People Pleasing Does Not Lead To Success

I had a shift in perspective last year while publishing my coloring books. It’s made my life much better. I think it’s due to a distinction I picked up from Gary Vaynerchuck.

You see I am what is commonly called a “people pleaser.” I picked up the habit from my childhood environment, and from being the fat kid in school. In order to feel safe, and accepted, I spent a lot of time putting other’s needs before mine. I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with wanting the best for others. However, like anything it can be taken too far. I have often taken it too far in my life, sacrificing my needs and preferences for those of others.

This is not a good trait when you put your work out into the world for the public to see, and pick apart. I have often felt a “drag factor” that comes from trying to make what I put out there pleasing to everyone. Intellectually I know this is a fool’s errand, but emotionally I can’t help but feel attached to the idea. As I mentioned above, I got picked up a distinction from Gary Vaynerchuck that has helped me adjust this self-limiting habit. He has spoken about it many times, but an episode of his “Ask GaryVee” show brought it sharply to mind. It has to do with how Gary deals with haters and critics. Rather than blow them off, or ignore them, he takes in what they have to say and uses the information to improve what he puts out there.

Gary’s way of engaging his detractors was stuck in my head when I put my first coloring book for adults into the world. The first three reviews were a 5 star review (yay!), a 3 star review (okay), and a 1 star review (ouch.) In the “old” days I would have seen the 1 star review and run for a hiding place. This time, I read them. The complaints were basically in two parts. The first were technical complaints. The second was that they basically didn’t like my images. The second part simply did not concern me. If someone doesn’t like what I put out, they have many other options to pick from. The technical points were valid and gave me great tips on what I can improve. I have incorporated those improvements, and I am grateful to have them. Rather than causing me to give up, my negative reviews have improved my craft. This is a whole new world, and I have Gary to thank for the distinction.

As to the people not liking the images themselves, well that’s fair enough. I don’t care for lobster. Lots of people do. All that means is I don’t order lobster at restaurants. No big deal. The chefs don’t care, and I am sure the lobsters are happy to have one less consumer out there. Win-win.

In the past, my approach to try and please everyone resulted in lukewarm results at best. The amount by which some people dislike what you do is roughly equal to the amount that others will like it. You can’t tell if you’ve got a hot product until someone drops it.

The simple fact is everyone has opinions. They have them for reasons. When they express them, they mean at least that. Reading past the surface, all feedback can be useful. For now, I am one of those who values my detractors. They show me things my fans might miss, or might not be willing to say.

Personally, I am looking forward to my next batch of bad reviews.