As an entrepreneur, you will be relentlessly challenged by those that disagree with your ideas. Why is that such a particularly prominent subject here? Because as an entrepreneur, what is being challenged is your brainchild, and seemingly, it does not get more personal than someone criticizing the product of your visions. Embrace it, as it is all part of your journey.
It is one of the most crucial necessities to listen to criticism. Those that challenge your ideas, are in fact providing you with the tools to build the backbone of your initiative. The context of “startup events” is a perfect example of this. As you switch from networking at your booth, to pitching in front of investors, criticism is inevitable and you will quickly feel a glooming sense of discouragement if you react to every piece of criticism that comes your way. Simply observe it. The experience will quickly teach you how to properly digest criticism and turn it into your strongest weapon.
The way I react to criticism is changing for the better. Before my mind would gradually start to shut down and I could feel my hopeful smile fade. Thankfully, I was always good at tucking away that looming gloom and able to power through a meeting. However, as the gloom would accumulate without being properly digested, ideas that I was first confident about would crumble away by the end of the day, which is fine since some of those ideas could have used some more refinement! However, in the long run, this could have a significant impact on how you run your business, lead your team and engage with partners. Today, I am learning to digest criticism systematically. I am learning how to compartmentalize criticism as it makes its way from mouth to ear. I am learning how to transfer criticism into making certain changes, such as tailoring a pitch or a product feature. I learned how to dig further into the critique: where does it come from and how does the critic think it can be addressed.
Just yesterday, whilst on the phone with the CEO of an organization that funds social enterprises, I realized half an hour into the call that a large majority of our conversation was consumed by a handful of skeptical questions about our startup. I loved it. I thought the extent to which he had given thought to our startup was great! I felt pure excitement towards how much I still have to learn. Ultimately, if someone challenges your idea and it’s suitability toward eradicating poverty or reaching Universal Health Coverage, it’s worth listening to.
Yet, it is essential to recognize that the credit also belongs to “the man in the arena” as per Roosevelt’s saying. As much as young aspiring business men and women must take criticism into account, credit is due to those rolling up their sleeves and solving deeply rooted social, economic, and environmental problems with limited resources and a hefty dose of passion. We carry the trial and error duty within many industries, and when successful, we have the power to create institutional changes. All that said, if you can balance yourself right in the middle of confidence and humility by acknowledging that you are the “man in the arena” and that criticism matters, the more power to you.
Quoted saying (Roosevelt): “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”