If You Really Want to Be a Better Marketer, Stop Complaining
Here’s how and why it’s the most important habit to propel your growth
It seems like 97% of us have an addiction. No, not Netflix. It’s way more consuming. I know, how does that work, right? But it is. It’s debilitating and it’s standing in the way of our growth.
Want to know what it is? Complaining.
What do you do when you don’t get enough sleep? When the barista at Starbucks makes your drink wrong for the third time in three weeks? When someone heated up fish in the microwave at work and now the office smells? When there is a wreck and traffic is now unexpectedly longer than you expected? When your spouse, roommate, partner, or family member talks too much when you get home?
If you’re like me, you grumble. You complain. We all do it. It’s addicting. And it’s killing us.
We live in the age of social media, personal customization, fast food, and one-day deliveries. Everything is geared towards what makes us happy as we do as much as we can to desperately cover up the ugly truth that life is hard. So, when we have encounters with the messy, broken realities of life, we revert to our favorite solution: complaining.
But life is hard. Things don’t go according to plan. We can’t bank on perfection as the solution to our complaining. That’s the track we’ve been striving for. But to be honest, our expectations nor our complaints have never been higher.
If we actually want to want to grow into better leaders, better marketers, better friends, better spouses, and better humans, we’ve got to address this addiction. If we don’t, we’ll wake up one day, 73 years old, having lived through what could have potentially been an incredible life and realize that we never really knew what it meant to be satisfied.
Open Doors Don’t Always Stay Open
We live in an age where our dreams are growing bigger and bigger, and yet for many of us, our desire to face difficult things is diminishing. It’s as if life should be getting easier AND we should be able to accomplish more than ever before. That math doesn’t work.
I recently read this short exposition on the dangers of complaining from a young woman who runs a business in Miami, FL. When I read her words, I instantly knew this was something I needed to really think on in my own life. Look at what she says:
“When your dreams get bigger, the weight of responsibility does too. If you aren’t careful, you’ll find yourself complaining about things you once asked for.
Complaining isn’t harmless, it’s addictive and a thief that steals strength. What we need is gratitude.
Gratitude for the added pressures that come with influence.
Gratitude for the stretch in the unknown that forces growth.
Gratitude for the chaotic hustle that happens in seasons of unexpected blessing and opportunity.
I have caught myself saying “if I can just get through this week” in busy moments. When I pause, I realize I don’t want to just get through it! I asked for this and I won’t let the pressure force me to feel overwhelmed or unprepared.
I want to have a heart overflowing with gratitude that realizes it’s a miracle that week’s like this even exist, that dreams are slowly coming to fruition and progress is being made daily!
Open doors don’t stay open when you start resenting them for the responsibility they bring to your life.
Sometimes we don’t need less on our plate, we need to make the choice to enjoy the stretch. Crush that path before you and do it with an attitude of gratitude!”
Inspiring. Haunting. Hurtful and helpful all at the same time.
So if we’re on board to work to stop complaining, how can we all start to make this change? How can we become better marketers?
How to Stop Complaining
Like breaking or forming any new habit, if I want to stop complaining, I need to be motivated. It’s not just enough to say, “I want to be better.” That argument doesn’t hold water to my powerful need to complain when the driver in front of me is playing on their phone, so I miss the turn signal that takes forever to cycle back around, causing me to be a few minutes late to my work meeting. I need a strong motivation to overcome that desire to complain.
No, if I am going to uproot this addiction, it’s going to take purposeful steps and small acts of willpower. It’s going to be a war, not just a battle. It’s a long string of adding up more victories than defeats. To be honest, it will be hard. But it is possible.
Let’s look at three strategies we can all take to stop complaining.
1. Speak Slower (If at All)
True complaining needs an audience. There is a form of complaining that is just in your head. That is called negative self-talk, and we’re not addressing that in this article. Have you noticed that the amount we complain often hinges on who is listening? Complainers like to surround themselves with other complainers because complaining is cyclical. It’s the ultimate sport of one-upping. “Oh ya, you’re barista got your drink wrong? Well, I bet you didn’t have to sit in an hour and a half of traffic.” We’ve all been there.
So here’s the first step towards shattering your expectations, propelling your growth, and changing the direction of your life. Speak slower. In fact, maybe don’t speak at all.
