the type of person that wants to make. You want to create. You want to put things out into the world. Most people don’t—they consume and they tear down. You already hold the power.
  • 1:07:32 If you get hate, if you fall flat on your face, whatever the worst case scenario of your fears and inhibitions happens, you can always go right back to making. You can go right back to the next thing. You can teach a lesson that you learned from that shortcoming.
  • The power is in the hand of the maker (not the critic).

    The critic can only critique what’s there. They’re not the ones that are making the thing in the first place.

  • 1:08:12 Conclusion:
    • You need to start
    • Haters mean you’re resonating
    • If your work is strong enough for someone to hate you, it’s strong enough for someone to love you. What you should be afraid of is the middle.
    • An encouraging word goes a long way.
  • 1:08:52 As creators, we struggle with words of affirmation. Yet with others, we’re often just one more “silent admirer.” Why not reach out and thank someone who shows up consistently and provides value to you?
  • 1:09:08 An encouraging word goes a long way. You might not think it does, but it really does. You might think, “This person has thousands of followers. Why should I say anything good? I’m sure they have plenty of people patting them on the back.” Well, how do you feel when someone reaches out? How do you feel when someone sends you a note and says, “Hey, thanks for what you do, I really appreciate it.” It means a lot. Be willing to reach out to others. Think about how you can have 100 notes of positivity and just 1 note of negativity and how that just gets to you. Why not be one more of those positive voices to someone else?