A little over a year ago, a “guru” in the fitness business told his audience that my ideas were bad.
His ranty blog post added 600 new people to my email list.
It was poorly-written, and went on and on without saying much. But the specifics won’t help you with your business, so I’ll get right to the punch line: his audience became curious, searched us out, and started reading our stuff. Slowly, they started to pay attention. Then many started to pay for our mentorship. He didn’t just shoot himself in the foot; he nearly cut off his own leg.
Of course, my immediate temptation to the rant was to write a rebuttal, or respond in kind. I’m lucky to have great mentors who keep me focused on serving my clients instead of slinging mud. Here’s what they told me:
- “As soon as you plant a flag, people are going to start shooting.” Mentor: Dr. Mel Siff, author of Supertraining. Mel was saying that people find it hard to have their own ideas, but easy to shoot at yours. But no one takes shots at small ideas or cares about small people. The bullets prove you’re a big, valuable target. Talk more.
- “If they’re criticizing you, they’ve got nothing else to talk about.” Mentor: Dave Tate, founder of EliteFTS. Dave saw many equipment suppliers come and go before learning that lesson. He said that “three years from now, all of those critics will be gone. If you ignore them and focus on your clients, you won’t be. But if you chase after them, you’ll be gone too.” Dave’s admonition was to not share your spotlight with your critics. They need attention to survive; starve them to death.
- “It’s harder to race when you’re in first place.” Author: Chris Carmichael, coaching Lance Armstrong at the time. It’s easy to chase a leader. It’s hard to lead. When you’re in front and you’re taking shots from your haters, focus on your mission even more. Chase that.
Now, here’s how your haters make you money:
- They filter the marginal clients for you. You want to work with smart people. Smart people compare your ideas with theirs; measure the logic and care; and choose the leader over the critic.
Marginal clients want a lower price. They want you to behave out of character, or compromise your values to get their money. They want to hold your attention for ransom. You can’t afford these people. Let the haters clean your toes for you.
- They push you to defend your ideas. Every idea needs to be questioned in the face of new tools and new knowledge. Do yours still stand up? Or are you banking on dogmatic acceptance from your followers?
The critics are out there to keep your bedrock sound. And if they find cracks in your logic, they’re doing you a favor: fix the cracks before they affect your clients.
- They push you to publish. Not to rebut, but to educate. I got my first critic over a decade ago, when an entrepreneur wrote a negative comment on my first blog post. I was tempted to strike back with a logical argument. But a mentor told me that I simply had to teach my audience to be smarter than my critics.
I took that knowledge to my gym: I want my clients to know more than the coaches anywhere else in town.
I also carry that knowledge to my mentorship practice: I want Two-Brain clients to know more than any business “guru” who professes counter knowledge…or just spews hate.
That means educating in advance. It means reviewing older ideas in new ways. It means publishing a LOT.
- Your haters push people closer to you. Nothing unites a team like a common foe.
I wrote a section in “Help First” called “The Fire, The Lion, and The Darkness.” If you want people to stand closer to your fire, show them the Lion out there in the Darkness.
When your haters roar, your best clients will pick up their torches and fight by your side.
Your haters are doing you a favor. If you can avoid their tempting traps, people will follow you through the jungle.
Don’t let the bastards drag you down.