Wouldn’t it be cool if no one ever discouraged you? What if everyone in your life was a cheerleader, believed in you, and only said good things? Imagine never having to avoid a phone call or have that “Oh crap” moment when you realize you are headed somewhere and your arch nemesis, Ned or Nancy Naysayer, is going to be there. You know at some point they will corner you and ask how your “little dream thing” is going. You know they are just looking for some confirmation they are right and you are pipe dreaming. They will laugh and find a way to needle you with stinging comments and laugh it off and say, “Just kidding, good luck!” We know they are walking away shaking their head thinking, “Idiot.”
We think that would be awesome, and it would feel that way for a while. I believe there are two major flaws with this idea. First, I think it would give us a false reality that everything is going well, just keep going. We could easily find ourselves in the delusion of thinking we are making enough progress. Though naysayers take many different forms, they sometimes give us the gift of that one-ounce of truth that no one else will provide, because our actual cheerleaders are afraid to say it, for fear of discouraging us.
Why? Why? Why? Why do we need to hear people adamantly tell us we are crazy for having a big dream? When you have got a big dream, there usually seems to be baggage attached to it. If it were not for the baggage, it would not be a dream; it would just be a task. You could easily do this, and then do that, and you are done. Whoooo hoooo. Task accomplished. If it is a mission, which means there were insurmountable goals to overcome, now that is cause for a real WHOOOO HOOOOO!
I remember right after graduating college and having a dream of being an actor. I invested more than I could afford in an auditioning workshop and an expensive brochure that I was told would be seen by Hollywood casting agents. I was told they were always looking for fresh faces. I thought that by investing in this ad placement I would magically be discovered. Keep in mind I lived in Boston at the time. To be clear, there are thousands of actors who already live in Hollywood trying to “make it.” They are not only living there, but also willing to do whatever it takes to get any role.
I remember a vivid moment skiing with my big brother. He had heard of my dream and my investing in the Hollywood magazine casting advertisement. I knew he thought I was crazy, and he was always willing to tell me exactly how he felt. We stood catching our breath at a trailhead, huffing and puffing as the flurries came down around us. He pointed his ski pole at a trail map and adamantly said, “Dude, that’s your trail…Pipe Dream! Get your head out of your butt.” Those are not the actual words he used. It may sound mean, and he was also right. There was more than an ounce of truth to what he was saying.
Though I don’t love how he delivered the truth, I often needed to hear it. Yeah, there is a ton of actors right there in Hollywood; why would they choose a guy who lived in another state and had very little acting experience? The truth is, I visited Hollywood once with the intention of moving there, but didn’t have the guts to do so. My brother’s dose of truth also helped me realize ads could sometimes help, but there is so much more action that I could take right where I was to get more experience back in Boston. I ended up starting my own public access TV program, just to build my acting resume, and did many local commercials. I also acted in several industrial videos and even ended up starring in a couple B movies that never made it to the big box office. The biggest one was titled Apocalypse Bop. Though I did learn some things from the class, my success did not come from the “Be a Hollywood Star” ad in the casting magazine. It came from all of the other relentless effort I put into classes, auditions, and making my own Cable Access TV program. When my other friends were out partying and having fun, I would be making little skit comedy shows with my friends. That became my fun and learning. I needed that truth from my bother.
So, one reason we need naysayers is to realize our full potential. Though they may deliver seeds of doubt, they also provide us with a dose of truth. To be clear, not everything they say is truthful, but look for the ounce of truth that you actually need to hear. That little bit of truth, if we are honest with ourselves, may be just what we need. We do need to limit our exposure to naysayers so they do not influence us too much. The magic of using them to our advantage is courageous, and search for the truth in what they say…and then make darn sure you overcome that!
The second reason naysayers are ultimately good for us is that they are a little test. They can help you see if you are actually committed to your dream. If someone can talk you out of a dream, you are not fully committed. The test can be to get you to either fully commit to your dream or to let that one go and find the one you can fully commit to. There is a bonus to freeing up your energy for something bigger or better suited for your heart. If you are, in fact, truly committed, then they can’t stop you. How committed are you to your dream or that ridiculous aspiration?
Dreams are not convenient. We need to be committed. Without commitment anything can arbitrarily rock your boat. When we look at naysayers as just a little test, it can empower you. I believe it was 1940 when Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It is not the naysayer or what they say; it truly is how you and I process their words.
The third, and probably most important reason we need naysayers, is because they can give us the turbo boost of the fuel we really need. Not too much matches the fire that can be put under you to prove the naysayer wrong. Frank Sinatra said, “The best revenge is massive success.”
I avoided phone calls from my brother as much as I could. On occasion, I called just to let him vent on me and tell me how crazy I was. It beat arguing. It was not easy. I kept staring at the quotes over my desk to help me stay committed. When I was struggling paying off my debt, working as a telemarketer, and building my dream, I still lived at home with my parents. I was only paying my parents a minimal rent. My brother had urged my parents to kick me out so that I would “grow up.” He wanted me to get a real job and give up on my dream. I thank God my parents were supportive and did not take his advice.
Those days I took the stage and had a tough audience, I kept thinking of my brother and how I was determined to prove him wrong. When we hear the voice of doubt, drown it out. It got me through many bad days and kept me focusing past my own doubt. It also reminded me to listen more to my Brian Tracy and Tony Robbins audio programs to get my solid ground again.
As my faith is important, I’m not supposed to take revenge. I’m not a Bible scholar by any means, but Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.’”
I wonder if not bringing malice towards the naysayer, but instead just digging deeper and succeeding to let them eat their words is, in fact, letting God help. Not sure. I bet that could start a debate.
Hearing harsh words about our dreams, when we have the proper perspective, should get us to dig deeper, study harder, and execute progress more. When we get content with our progress, we sometimes take our foot off the gas pedal. We can’t, especially if we are the least likely. It is so easy for us to lose momentum and can require more energy to get us back up to speed.
As the least likely, we will encounter many naysayers along the say. Some will have big roles in your journey, some small roles, and others may be complete strangers that will say a passing statement that sinks deep into your mind. Their statements can act like the gum you step on and can’t scrape off of your shoe.
For me it was my big brother, David. Understand that I know he loves me. In fact, growing up his tough love was the reason in high school I started lifting weights and finally taking 100 percent responsibility for who I was and where I was. It was a turn around in confidence and commitment. Removing the naysayers completely could result in never achieving your dream. We need to limit their access to our listening, especially when it is people of influence in our lives.
Remember, it is not the naysayer; it is the belief that we allow the naysayer to plant. We are many times not our own dreamer, but also our biggest naysayer. We are the one who allows the naysayer’s words to sink deep. It may seem cool if no one ever discouraged you, but I think you’d be missing out. Next time you see Ned or Nancy Naysayer, just smile and say to yourself, “Thank you.” Then walk away.
What is the Least Likely Principle?
Three gifts from naysayers:
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Darren LaCroix, AS, CSP
World Champion of Public Speaking
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