“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.”
I prayed for something last night that I’ve never prayed for: thick skin.
It’s a pretty practical prayer, actually. In this new role as a personality on Dave Ramsey’s team, I’m becoming more and more a part of a national brand that has six million radio listeners, 2.3 million Facebook fans and more than half a million Twitter followers. But with more Facebook likes and blog views come more critics and complainers.
It’s not personal of course, it’s just simple math. And if you’ve ever put yourself out there on any level, I’m sure you’ve experienced this reality as well.
The world is full of supporters, but it’s also full of cynics. There are plenty of people who are more than happy to pick out your flaws and shame you on social media. And there’s no shortage of spectators on the sidelines booing, even when you are giving it your all.
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Maybe they don’t understand you. Maybe they don’t agree with you. Or maybe they just don’t realize how negative they sound. That’s going to happen, I know. But it still hurts.
So as I continue on this journey God has for me, I’m learning something extremely valuable. It’s something I want to remind you of as well. As you dream about and pursue what God has called you to do, remember:
You must choose who to listen to.
You can listen to your critics or you can listen to your calling, but not both.
The more you listen to the critics, the more they will distract your efforts and destroy your progress.
But the opposite is also true. The more that you listen to your calling, the more the critics will fade into the background.
Also remember: You must choose what to focus on.
What you focus on increases and influences your success exponentially. So it’s important that you put your focus in the right place.
If you focus on your calling, your message and your mission—the work God has given you to do—it will increase with incredible confidence and momentum.
On the other hand, if you focus on the critics, the cynics and the complainers, they’ll become bigger than life to you.
But it’s up to you to choose who to listen to and what to focus on when it comes to your calling.
So the next time naysayers are picking apart your writing, your work or your life, take a deep breath, shrug them off and remember who you are fighting for. Then carry on with the work God has given you to do—even in the face of criticism.
I know I will.
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.
Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship in a Republic” by Theodore Roosevelt, delivered in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910.