How To Endure Criticism and Build Your Resilience in Your First Year as an Entrepreneur

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Years ago, I posted an update on social media: “I just got my first raise!” It was a big deal for me, and I was pleased to see dozens of comments and likes from people telling me how awesome that was.

Sometime after that, I posted another, more important update: “I’m going to become an entrepreneur and start my own business!” But I was shocked (and more than a little sad) to see almost no one leave any positive comments or encouragement.

When I first decided to become an entrepreneur and work for myself, I was surprised at how negative people were. I distinctly remember driving in the car with my family one day when I told them I wanted to start a coaching business. Their response? A lecture about why that was a bad idea. They told me it’d be hard, risky, and that I’d probably be better off getting a “real” job.

It was discouraging, even humiliating – it felt like I had just admitted I believed the Earth was flat, and they were trying to gently explain, without being too offensive, that I was a stupid moron for believing that.

The truth is, becoming an entrepreneur is tough…but finding people who support you in your decision is often even tougher. As Bette Midler once said, “The worst part of success is to try to find someone who is happy for you.” 

But if you want to become a world-class entrepreneur, making six or seven figures, helping millions of people around the world with your message, you need to learn how to endure criticism and build resilience in your first year. Here’s how.

Don’t Run From Criticism, Embrace It. Turn It Into Fuel So You Can Get Where You Want To Go.

Most people run from criticism. They hate hearing it. Sadly, this is precisely why they probably won’t get any better and achieve their biggest goals.

In their mind, if they’re bad at something, it means they’re bad. That thought is too much to bear, so most people run towards praise, acceptance, and affirmation – even if it’s empty and fake.

But if you can learn how to use criticism to become a better entrepreneur, you can have things 99 percent of other entrepreneurs can’t. See, you actually need criticism to become better – you just need to learn how to turn it into fuel. As Ryan Holiday wrote, “Bad things are fuel. You don’t just want fuel – you need it. You can’t go anywhere without it.”

That starts with reframing your mindset, focusing on data and facts, not feelings. It’s not personal, it’s business. 

An old business mentor of mine wanted to be a better speaker. So he had his business partner come watch him give a speech at a conference. 

After his speech, his partner gave him some blunt feedback: He was terrible! He spoke too quickly, he mumbled, he totally messed up his sales pitch, and his thoughts were unorganized. 

While others might’ve been defensive or embarrassed, my mentor was grateful. He knew it wasn’t personal – it was business. He was learning what he needed to learn. If he wanted to succeed, he needed to know the truth. And the truth was, he was a bad public speaker. But he used his criticism as fuel to become better. 

A couple of years later, he was getting paid thousands of dollars to give a single keynote speech, making a ton of money as a speaker.

Use your criticism as fuel and you’ll get where you want to go.

Criticism is really helpful when it comes from the right people and when you know how to use it. 

See, you actually want critics. In some ways, they’re one of your most important assets because they’re the only ones who are going to be 100 percent straight with you – no fluff, no coddling. If your idea sucks, they’re going to tell you. And you need all the truth and reliable information you can get if you want to make it in the long run.

Criticism is really hard to hear. One of the worst feelings in the world is getting criticized for doing something you truly believe in, like what happened during that car ride with my family. Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart because if you do it right, you’re going to get a lot of criticism for your ideas, choices, and lifestyle.

But while most people run from criticism, be the one who actually embraces it, learning from those who can guide you and help you avoid the mistakes everyone else makes.

Criticism is easier to endure when you’re actually using it to be smarter, savvier, and more focused.

woman sitting at an outdoor desk

If You Want To Build Unbreakable Resilience, Prepare To Be Alone For a Little While

Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer. It should be nurtured continuously. Josh Waitzkin, world-champion chess grandmaster

Every hero’s journey includes a test where the hero has to discover their talent alone while the universe tries to prevent them from changing.

If the heroes stick with it and learn their lesson, they pass the test and get to enjoy the rewards of their new identity. But they don’t learn their lesson, the process spits them back out until they finally get it. 

This is the structure of entrepreneurship: Learn from the process, or get spit out. As Robert Kiyosaki once wrote, “The process is testing you as well as teaching you. If you pass the test and learn the lessons, you get to go on to your next process. If you fail a test and quit rather than retake the test, the process spits you out.”

If you want to survive this process, you need to develop unbreakable resilience. And the best way to do that is to spend some time alone for a while.

If you’ve chosen to become an entrepreneur, you’re a hero. You’re already on the hero’s journey. And like every great hero, you need to spend time alone figuring out who you are and what you stand for. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck forever. 

The reason you need to be alone to build resiliency is because entrepreneurship is a lonely road. Sometimes, you’re all you have. Customers, sponsors, business partners, fans, colleagues – all these people can leave you in a flash. If you don’t have a rock-hard identity and drive to fall back on, the obstacles of your journey might be too much.

Of course, you need to build an inner circle of mentors, supporters, and loved ones who will help you when you’re struggling. No one makes it alone. I wouldn’t be the six-figure entrepreneur I am today without my wife, friends, and loved ones. But if you want to build unbreakable resilience, you need to be alone for a time so you can figure out who you are and pass the test every hero must pass.

For me, I needed to leave my comfortable little community of eager yet clueless bloggers who were more interested in complaining than actually working. These were my friends, classmates, and other bloggers I’d met online. The problem was, none of us had “made it,” no one had any kind of actual success. We all just hung out, complaining about how hard blogging was and why the popular bloggers were sell-outs.

I was sick and tired of feeling like a failure all the time. So I made the hard choice to cut these negative people out of my life and focused solely on my craft. 

I started writing every day, studying my writing like a composer studies music. It was hard. It was lonely. I missed having people to talk shop with, to commiserate with. Consistency will make you feel like a loser, especially in the beginning.

But in just a few months of really taking myself seriously, being alone, and figuring out who I was, I saw more success than ever before. I learned lessons I wasn’t able to learn before. I passed the test, and my writing success exploded. In less than a year, I’d gained a signed book deal, over a million readers, and 100 times more income than ever before. I also found my true friends, the ones who have stuck around for many years. 

After years of being an entrepreneur, I can tell you that success goes up and down. I’ve had to rely on my resiliency to get me through angry customers, scam artists, mean comments, condescending editors, and public humiliation.

If you want to survive, you need to build some serious resiliency.

man sitting on a train track

In Conclusion 

Only one in four businesses make it in the long run. The first year is an extremely hard time for entrepreneurs and new business owners. 

It’s even harder when it feels like all around you, people are criticizing you and your life choices. If you don’t learn how to use criticism as fuel and build unbreakable resiliency, you probably won’t make it as an entrepreneur.

Fortunately, those are two skills you can start learning immediately. When you use criticism as fuel, you can reach far bigger goals than if you never had any fuel at all. Embrace criticism – it can take you where you want to go.

Spend time alone, passing the test every hero needs to pass. Figure out who you are and what you stand for. Then, when the storms come, you’ll have your rock-hard identity to fall back on, no matter what may come.

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