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One-and-done criticism? That’s the easy stuff of fools

One-and-done criticism? That’s the easy stuff of fools

criticism to help not hurt


I almost spoke but didn’t—and was glad of it.

My words weren’t helpful, noble, or persuasive. Only critical. As Dale Carnegie once said, any fool can criticize. I didn’t want to be another fool; several others were already present.

Serving up one-and-done criticism is the easy stuff of fools. Criticism delivered from a detached distance and couple with a lack of concern for those who may be hurt, belittled, or marginalized is safe and effortless.

Criticism is, at its core, disapproval based on perceived mistakes or faults.

Ways of expressing that disapproval can be either constructive or destructive. If there’s intent to aid in improving those mistakes or faults because they’re really mistakes or faults and not merely biases, then lots of work comes after speaking. Criticizing is but the first step in what should be a process.

My experience has been that it’s the rare person who’s willing to invest in the whole process. You?

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help. ~Abraham Lincoln

Parents, teachers, bosses, and others remind us to be mindful of what we say and how we say it. In the spirit of being our best possible selves, why not expand that advice to include thinking about why we say what we say—before we say it?

A few seconds spent examining our motives—am I speaking constructively in pursuit of solving a problem or am I speaking to prove my superiority—can make a dramatic difference in whether outcomes and relationships take a positive or negative turn.

Had I spoken that day, my comments would have joined similar useless words full of judgment and short on constructive feedback or persuasive reasoning.

To belittle, you have to be little. ~Khalil Gibran

Instead of serving a meaningful purpose, criticism can easily lapse into self-serving swagger and become destructive. Hurtful criticism leads to contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling, and polarization—all downward spirals of activity that fail to advance the greater good and further drive people apart.

Google the word criticism and hundreds of entries appear that offer advice on how to handle being harshly or unfairly criticized.

Perhaps, if people paid a little more attention to the “why” of their words, the number of articles would decrease because there’d be more compassion and less conflict in our interactions.

People seldom refuse help if one offers it in the right way. ~A.C. Benson

The next time criticism dances on your lips, begging to be spoken, pause and examine your motivation. Explore your purpose for speaking by asking yourself some questions.


Look for the “why” of your criticism


Ask, am I criticizing because…?

  • …I want to make someone look bad so I can look good?
  • …I think I deserve special treatment and I’m not getting it?
  • …I see a way to amplify my own achievements and social standing?
  • …I see an opportunity to devalue something or someone I disagree with?
  • …I want to gain power and control to humiliate someone into submission?
  • …I see the chance to advance my personal agenda?
  • …I enjoy pointing out what’s wrong and who’s to blame?

Criticizing for any of these reasons speaks volumes about someone’s character, purpose, and motivation.

Criticism is the only reliable form of autobiography. ~Oscar Wilde

Sharing alternate points of view often produces better results, so don’t hold back.

Being open and authentic, though, isn’t a license to be rude, hurtful, condescending, or manipulative. Disapproval about perceived mistakes or faults can be expressed without judgment, without personal attacks, and without meanspirited nitpicking.

The next time you express your disapproval based on perceived mistakes or faults, be kind. Display a willingness to help. Think bigger than yourself. Speak to help, not to hurt.

If the only reason you’re criticizing is to make yourself look better, please shut up.


Image credit before quote added: Pixabay







Perfection = overrated waste of effort

Perfection = overrated waste of effort

perfection overrated


I couldn’t believe it.

She unmade my side of the bed because I didn’t do it right.

My house guest was having problems with her shoulder. She said doing simple things like making up a bed aggravated her discomfort. I volunteered to help, and she agreed. Her ground rule for accepting help was that she would make up one side of the queen-sized bed and I’d do the other. Worked for me. We agreed she’d give me a shout-out the next morning when she was ready to make up her bed.

Puzzled, and feeling a little miffed, I walked over to the side she’d made up. Perhaps she had a different way of tucking in the top sheet. Nope, we’d both done hospital corners. Granted, her angle on the fold was a little crisper than mine. That was the only difference I could see.

