Expect the Haters

I recently had the opportunity to attend an online entrepreneurial music business workshop. Several presenters gave ideas and suggestions on all aspects of building one’s personal brand, networking, marketing, creating content like podcasts, and finding new students. It was all very helpful. But one session in particular stood out: Jeremy Todd, in his session on “Building a Business Mindset,” said straight out: “Expect the haters.”

Wow. That phrase shocked me: EXPECT the haters. In other words, getting push-back or a lack of encouragement, even from people you love – family or friends – is inevitable.

This is something I wish I had known years ago.

Learning new things as an adult is hard. When we’re young, learning new stuff is a way of life, for everyone. When we’re in school, our classmates are also learning, even if it’s not at the same rate. Based on my own experience, I would argue that most kids do not know how much they have to learn. They don’t yet have an end-goal in sight. Failure may sting, but it’s not particularly risky. We might get a bad grade or embarrass ourselves, but we’re not going to lose our house. However, as adult learners, we have a different perspective. We’re more aware of how far behind we are as beginners and how fast we need to catch up if we’re trying to establish a career. We’re more aware of our personal limitations; we’re more aware of who is already successful; we’re more aware of the cost of learning, in terms of money, time, and effort. It’s stressful.

Venturing out on a new project or working to turn a dream into reality as an adult is even harder. It’s one thing to make the effort to learn a new skill. It’s quite another to take that skill and make it public, whether through a new business, an invention, or a piece of art. What if it fails? The adult life is one full of responsibilities to other people. It could be a family dependent on you to provide food; it could be the bank or a landlord expecting payment. There’s not a lot of room for risk and failure.

It is easier to play it safe.

(This is not a criticism of those who choose not to go on career or creative adventures. I do not think everyone is given an entrepreneurial spirit.)

What happens sometimes is those who want to play it safe may criticize those who start new things. They become the “haters”: those who outright discourage you from trying, tell you it won’t work, demonstrate disinterest, don’t show support, and refuse to lend aid or make an investment, however small. Jeremy Todd says you will get even more push-back from those who are close to you, but it makes sense. He likes to think it comes from a place of love: these people are afraid for you. They don’t want to see you fail. Or, he says, it might come from a place of feeling inferior: their feelings are hurt because they don’t have the talent, inspiration, or motivation to do what you’re doing.

Earlier this week, I read “Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity” by Hugh MacLeod which, incidentally, is probably the best book I have read thus far on creativity, though I am obligated to give a warning about the language. MacLeod takes a very practical look at working and living as a creative individual, which makes this book stand apart from other, also favorite, excellent, but more philosophical books such as “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, or “Walking on Water” by Madeleine L’Engle.

In “Ignore Everybody…”, MacLeod has a different take on “haters.” He says, “Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships. That is why good ideas are always initially resisted.” Wow. It’s not that other people want to control you. They just want things to stay the same – the way they know and expect, an attempt to retain a sense of internal comfort.

This really does help me understand why I should not take things too personally. I have never expected everyone to appreciate my music, but it is enlightening to understand now that some of the worst push-back can come from the people who are the closest. That connection may be precisely why some are so uncomfortable with my new ventures.

I have always liked sharing, and that includes discoveries I make along the way. I admit it is disappointing when those I care about want to stay back rather than join me in the adventure. But at least I now know, despite how it is communicated, that is not a rejection of me but a reflection of where they’re at.

As Hugh MacLeod says, “There’ll be a time in the beginning when you have to press on, alone, without one tenth of the support you probably need. This is normal. This is to be expected.”

Maybe, someday, the haters will change their minds.

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A professional recording of my piece for string orchestra, Daughter of the Stars, is now available. It can be found here.

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