For the One Person Who Misses the Point

By Jason Menard

It’s true that you’re never going to please everyone. But the day that you stop trying — or, even worse — stop listening — is the day that go from working to make things better to only making things better for yourself.

I’m not one of those who genuflects before the altar of Seth Godin, but I appreciate his insight and respect his experience, abilities, and intelligence. But as with anyone who engenders such a devoted following, the potential negative impact of his posts can have far-reaching effects.

Especially amongst those who use his gravitas as justifications for a misinterpreted message.

The other day, Godin posted a blog titled, “For the One Person Who Doesn’t Get the Joke.” The post briefly explained how there will always be someone who will not like what you’re creating. And to those, Godin says, you need to simply say, “It’s not for you.”

At some point, Godin is right. You’re not going to please everyone. And there are those who are negative simply for the sake of being negative. But it’s too simplistic to get from Point A to Point B that way. And Godin is downright wrong when he says, “It’s not for you” is the “foundation for creating something brave and important.”

It’s a cloying feel-good sentiment to tell people, “Damn the haters! Put your head down and push through and you’ll achieve greatness.” It’s the folly of youth and the battle cry of the idealist — but it’s also unrealistic and self-limiting.

Thinking like this is also one of the main factors behind the failure of community bubbles to affect real, broad-reaching, change.

Instead of a blanket “It’s not for you,” statement, Godin should demand his charges ask “Why is it not for you?” It’s easy to dismiss critics. People will suggest “they just don’t get it” or “they don’t understand” or, worse, “they’re not as invested/engaged/involved/aware.” And those are all false.

We see it in politics all the time — frustrations that arise because one party or group unilaterally imposes a decision without adequate consultation amongst all groups — not just the ones that share ideologies.

In business, the decisions that tend to work best are the ones that are developed by cross-functional groups. Sig Sigma and Kaizen philosophies are founded in those ideals — and they only work because they listen to those so-called critics. The decisions imposed by management in isolation often miss the true nature of the challenge.

Yes, there are those who walk around life with a stick looking for someone to poke. But those are the minority. The majority of so-called critics or negative people out there have very real and very valid concerns. Perhaps those concerns aren’t expressed in a way that you like; perhaps you don’t like the person expressing those concerns. But that doesn’t make the criticism any less valid.

We don’t grow and thrive because we barrel ahead, ignoring the naysayers. We grow and thrive because we answer those challenges; we face those questions, comments, and criticisms head on and ensure our solutions address the critique.

Everyone can have an idea; many people have good ideas. But to have a truly great idea, it must stand up to scrutiny — and we must be willing to embrace that scrutiny.

Blanket proclamations like Godin’s can be dangerous because people can use its feel-good, rah-rah sentimentality to justify one’s own tunnel vision. That’s not the point of his post, I hope.

Instead, I believe Godin wants us to realize that there are certain people out there who love being miserable. We have to accept that. But to go through life dismissing people’s ideas simply because of from whence they come or who they’re phrased?

Well, that’s just missing the point. And it’s you, your ideas, and your goals that suffer.

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