What she saw was different.

My side wasn’t perfect like hers was, and she wasn’t going to settle for less than perfect even if it made her wince to first pull out and then redo my work.

Pain is too big a price to pay for perfection.

In the past, I’ve done my dances with perfection, and I refuse to dance with it anymore. Perfection is an unworthy goal. It’s over-rated, not worth the added time, stress, and frustration.

Perfection is overrated, boring. It’s the imperfections—the vulnerabilities, the weaknesses, the human elements—that make us who we are, that make us real, beautiful…necessary. ~Guy Harrison

Before you dance another dance with perfection, give the following items a good think and ask yourself if perfection is truly worth it.


9 ways perfection is overrated


  1. Most people don’t recognize perfection when they see it.

Why? Because people describe perfection differently. Perfection is an absence of flaws or defects. Perfection, like beauty, rests in the eye of the beholder. I didn’t see any flaws or defects in my side of the made-up bed. My friend did.

  1. Lost opportunity cost.

Rendering anything without flaw or defect requires a big investment of time. There’s the time to do and redo until perfection is achieved. Some perfectionists are chronic procrastinators. They put off starting something because they’re concerned about not being able to complete the task perfectly. Sometimes their work never gets started and who knows what opportunities are lost.

  1. Miss out on simple joys.

It’s hard to look perfect eating an ice cream cone outside on a hot, summer day. There’s a good chance ice cream will drip down the cone and your chin. It might drip on your shirt and your fingers. But, isn’t all that part of the glorious fun?

  1. Present as needy and narrow-minded.

Perfectionism is a prime breeding ground for my way or the highway thinking, which is a death knell for diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective.

  1. Perfectionism feeds sex and gender stereotypes.

The perfect woman is beautiful, thin, and flawlessly groomed all the time. The perfect man is strong, a protector and provider. Both thoughts are poppycock, full of stereotypical thinking that harms young girls and boys.

  1. Being perfect doesn’t automatically provide approval and affirmation.

Self-esteem doesn’t come from looking outside ourselves for approval and affirmation. It comes from within. Everyone benefits when we give ourselves permission to understand that a thoughtful and well-done good enough is good enough.

  1. Perfectionism will make you sick.

Perfectionists are at greater risk for depression, high blood pressure, anxiety, and mental health problems. Those acquired health conditions are unacceptable downsides, especially when chasing a rare, subjective condition.

  1. Fuel negative emotions.

Striving unsuccessfully for that elusive state where there are no flaws or defects makes people feel inferior, resentful, unappreciated, and unfulfilled. Perfection purists are often full of self-doubt. Maybe anger, too. Perfectionism reduces people’s level of playfulness, curiosity, and willingness to take risks.

  1. Consumed and paralyzed by fear.

Perfectionism is a cesspool of fear. Perfectionists fear failure, not measuring up, making a mistake, not looking perfect, getting hurt, being exposed as a fraud, and being alone.

Perfectionists often feel that they must always be strong and in control of their emotions. A perfectionist may avoid talking about personal fears, inadequacies, insecurities, and disappointments with others, even with those with whom they are closest. ~Shauna H Springer Ph.D.

Wanting to be a good person who does things well is a worthy goal. Looking to do those things perfectly isn’t. Being perfect is an overrated experience that serves no one well.

Perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or healthy striving. It’s…a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.’ ~Brene Brown

Ready to give yourself permission to let go of overrated perfection and instead do your best and accept good enough?



Image credit before quote added: Pixabay





Choosing not to be a sellout

Choosing not to be a sellout




“Let me take a look at your Twitter profile,” offered my table companion. We were attending a Chamber-sponsored event on how to make the most of social media. “That’s my area of expertise, and I’m happy to offer up a style suggestion or two. Maybe you’ll decide to become a client.”

Curious, I took him up on his offer.

