Deb Sofield


It is not the critic who counts.

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“It is not the critic who counts…” You know this phrase as well as you know your name but have you really thought about the truth contained in those seven words that have gone down in history?

The fact is that the world is full of critics whose words don’t count because they don’t know you, your story or your future. And the sad part is that they really don’t care to know you; they find great delight in tearing you down because they need a stepping stone in their quest for significance.

Never be misled by the critics who take such pride in tearing you down and why they do so. It’s not about you per se; it is about them. It’s always about them being seen, being heard and their desperate attempt to be listened to. That is why most critics are very harsh and leave little room for a sliver of light that would show the goodness. Critics prefer the darkness since they know their words could never stand up to the light of day.

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it is that there are critics everywhere spewing opinions that for all intents and purposes mean little to nothing since they are bellowed by people who would rather point out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better instead of applauding those who are actually in the arena, doing the work, creating a life and building a legacy.

Why anyone listens to critics (whether they be family, friends or co-workers) is beyond me to understand, because if you’ve got nothing to say that will add value to my life, or build me up or at the very least encourage me, I’m probably not going to be a good listener. I don’t have the time or energy or desire to waste valuable time listening to someone give me an opinion I didn’t ask for or consider relevant.

And I’ll admit, through my years of business, politics and life, I now base someone’s relevance for me to listen to on three things: their success, their love and their reputation.

Before I talk about those three values that I admire, let me remind you of some great news… you don’t have to listen to the critics. Really. You can turn them off, you can tune them out or walk away because, at this stage in your life, you get to choose who you listen to. So, be wise and wary and watchful of the shouts from the crowd. Remember, most of those voices don’t matter when it comes to you, your family or your future.

If over time you’ve just whispered the phrase, “It is not the critic who counts,” to give you the courage to push past hurtful comments, bad advice or self-serving pronouncements of the critics, I have some good news for you today.

“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.” I will add the rest of the quote at the end, but the power of these words that acknowledge the truth of those who do the work, make the sacrifice, give their all in what they believe, I think needs to be highlighted for all to see.

In your life, you might want to set criteria for those exhortations you will accept or even value from others. I mentioned that in the mix of the qualifications for choosing a friend, some things on my list that I base someone’s relevance to my life show up in three areas: their success, their love and their reputation.

Let me take them in order. Yes, I admit I am drawn to people who are successful. And when I say successful it doesn’t just mean in the financial sense, although that is important. I consider the value of who they are in the work that they do. Success in living a life worth emulating would be a great legacy to leave for others who are doing their best to be their best. You and I know that success doesn’t just come to you–you’ve got to go to it and make it work. I love the Zig Ziglar quote, “Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember the only taste of success some people get, is taking a bite out of you.”

I have found that critics really don’t like successful people. Oh, they talk about them, but it is usually in negative terms. I guess the chatter is to hide the envy they have for someone who has the character of kindness and devotion. How easy it is to be snarky and harsh when someone tries and fails than to encourage them to succeed. In reality, the critic would have never put himself out there to do the work and ultimately will never reap the reward. No, it is much easier to shout from the sidelines than get into the battle of the game.

So go ahead and be successful and hustle until your haters ask if you’re hiring! (I just love that quote, but not sure who said it.)

I also judge someone’s words of wisdom or their crazy chatter by watching to see what they love. I am going to assume a love of family and faith is in place and solid as a rock, so for me to understand the heart of a person, I watch how they treat others. Critics never consider how others are treated or how they feel, so when I am watching someone tell me what they love, I also watch to see their words in action. We all know the phrase that actions speak louder than words, so when a statement is made that is not backed up by actions, I am suspicious. We’ve all been burned by friends or family who said and seemed to do all the right things, only to find out in the end that nothing they said or did was the right, honest or true.

Actions prove who someone is. Words just prove who they want to be.

Knowing what someone loves and how they treat others is perhaps the most telling sign of their character and quality. Critics don’t take the time or make an effort to dig deeply into friendship; they like the surface chatter because they would “never spend their time in a worthy cause” if that cause didn’t enhance them. Once you know what to look for when it comes to watching what someone loves, it becomes apparent where their heart is.

And finally, I consider someone’s reputation when it comes to taking to heart their words of assumed wisdom. I love the quote by George Washington, “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” Just like the critic who will never actually do the work, a lot can be learned by observing the known reputation of those who demand to be heard.

Reputation has been compared to a personal brand that we all have, and that brand is magnified by our actions. Warren Buffett, the sage of Omaha, once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Oh, how I wish the critic would heed that advice and consider the damage five measly minutes could have on them and their reputation, but alas, no one thinks of their reputation until they need it and then, for most, it is not salvageable.

Yes, our reputation is much easier kept than recovered, so be wise when it comes to the decisions you make about who you will give your time and talent to because you never know who is watching.

So as you go through your week, pay attention to those who speak the loudest with the least kindness in their voice, and guard against the criticisms leveled against you by those who don’t know you, your story or your future. Remember, it is not the critic who counts…it never has been, and it never will be.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 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.” Theodore Roosevelt

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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