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Seth Godin on Dealing With Critics and Rejection

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Contrary to popular belief, your business is not "just business," it's personal. I'm not saying anything that you're not already feeling or thinking, am I?

Is there anything more personal than your work? Your money, your blood, sweat and tears? Your time away from those you love?

We are not robots, we are humans -- at least most of us. We need to bring (more) humanity back into our work and business, don't we?

In his new book (Portfolio, 2013), Seth Godin is spot on with his analysis. He refers to courageous people who take things personally and do work that matters as artists. He says:

"Art is frightening. Art isn't pretty. Art isn't painting. Art isn't something you hang on the wall. Art is what we do when we're truly alive. An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it (all of it, the work, the process, the feedback from those we seek to connect with) personally."

If you're like me you've probably felt the sting of rejection a couple of (thousand) times. I don't care how thick you say your skin is, rejection can take it's toll on you and cause you to get stuck or give up. So maybe avoiding it or "not taking it personally" all these years is your defense mechanism? I get it. But we might need to reframe our perspective.

Related: Lessons from Seth Godin on Embracing Uncertainty

Godin's thoughts on this are helpful. First, on avoiding rejection he says:

"Change is powerful, but change always comes with the possibility of failure as its partner. 'This might not work' isn't merely something to be tolerated; it's something you must seek out."

If your new business plan disrupts an industry or pisses a lot of people off, there's a good chance you're on to something good. You should worry more when nobody's talking.

Godin points out that critics and those in power use shame to keep innovators at bay:

"Fear of shame is a powerful tool to modify behavior, and those in power have been using it for years. They want to be able to change us by delivering shame and we've been taught to listen it I, believe it, and swallow it.

It's fine to acknowledge that there are those who will seek to shame you. But that doesn't mean you have to accept what’s given. We don't work for the applause, and we'd be foolish to read the anonymous comments on Amazon or the tweets coming from the back of the room. That attempt to quiet you down and make you conform doesn't belong to you unless you want it to."

Related: Marketing Wizard Seth Godin on Success and Inspiration

The tricky part of what Godin is saying is that understanding how to be more vulnerable and exposed without feeling shame when critics hurl darts at you. It is the secret to both dealing with rejection and unlocking your ability to do amazing things. He says:

"But if we allow shame to be part of our vulnerability, we allow it to destroy our work. It's impossible to do art with stakes that high. You can't say, 'If it works, fine, but if it fails, I'm shamed.' The only way to be successfully vulnerable is to separate the results of your art from your instinct to feel shamed. And that's possible, because while someone can attempt to shame you, shame must also be accepted to be effected. We can't make you feel shame without your participation.

The artist, then, combines courage with a fierce willingness to refuse to accept shame. Blame, sure. Shame never. Where is the shame in using our best intent to make art for those we are care about?"

Is this personal?

You bet it is. And that's a good thing.