A few days later, I received an email from him that read in part:

The biggest problem with your Twitter account is that you follow too many people. Your following count makes you look less authoritative and diminishes the value of your message. Be selective and exclusive in who you follow. Think of it as a hierarchy of prestige. I suggest you curate who you’re following and drop those who aren’t influencers or a recognized name. You want to look superior, distinguished, and special, not ordinary.

His advice disturbed me for lots of reasons.

My dad taught me to be confident yet humble. One of his favorite put-downs for someone acting “high and mighty” was to say, “he forgets we all put our pants on the same way.”

There’s no “hierarchy of prestige” in that mindset. Just common sense and goodness.

Thinking you’re better than others


“The individuals in our sample consistently judged themselves to be superior to the average person.” ~Ben Tappin, The Illusion of Moral Superiority

In one study, two-thirds of the participants agreed with the statement, deep down, you enjoy feeling superior to others. Lots of other studies contain similar findings. There’s even a name for the mental state of thinking you’re superior to others—the self-enhancement effect.

Research shows the self-enhancement effect is most pronounced with moral characteristics. What does that mean? It means we not only see our abilities as above average, but we also see ourselves as more moral, just, trustworthy, loyal, etc., than our peers. That’s too big for your britches territory.

Self-enhancement thinking can lead to self-righteousness. That’s problematic.

Self-righteousness seeps into multiple aspects of our lives—it’s subtle, incremental, addictive, indiscriminate, and destructive. Thoughts about rightness and superiority contribute to polarization, social injustice, intolerance, political discord, and even violence.

My interpretation of the consultant’s recommendation? He wanted me to position myself as being better than other people. Special. Elite. Exclusive.

Creating such a narrative about myself smacked of arrogance and narrow-mindedness, not messages I wanted to convey or even let myself believe. Other social media experts advocate the same approach to those you follow back. For me, curating those I follow back to create an image of exclusivity and superiority felt inauthentic and dishonest.

“What is intellectual honesty? It means always seeking the truth regardless of whether or not it agrees with your own personal beliefs.” ~Perry Tam, CEO Storm8

A very thin line exists between confidence and arrogance. Not crossing that line requires vigilance, commitment, and self-awareness. Curiosity, a desire for humility, a sense of humor, and being kind to ourselves and others are involved, too.

Authenticity over style


Maintaining intellectual honesty and avoiding the trap of self-righteousness requires a few do’s and a couple of don’ts if we’re going to lead ourselves and others with grace and goodness.


  • Respect others as equals.
  • Be willing to listen to opposing points of view.
  • Check our ego at the door.
  • Be confident without being arrogant.


  • Judge or label people.
  • Accept our presumed superiority.
  • Attack people who hold different beliefs.
  • Be something we’re not.

I thanked the consultant for taking the time to look over my Twitter account and for sharing his thoughts. He asked if I wanted to become a client so I could capitalize on more of his experience and increase my influencer status.

“No, thank you,” I replied.

“I think you’re making a mistake, so may I ask why you’re not interested?”

“Of course. I walk to a different drummer. I want to be seen as knowledgeable, not superior. Accessible, not exclusive. Kind, not elite,” I answered.

“You’re not going to get anywhere thinking like that,” he replied.

“I’m okay with that. If people judge me as not being distinguished because I want to be kind, then so be it. Those folks aren’t my target audience. I’ll take substance over style any day.”

“Have it your way,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and walked away, convinced of my lack of superiority.

You know what? I’m good with that.


Image credit before quote added: Pixabay






4 business lessons drawn from tough times

4 business lessons drawn from tough times

business lessons

Business can lead to cutthroat competition in more ways than one, but I learned that the darkest moments also can lead to the greatest triumphs and best business lessons.

It’s the worst experiences that sometimes teach us the most important lessons. I encountered turbulent times in the inner city of Los Angeles as I built my company into a trusted institution among underserved communities.

My employees and I faced harrowing experiences, such as armed robberies and threats from the mob, which hoped to block some of his expansion plans. The 1992 riots that erupted after a jury acquitted police officers in the beating of Rodney King proved especially distressing. Many businesses were looted or burned to the ground, so we had to scramble to protect my check-cashing locations.

