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#3: On dealing with criticism

By 2022-12-01May 12th, 2023No Comments

It looks like it’s about to throw up: ?

I’m a big fan of the attitude “Where the focus goes, energy flows.” Whatever receives your attention gets your energy.

This way, you can make the one thing grow and the other shrink.

Consequently, I thought long and hard about speaking about something that annoyed me. As Sister Elizabeth Kenny said: “He who angers you, conquers you.”

And still, I decided to do it. On the one hand, it’s something I’m still working on. On the other hand, you can learn something from this story yourself in order to become more free.

Last week I decided to record the Freedom Letter on video and make it available on YouTube to everyone who not only wants to read, but also listen to it. I presented the project with a seven-minute video. Overnight it got over 300 views, 25 thumbs up (none down!) and two comments. One comment was positive, one consisted only of the emoji shown above. I was happy about the positive contribution and could have thought about the emoji: “Haters gonna hate!” Still, it touched me more than I would have liked.

There is a similar story from the cockpit that I like to tell in my keynotes. We flew to London in exceptionally challenging weather. It was very uncertain whether we would even land. There was a high probability that we’d fly back to Frankfurt (we had extra fuel with us for this case). The approach was stormy, the crosswind just below the limit of what’s possible. We landed safely. 149 passengers got out at the terminal and thanked us for the great flight, the good landing and the safe journey. One (!) complained as he walked by, not even looking at me. Which one do I remember most clearly today?

The poet Rumi aptly said: “He is free who is not hurt by people’s insults, and a hero is he who does not insult him who deserves it.” Both very noble qualities, but how do you achieve them?

It seems to me that today there is a preferred way for personal growth: think positive. I believe that’s nonsense! Yes, a positive attitude is good. But life isn’t all rose petals and sunshine. The negative must be allowed to exist. You don’t have to let it determine your life, though.

It’s normal to be happy about some things and not about others. In my book The ABC of Freedom, I talk about mindfulness. Become aware of your thoughts and emotions. Be mindful of the negative feeling. Let it exist. Don’t judge it. Feel it. Where is it located? What makes it stronger? Weaker?

Pay attention to your posture, your mental focus, your language (how you talk to yourself). Tony Robbins calls these molders of meaning. With them we create the way we experience our lives.

Thank your emotion for wanting to protect you and then let it go. As my friend and mentor Kerim Kakmaci says: observe, appreciate, let go (it’s a beautiful alliteration in German: wahrnehmen, wertschätzen, wegschicken)! In most cases, an emotion that you hold on to for more than ten seconds is a decision.

I started writing this post shortly after that “nasty” comment. A week later, it’s almost difficult for me to finish it because the bad feeling is long gone. By allowing it without needing to hold on to it, it became powerless. I do not know what prompted the author to make this comment. I don’t care either.

The perceived insults of others say more about themselves than about the person at whom they are aimed. Would you accept criticism from someone you wouldn’t ask for advice of your own accord?


Yours, Ulrich

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