I’ve been getting a lot of personally-directed “feedback” lately in both my personal and professional life. I put feedback in quotations because I don’t treat all of this information the same.
Some of it helps; it’s constructive and I am completely thankful for this external perspective. In most cases, I rely on my friends and the personal board of advisors, of sorts, that I’ve built over the years to continuously provide this objective feedback. Some of it, however, is complete and utter bullshit. Typically it’s someone else’s insecurities being manifested into criticism of my personality.
What I’ve come to realize over the years is that a) I have a very strong personality that makes some people very enamored with me and really value me as a person AND it also rubs some people the wrong way, and b) the people who like me the most tend to be the most confident, self-assured people and those who like me least aren’t very confident or self-assured in who they are. This can be due to a number of factors, be they emotional, physical, professional or what have you. I’m not saying this as some kind of cop-out to reject criticism from people I don’t like, but it does speak to my frequent dismissal of critiques from naysayers who are pushing their low self-esteem onto me, someone who noticeably doesn’t have a self-esteem issue.
I deal with a lot of people who have a ton of confidence. That’s why when I was sitting down with the guys behind StyleCaster, good friends in New York (a city where only the confident succeed) recently, I realized that I’m getting to a point where all of my friends have to be creative professionals or entrepreneurs of some sort.
I find that putting out some creativity to the public – be it through a blog, a book, music or fashion – requires a good amount of self-confidence. Otherwise you couldn’t take a smidgen of criticism. I also realize that creating a business from scratch, like what I’ve done with Sneak Attack or Style X, takes a great deal of self-assuredness. You have to be the biggest believer in your own creation because people will always doubt you, even if you have something mega-successful like what Zuckerberg has done with Facebook or what Kanye was doing with 808s and Heartbreaks.
I also, unfortunately, deal with a few people with very little to no confidence in themselves. The thing that makes this even worse is that most of these people don’t realize how little confidence they actually have. I notice it because I’ve grown up in places like Killeen, Texas, and Greenville, South Carolina, where most people never make it out to see the world. I use “the world” loosely to describe both educational attainment, geographical, religious/spiritual, political or societal variation. Their insecurities mount over years because they never take the little risks of seeing anything outside of what they grew up in and who they grew up with. But place isn’t the only factor, some people explore the world…they go to college in a different state, take on a new job, etc. Still, their lack of confidence is fairly obvious once they meet someone like me.
Yeah, that was the most egotistical statement ever. Well, that and Kanye West saying, "In America, they want you to accomplish these great feats, to pull off these David Copperfield-type stunts. You want me to be great, but you don't ever want me to say I'm great?"
But what exactly does that mean? Well, if someone is good at basketball and they think they’re good at basketball, confidence in playing basketball follows. But when that person experiences someone who is even better at basketball, someone with even more confidence in their abilities, comes to the court that first person has two options: 1) work harder to play better, or 2) quit. There is no third option. It’s fight or flight.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the people I am most likely to be friends with are fighters. They are gamers willing to put in the work to be the best, or at least amongst the best. These are the people I admire, deeply respect and gain inspiration from. I am blessed to have a number of friends both in Austin and in other parts of the country who fit into this category. This is why Derek Fisher was so critical to the Lakers over those championship years. No, he wasn’t as talented as Shaq or Kobe or even Lamar Odom or Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum, but he was a gamer. He never left the court unless he was forced to.
The people who fly, however, are not people I can get along with. Their battles are fought away from the field of play. They’d rather attack the basketball player’s practice behavior than his in-game results. They’d rather fight personality battles than focus on the big picture and long-term aspects of the game. That’s why, more often than not, these people get run off the court even if they begin to try showing some confidence. Even someone like LeBron James who operates with a ton of confidence for 45 minutes every game isn’t exactly full of confidence in those clutch minutes as playoff (or All Star) games close out.
As Tupac once said in the classic basketball film, Above the Rim, “this here is a man’s game…am I right?!”
I’m man enough to take criticism, if the people tossing it my way are “man” enough (they can be women, too) to battle me on the court rather than off of it.