I’ve got a confession to make: I can recall every single bad review I’ve had, and I barely remember the good ones.
There’s one I received while I was in Washington DC in 2015, a few days before I was about to speak at the International Association of Wedding Officiants conference. The couple had a bunch of comments that were mean and terrible, but they also shape a lot of how I work today. I should let go, but my brain says no.
I guess I’m just built that way.
So let me share with you I stole from John Birmingham’s email newsletter that in turn he stole from Jonathon V Last’s newsletter which mentioned a Vulture interview with Billy Joel, and in particular, how he carries criticisms with himself.
There’s a lesson here for all of us, I think.
There are people who are utterly impervious to criticism. They don’t believe it and even if they did, they wouldn’t care. That’s neither healthy nor wise.
And there are people like Billy Joel, who seem to carry criticism around with them for a very long time. Also not super healthy.
One of the keys to living well is the ability to selectively accept and reject criticism. You accept it when it comes from a source you respect, or when it comes from a place of reasonable intent. In such cases, you try to learn from the criticism, even if you ultimately reject it on the merits.
And you dismiss criticism from bad actors. Some rando on the internet says something mean about you? Don’t even let it into your brain.
This is easier said that done, of course. There’s a reason I don’t do Twitter: I felt no need to let a giant tech company make money by beaming abuse directly into my retinas. As a wise man once said, “For who? For What?”
But here’s the thing: If a guy as successful as Billy Joel can fall into the trap of letting external validation have this much sway on his life, then it can happen to anyone.
Maybe I, and you, can take something away from this.