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Don’t Let Others’ Opinions Hold You Back

There’s an important distinction between opinions and criticisms.

Written by Gerard Adams, Entrepreneur Leadership Network

Everyone’s a critic. When you are thinking about starting your own business, some people will probably criticize your ideas before you even begin. This social deterrent prevents tons of would-be entrepreneurs from creating startups.

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to understand the difference between criticism and opinions. Advice from current entrepreneurs can be wide-ranging; some say you should ignore all critics and steam ahead, while others say that criticism is critical to your businesses success.

The truth is that criticism is useful, but not everything you hear is going to be criticism. People are prone to share their opinions on just about everything you might do, but a good part of what they say is going to be their opinion, and nothing more. While opinions can sometimes be useful, they shouldn’t have any place in your entrepreneurial world. If you put too much weight into others’ opinions of yourself and your business, you’ll eventually lose sight of your original vision.

So, how can you sort out the difference between criticism and an opinion? There’s no definitive test, but a criticism generally has the weight of a reason behind it. For example, an opinion might be “I think your business is going to fail.” But, a criticism should be “I think your business is going to fail because . . . ”

What that reason is can be different. It could be because of past experience, or knowledge of the market or a million other things.

Sorting out the difference between criticism and opinions is natural to some, but knowing which is which, and what positive takeaways come from criticism, can also be learned with practice.

Entrepreneurship is about the self, not others.

You’ve likely heard that nobody can tell you how to be yourself. Similarly, nobody can tell you exactly how to be the right entrepreneur for yourself.

So, if nobody can tell you how to be yourself, then why put any stock in opinions?

Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, and the more you experience it, the more you realize that who you are is going to be integral to your entrepreneurial journey. In fact, that’s one of the greatest parts of entrepreneurship. There’s no finish line, just an ever-changing goal that you get to experience. You set the rules, you make the decisions and you get to reap the benefits of hard work.

Those who are quick to give their opinion of what you’re doing should be ignored. If they have any strong opinion about entrepreneurship or how you approach it, then they should apply it to their own lives.

The fact of the matter is that you are different than everyone else. Entrepreneurship is going to be your journey, and the better you understand yourself, the more easily you’ll brush away the opinions of others.

Don’t confuse passion and emotion.

The separation between criticism and opinion is critical if you want to succeed and enjoy your entrepreneurial journey. At the same time, you need to be able to separate passion and emotion.

Passion is the drive that keeps entrepreneurs going. You should be passionate about what you do, and the more passion you put into your business, the better it’s going to be. Passion generates hard work, and hard work generates results.

Emotion, on the other hand, is that sudden gut reaction you get when something happens. If someone says something about your business, you’ll have an emotional response.

While emotion is important, you need to learn when to keep emotion out of play. People who applaud your business will provide a positive emotional experience, and that’s something to enjoy. But, when people attack your business — either from a critical or opinionated standpoint — you need to take care not to respond emotionally.

Where you should try to divorce emotions from opinions, criticism should have an effect on your passion. Genuine criticism isn’t meant to tear your business apart, but to provide perspective or a different idea on whatever you’re working on. By recognizing real obstacles and reacting to them, you can focus your passion and continue moving forward.

Criticism can be positive.

When it comes to finding balance in opinions and criticism, it can definitely be difficult to find out what is actually criticism. This is because criticism can sometimes be incredibly harsh, and that elicits that emotional reaction you want to avoid.

But, even these harsher critiques should be taken into account, especially if the criticism is coming from someone who has entrepreneurial experience. Most people don’t benefit from needlessly bashing your ideas.

The key is to look for the positive aspects of each individual criticism. If someone is critical of the branding you personally came up with, your first reaction might be to take offense since you spent time on the process.

Instead, you should find out what about your branding is wrong in their eyes.

No matter the criticism, or your role in what’s getting criticized, you should be able to learn from it. Each entrepreneur has a different perspective, and perspective can play a huge role in developing a working structure for business.

Also, other entrepreneurs have experience. Even if you opt to ignore their advice, you can likely use their experience at a future time if you’re having trouble with something else.

You need to understand that, while others have their opinions and criticisms of your business, it’s still going to be your business at the end of the day. So, if you’re listening to others, be sure you’re following the right advice.