Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Benefits of Ticking People Off

Written by Tim Ferriss

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard

Right alongside the cash and credit cards, I keep a number of strange things in my wallet.

The largest is a folded-up page from the July 6, 2009 issue of Fortune magazine. In a profile, Scott Boras, widely regarded as the most powerful agent in professional baseball, describes a dinner with one of his mentors after a record-breaking contract:

“He said that if you are really effective at what you do, 95% of the things said about you will be negative. Keep your head on straight, don’t get emotional, take the heat, and just make sure your clients are smiling.”

Doing anything remotely interesting will bring criticism. Attempting to do anything large-scale and interesting will bring armies of detractors and saboteurs. This is fine – if you are willing to take the heat.

There are good reasons to be willing, even eager.

Colin Powell makes the case: Ticking people off is both inevitable and necessary. This doesn’t mean that the goal is ticking people off. Ticking people off doesn’t mean you’re doing the right things, but doing the right things will almost inevitably tick people off.

Understand the difference.

Being responsible sometimes means ticking people off.

Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable, if you’re honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: you’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset.

Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally “nicely” regardless of their contributions, you’ll simply ensure that the only people you’ll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.

Don’t go through life with kid gloves on. The stakes are too high, and it is oftentimes more important to give people what they need, rather than what they want.

This includes ourselves. By facing the fire early and often, we ensure the confidence and breathing room later to do bigger and better things.

Or to just sit back in a hammock with the peace of mind that only comes with belief that you did your best.

Be criticized for doing small “safe” things, or be criticized for doing big things that you’re passionate about. That is the choice. The criticism will come either way, whether in the form of self-talk (the former) or ankle biters (the latter).

Let the critics criticize. It’s the builders who count.

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