What is the harm in speaking slower? Slower speakers often exhibit more wisdom, are better listeners, and don’t end up saying things they regret. What is the benefit of speaking fast (unless you’re an auctioneer)? Not much.
When you speak slower, you have more opportunity to think through this question, “Is what I’m about to say helpful or is it negative?”
If it’s not helpful, don’t say it.
If you want to take a step towards being a better marketer, start by speaking slower.
2. Choose Opportunity Over Inconvenience
You know that feeling you get when your boss asks you to draft up that email you hate writing? Or your company agrees to partner with that client you just can’t stand? Or maybe you were on your way to an important meeting for a potential sale and you blow a tire or get in a minor fender bender? What is that feeling?
That’s one way to see it. But what if I told you there is another way to view these situations?
This isn’t hype or some Aladdin-genie make all your dreams come true daydream. Situations can still be hard and frustrating. But just because something is frustrating doesn’t mean we have to complain.
If you want to be a Better Marketer, when you feel yourself getting frustrated at a situation or circumstance, ask yourself this question: “What opportunity for good can come from this?”
You’ll be shocked at how life surprises you if you approach frustrations with this mindset. That email you hate writing could be the exact practice you need for the time down the road when you’re running your own company and need to know how to communicate effectively. That annoying client could be a learning lesson on how to win hard clients to your side.
This isn’t just optimism that is blind to the difficulties of life. It’s seeking out opportunities for good within the difficulties that we encounter.
3. Frame Your Perspective
This next step is crucial but tricky. So, I want to be delicate here because while this step is helpful when practiced correctly, it could be hurtful if taken out of context.
One of the best ways to reduce complaining in your life and leadership, to become a Better Marketer and a Better Human, is to frame your perspective and remember that things could likely be worse. I don’t want to make light of anyone’s situation because I know that I can’t even begin to do justice to some of the things you are walking through. This is not a Band-Aid or an excuse for some of the real, terrible difficulties of life. But let me give you an example so that you know what I’m talking about.
I work as an executive assistant, and I often find that a lot of my complaints can be around my day-to-day job. I have to work hard to be slow to speak, to choose to see opportunity instead of inconvenience, and to practice gratitude. My wife works as a Pediatric ICU nurse at a children’s hospital. If you were to compare the stresses of our two jobs, they aren’t even in the same universe.
I have to deal with the possibilities of an email coming back with a little more hostility than I was expecting. She has to deal with a young child potentially dying from an uncontrollable and untreatable disease. I see frustrated co-workers, she soothes parents who can’t fathom what life will look like without their youngest son. See what I mean? Not even comparable.
So when I come home after work and start complaining to my wife about something that happened at work, every once in a while, she’ll gently look at me and say, “I hear you, but remember, you didn’t have to zip a kid up in a body bag today.” With my heart in my throat, I nod and slowly back down from whatever I was about to complain about. I frame my perspective.
Complaining often draws us as deep as possible into our own world. Complaining is akin to the blinders put on horses to keep them running in a straight line. Complaining hones our focus on me and my situation. If we pick our heads up, we’ll often realize that compared to many other situations in the world, there is less to complain about than we originally thought.
The Mark of a Better Marketer: Gratitude
We have three tangibles. To stop complaining, we can speak slower, choose opportunity over inconvenience, and frame our perspective. Each of these is helpful, practical steps, but alone, they aren’t strong enough to overcome our inclination towards complaining.
To truly become Better Marketers, to conquer our addiction to complaining, we must put into practice our greatest tool: gratitude. Like the exposition from the Miami Business Leader said:
“Complaining isn’t harmless, it’s addictive and a thief that steals strength. What we need is gratitude.”
Gratitude looks good on everybody. Gratitude looks good on the CEO and the intern. Gratitude fits for parents and for children, for the supreme court judge and the freshman in college. Gratitude is a great practice for the writer and the reader, the seller and the buyer, the marketer, and the consumer. Good gratitude is never out of place. It’s never hurtful — it's empowering. It’s less about what is happening to you and more about who you are.
Most of us want to continue to grow and take the next steps in life. If we are to move forward, difficulties will lie in our way. If we are to rise above and over these circumstances, gratitude must be our guide. Complaining is always void of lasting satisfaction.
Gratitude is the great secret of the Better Marketer.