First They Laugh: An Entrepreneurs’ Guide to Rising Above Critics

How to Rise Above Critics

First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you,
then they fight you,
then you win.

– Mahatma Gandhi

I recently had a conversation with an entrepreneur, who discovered that some people were speaking negatively about her business. 

It initially infuriated me – here’s this brilliant woman pouring everything she has into her venture, meeting with success, and yet there are detractors. 

However, once the wave of anger subsided, I realized this was an excellent opportunity to share about this issue – an issue that many of us have had to navigate. 

I remembered a time when I was President of Entrepreneurs’ Organization Los Angeles, and faced similar challenges. 

One of the board members gave me no support when I wanted to host an EO Ohana family retreat for entrepreneurs on Maui. He talked behind my back to other leaders, and even lied, claiming I didn’t have approval for the budget (even though it was approved and documented in the board meeting minutes). He even discouraged other entrepreneurs from attending the retreat. 

I persisted and hosted the retreat, bringing together 200 entrepreneurs and their families from 14 chapters including Japan to Maui. 

It was a huge success. Lifetime friendships were made. Our chapter even won a regional award. To this day, people still talk about the event. See video of our event here.

This reminds me of a powerful quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…

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.

Like Roosevelt suggests, the people who criticize are often not the ones ‘in the arena’. It’s those of us daring to act, to create, to strive, who truly count.

Negativity often comes a place of insecurity, jealousy or misunderstanding. 

So, how do we deal with such situations?

I recommend reading ‘How to Fight’ by Thich Nhat Hanh, a book that teaches us how to transform our anger and hurt through mindfulness. 

Another suggestion is Tara Brach’s RAIN practice, a mindfulness tool that helps us

Recognize,
Allow,
Investigate, and
Nurture our emotions. 

Lastly, we can practice sending metta – loving-friendliness – to ourselves and even to those who hurt us.

Please find a worksheet that guides you through these practices. It includes questions for reflection and space for writing your thoughts. I hope it will serve as a useful tool as you navigate these challenging situations.

Don’t succumb to gossip or be judgemental.

Find the universal truth we share:

Everyone wants to be happy.
Everyone wants to be healthy.
Everyone just wants to feel safe.

I leave you with this – don’t let the naysayers make you hide you in the shadows. 

Whether it’s getting a bad review on Yelp, or Glass Door, or gossip, just keep going.

You are brave, you are strong, and you are worthy. 

Share your experiences with others and learn from them.

How do you deal with haters? 

I encourage you to share your stories, your thoughts, and your wisdom.

Remember, it’s through shared experiences that we grow stronger together.

In the immortal words of Taylor Swift & Theodore Roosevelt:

Shake it off and stay in the arena,

Kalika Yap
Founder, Citrus Studios