It was gratifying to learn that loyal customers prevented some branches from being torched albeit in unexpected ways. A gang member called us to say he’d always been treated with respect at Nix, so his gang had decided not to burn our buildings because we were part of the community.

4 business lessons learned from hard times


My experiences taught me a number of valuable lessons that relate both to business and life, such as:

  • Take responsibility.

This applies to everything that happens, including things you can’t control. Once when an economic downturn left me unable to pay my bills, I contacted each creditor to explain my predicament and work out a payment plan. This upfront approach helped me to avoid bankruptcy.

  • Never play the victim role or blame game.

Avoid replaying misfortunes over and over in your mind. Accept setbacks gracefully and concentrate on getting back on track. In the 1990s, a business deal that went awry nearly forced me to sell my company, but instead I focused on solving the problem and stayed in business.

  • Be courageous.

The most debilitating human emotion is fear. Learn to keep it in perspective, minimize it when applicable, and harness it to your benefit when need be. Standing up to bullies as a child set the stage for me to be able to stand up to the mob.

  • Maintain integrity.

Operating with fair play and compassion is important in building trust. The way some community members protected some of our branches during the riots reflected this. Treating people fairly and supporting community programs paid off.

Good times may be more enjoyable, but challenging times provide more opportunity for growth. Realize that bad people, tough times and mistakes are your teachers. Always ask yourself, “What business lessons do I need to learn from these events?”


Today’s guest contributor is Tom Nix, author of the memoir Nixland, a pioneer of the check-cashing industry, and currently a public speaker and writing focused on helping people overcome obstacles and be successful.


Image source before quote added: Pixabay




Creating a chain reaction of goodness

Creating a chain reaction of goodness

leadership goodness


“You’re a total idiot! No one in their right mind thinks that way.”

Those words were from a conversation happening at the far end of the coffee shop. A conversatiion that kept getting louder and louder. Everyone in the shop knew the people back there were talking about immigration.

The “idiot” fellow had shared that immigrants deserved compassion. From the ugly debate and name-calling his words produced, it was obvious he was in the minority.

I was recently involved in a similar but less passionate discussion about regarding leadership. My conversation partner believed the best leaders were the ones who kicked butt and took names. I believe the best leaders practice tough empathy because effective leaders are both tough and tender.

My conversation partner was one of many in a long string of people who got worked up about leaders being tender and humane. That’s for wussies was their thinking.

Why are caring and connection so threatening?

Time for research.

I looked into emotion, fear, love, neuroscience, psychology, leadership, and change management.

Not defaulting to fear


Machiavelli’s words about fear—that it was more reliable because it can be “maintained by dread of punishment, which never fails” and that “it was safer to be feared than loved” popped up several places.

Safer. What a fascinating word choice. Machiavelli didn’t say fear was better than love, just safer.

Funny how a single word can unlock a whole new line of pondering—what’s so unsafe about a leader who cares?

A couple of answers popped into mind:

→ Expressing love does makes us vulnerable. We have to get close; fear can be elicited from a distance.

→ Detachment doesn’t ask for an emotional investment, empathy does.

→ Reaching out is harder and riskier than walking away. We put ourselves on the line.

My pushback to these thoughts? Fear and love aren’t forever either/or choices. People need them both.

Context matters.

Sometimes we need a warm heart; others times a cool head. Sometimes we need a boot in our bottom; other times it’s the comforting hug. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree, but not be disagreeable towards those who see things differently.

How can we learn to replace defaulting to fear with seeking to understand and doing what’s right for the situation?

I found these words from Umair Haque, author, economist, and Director of the London-based Havas Media Lab that helped me answer that question:

Those who truly wish to be leaders in an age of discontent—not merely its demagogues, bullies, hecklers, and tyrants—will have to turn reject and refuse ruling through fear, and toward leading with love.


Leading through love means overcoming the ever-present temptation to abuse and belittle people, to guilt and shame them, to mock and taunt them — to force them into line.


