When the Gloves Come Off

Originally published August 22, 2017 by The Montrose Daily Press

There are seasons in life and business where we unavoidably find ourselves under attack. Every day feels like an argument, a battle, a bloody fight defending ourselves against haters and critics. Times like these feel like waking up in the middle of the battlefield wondering how you got there. It then progresses into doubting our own worth as a leader or a person. And that’s what “they” want.

There’s no sense in psychologically dissecting why these people do what they do. I like to call this “position of advantage.” People bonding over common dislike and capitalization of “blood in the water.” It is a sad truth about the human race. “Position of advantage” promotes following what the group believes rather than formulating and articulating our own beliefs and opinions about other people and concepts.

If you find yourself “going to the mattresses” with the media, Internet trolls, or a particularly difficult person, remember these tactics first (adapted from Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss):

1. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do.

Ferriss muses, “Even if your objective is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, you only need to find, cultivate, and thrill your first 1,000 diehard true fans (Google ‘1,000 True Fans’ for more on this concept). These people become your strongest marketing force, and then the rest takes care of itself. The millions and billions who don’t get it don’t matter. Focus on the few who do. They are your Archimedes lever.”

2. Ten percent of people will find a way to take it personally. Expect it and treat it as math.

Ferriss advises business and entrepreneurs to mentally prepare themselves before putting anything into the marketplace. “Oh, I have 1,000 readers (insert customers, users, members, etc) now. That means 100 are going to respond like jerks.” This doesn’t insinuate you are bad or they are bad, it’s just a simple math equation. Ferriss advises, “If you (wrongly) assume that everyone is going to respond with smiles and high-fives, you are going to get slapped, you’ll respond impulsively, and you’ll triple the damage.” Do the math, anticipate, and don’t react.

3.  When in doubt, starve it of oxygen.

Ferriss responds to criticism in one of three ways:

-Starve it of oxygen (ignore it)- 90 percent

-Pour gasoline on it (promote it)- 8 percent

-Engage with trolls after too much wine (and really regret it)- 2 percent

Option three is a joke, but you get the idea. Although it takes an incredible amount of restraint and emotional control, starving critical and hateful commentary will most always take care of itself. Bite that tongue.

The more interesting point here might be the “gasoline”. Why does Ferriss believe in this principle? “For me, doing this 8 percent to 10 percent of the time accomplishes two things: It shows I’m open to criticism, and it shows that I don’t take myself too seriously. Both of these things tend to decrease the number of real haters that come out of the woodwork.”

4.  If you respond, don’t over-apologize. Unless you really screw up, stick to your beliefs and don’t apologize for doing the right thing. Acknowledge and move on. Ferriss’ favorite response? “Thanks for the feedback. I’m always trying to improve. In the meantime, I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

5.  “You can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into”. — Tim Ferriss

6.“Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, and you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted.” — Colin Powell

(Considering getting this tattooed to my forehead).

7. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” — Epictetus

If you want to be brilliant, interesting, or revolutionary, you’re going to have to learn how to take a few right hooks. In order to truly change and transform your industry or craft, you will inevitably make people uncomfortable. And when people are uncomfortable, they will attack.

8. “Living well is the best revenge.” — George Herbert

People pleasing it the ultimate form of selfishness, not to mention a huge thief of joy. Nassim Taleb imparted the following wisdom upon our friend Tim: “Robustness is when you care more about the few who like your work than the multitude who hates it (artists); fragility is when you care more about the few who hate your work than the multitude who loves it (politicians).”

Be robust.

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of business innovation for the City of Montrose. She can be reached at chelsea@montrosechamber.com.