A couple of days ago I received an email from a former employee that sparked today’s post. At the time she worked for me, this particular individual was a recent college graduate, a musician. Like most of the artistic types I hired, she had very little knowledge of business but was willing to learn. However, as our relationship at work progressed I could tell she was disturbed by the fact that besides having many loyal customers we also had some harsh critics.
Now fast forward a number of years to the email I received from her the other day– here is what she said:…. The last thing I wanted to share is what I got out of working for you. I developed a real passion for serving customers. I’ve taken that into everything I’ve done since, and creating raving fans has been a cornerstone of everything I have done in business.
I can remember at that time that you had many critics and I used to think that was a bad thing. And I felt badly for you because I knew how committed you were. Now I know that where you choose to stand up and be a leader, the critics will follow…and so will the fans.
What a great lesson to learn and all the better if you can grasp it as quickly as possible right out of the gate. In fact, I would go as far to say that critics come faster at first than fans- they usually are the most vocal, are in important positions of power sometimes over you, and you can easily fall into the trap of believing your once “fantastic idea” has been reduced to a pile of rubble that you should abandon as soon as possible.
But don’t. When a critic starts to follow you, know you are on to something BECAUSE they are FOLLOWING YOU! While sometimes they might have crumbs of wisdom in their criticism– that you might be able to learn from and incorporate into your work– even if they don’t, emotionally embrace bringing them along with you on your journey, and wear their criticism like a badge of honor that you are coming into your own place in the world.
Yesterday I was at the gym working out. On E! was the the life story of New Kids on the Block. I never knew much about them, as I was not a teenage girl when they hit their stride, but talk about an amazing story of not letting the critics get to you! As very young boys, 12-16, this boy band endured having rocks thrown at them at concerts, having several years of playing every street fair, lounge, mall and everywhere and anywhere that anyone would hear them, often to dismal audiences, but with the full recognition that all of the recording industry, and soon the label that almost dropped them twice, Columbia, did not think they would ever make it.
One of the hardest lessons to learn, if you are starting to create a following for your ideas, is that early in the game, when it really seems most to matter, but also later on, when you care less because you have gained more confidence, critics will follow you. But as the leader of your vision, if you don’t give up, as evident by New Kids on the Block, so too will come your fans– and plenty of them.