Thank Your Doubters For Telling You “You Can’t”

4 surprising ways to benefit from naysayers.

When you have a dream, you will have doubters. It’s right up there with death and taxes — probably because nobody has to pay taxes or die for doubting.

These gleeful killjoys shoot us down before we take off. They say “you can’t” when we thought we can. They make us hesitant when we were sure, silly when we were smart.

External doubt feeds self-doubt; the number one dream-killer as shown in studies. Life and success aren’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you perceive and respond to what happens to you. And doubters happen. They happen fast and hard on your unsuspecting dream.

Be ready for them. Better yet, benefit from them. Because, as unthinkable as that sounds, you can.

Here are four ways to give your dreams the benefit of the doubters:

1. Doubters actually care

Don’t hate on those who don’t believe in your dreams, because they might be the very people who love you.

Oftentimes, it is those who are closest to us that have the loudest voice of discouragement. This could be your father, your partner, or your best friend.

Sometimes, even your dearest ones cannot see in you what you can see for yourself. They unwittingly project their own self-limitations on you to “protect” you from the pain of failure. A father who has failed in business may urge his entrepreneurial son to “be realistic” and get a “proper” job with a steady paycheck.

The good news is, they want you to succeed. This gives you a chance to turn them into staunch supporters after their initial resistance.

Stay true to your course while making allowance for their advice. Earn their approval and support by addressing their deepest fears about your endeavor. As you progress toward your goals, you’re helping them disprove their assumptions and undo their own limitations too.

2. Doubters show you where to improve

Put aside the apparent assault on your ego for a moment and consider what your critics are saying.

If you can get over yourself, there’s a lot you can learn there. Take the criticism objectively. Try to find at least one valid point in what they’re saying.

For example, if a headhunter dismisses your aspiration to land a bigger job, she could be 99 percent wrong. The other one percent could be the nugget of insight that will help you. This may be a skill you need, a person whose connection you should make, or better timing to make your move.

The next time you hear others doubting you, find the sliver of truth in their words. Build that into your game plan. You’ll be better for it.

3. Doubters make the best motivation

In his Hall Of Fame speech, Michael Jordan thanked his detractors for the motivation. He credited them for being the driving force behind his legendary work ethic.

Jordan was a fierce competitor. He hardly needed any push during his playing career. Yet he chose to turn his doubters into demons he had to slay to prove his greatness.

They were his best motivational buttons and he mashed those poor buttons like a teenager playing NBA2K.
Hands up those who want to motivate Michael Jordan.

Be careful not to invest emotionally in the critics, for they will drain you. It doesn’t matter whether they were being personal or not, as long as you don’t take it personally. Don’t burn out trying to manage others’ opinions of you.

Know that your skeptics cannot define you, unless you allow them. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Turn their action into a positive, powerful reaction that works in your favor.

The motivation to prove your critics wrong may be exactly what you need to push for greatness.

4. Doubters can become powerful allies

Naysayers are often the byproduct of differences. People can harshly judge ideas or ambitions that are not in line with their own beliefs, opinions, or behavior.

If you can bridge the differences to create win-win relationships, skeptics can become strong allies. They’ve already proven they have a voice and they are unafraid to use it — only this time, in your favor.

In a team setting, you will have to use your communication and people skills to not just win the argument, but to win the sentiment. Sharing your vision and getting others to stand behind it isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth your effort. Creating advocates of your dream can only accelerate your success.

The bigger and more audacious your dream, the more naysayers you will experience. Be like Usain Bolt who said, “To all my doubters, thank you very much because you guys have also pushed me.”


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Thanks for reading. I’m Victor Ng, an executive coach with a passion for writing. Get my free worksheet “Adversity to Advantage” to help reframe challenges and refocus on your goals.

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