It means creating the conditions for them to grow into following the principles that you espouse. It means not just arguing tendentiously with nor patronizingly explaining to people things that they are not ready to, equipped to, nor prepared to understand, but putting faith in people — even those who damn you — first, always, everywhere.

Wow. Those are some powerful thoughts on getting right with fear and love.

After reading Umair’s words, I thought about the fellas in the coffee shop as well as my colleague and I.

In those situations, no one was getting through to anyone. No heads or hearts were being changed. All anyone was doing was making noise. Rattling our sabers of fear, certainly not extending compassion or empathy or promoting goodness.

Create a chain reaction of goodness


To find the sweet spot of respect without defaulting to fear, it’s necessary to:

  • Honor and respect other’s right to think, feel, and act differently.
  • Accept that we’re not always right.
  • Not allow evil and hatred to make us numb to what’s good, paraphrasing Henry Adam’s remark that evil is done by those who think they are doing good.
  • Be mindful when words and phrases like either/or, should, or need to be control our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
  • Assure we’re practicing both logic and emotion as we chart our lives.

My promise to myself? To replace my wagging finger with grace and aim for creating a chain reaction of goodness.


Image credit before quote added: Pixabay




Six Ways to Handle Rejection

Six Ways to Handle Rejection

dealing with rejection

Ten years ago, in the 2008 Olympics, Michael Phelps won the Gold Medal in the Men’s 100M butterfly beating out Milorad Cavic by a mere .01 second. Literally, in the 1/30th time it takes to blink, Phelps’s dreams were realized, and Cavic’s were dashed.

Over the course of your lifetime, it’s inevitable that you’ll face this same struggle.

You’ll be told no. You’ll be rebuffed. You’ll even be harshly rejected because of differences between you and your competitor that may seem minor or even trivial.

The good news for Cavic was that he won an Olympic silver medal, something to place on his mantle for future generations of the Cavic family to view, awe, and admire.

When you earn second place, you get nothing…nada…the big goose egg.

So, how do you avoid this harsh reality and always finish first?

The truth is you can’t.

That reality means you need to build what our colleague, Kendall Colman, calls your “rejection muscle” because you’re going to be told “no” way more often than not.

Since you’re going to be told “no” 70-80 percent of the time, you’re going to need to know how to handle rejection.


6 ways to handle rejection


We offer six ways to handle rejection:

1) Understand that “NO” is not negative, it’s only feedback. Life is neutral. The only one who is placing a label on this event is you.

2) Remember that labels are sticky. Once a rejection occurs, it’s easy to move the label from the event to ourselves. Ever hear yourself saying these things? “I suck.” “I’m a terrible person. “I’m such a loser.” Breathe and stop with the labels. Interrupt your “label” thinking with “It’s just experience.”

3) Reflection is not just a three-syllable word. Most people make the same mistakes over and over because they never ask themselves or their colleagues, customers, etc., what they could have done differently. People will often be incredibly open with you about the reasons they said “no” if you ask them.

4) Embrace being #2. We once visited a coffee roaster who said, “Our Company likes being #2. We know that our competitor’s best clients are just one mistake away from calling us.” Never burn a bridge. Stay in contact. Catch up at networking events. Never stop being a resource for them.

5) Be a resource broker. What’s the fastest way to become someone’s #1 choice?  Send your prospect “a trickle” of contacts that they need to know either personally or professionally.

6) Realize you are not the Godfather. In the movie, The Godfather Part II, Michael Corleone famously mumbles, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Remember, the workplace is not the mafia. Make friends with those you see as your competitors—give them reasons to like and trust you. This advice may go against every dog-eat-dog, business-world, spidey-sense you have; but remember, your competitors are just like you. At times, they’re overwhelmed or need the help of outside expertise.

So, here’s our point, the possibilities to be rejected are limitless, but so are your ways to graciously respond to them.


Today’s guest contributors, Tim Brown and Dan Streeter, are the co-authors of Old School with New Tools: The Extra 5% That Takes You to the Top of Your Sales Game and Keeps You There.


Image credit before quote added: Pixabay