It’s graduation season, and for many of you that means another big step in the ever-so gradual transition from dependence to independence. Take a moment to contemplate your achievements. No I’m not being sarcastic, graduating is a big deal. It’s one of those single-serving holidays where you get showered with presents from you family (and booze from your friends) in the name of maturity. It’s like some kind of scholastic Ba(r/t) Mitzvah.
Enjoy it while you can, because your accomplishments have your loved ones contemplating their existence and they are eager to dump some on you. In no time at all, the authority figures in your life will be trying to help you avoid the mistakes they made in their youth. Teachers, distant relatives, friends who graduated last year — they’ve all mastered the art of regret and are determined to find what’s best for you. Probably.
Not that there’s anything wrong with their good intentions. Passing on information in the name of progress isn’t just a noble cause, it’s human nature. But experience is the best teacher and biased opinions can be toxic to that learning process. So in truly ironic fashion, I’ve waded through the tropes and clichés and to help you figure out what’s useful and what’s not.
Without further ado, here’s all the great advice you’re going to be hearing and why it’s complete garbage.
“F*ck the haters.”
Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and haters inevitably hating. That last one in particular has become increasingly apparent in my lifetime. The anonymity of the Internet set free the flying comment section monkeys, flinging their word poo to and fro without fear of repercussions. Some have evolved and shed their masks, building digital empires on their vitriol and smearing themselves in their own self-loathing like fecal war paint. Kids these days — raised on this behavior — are leaking the unmitigated hate into real life at an alarming rate.
It didn’t take long to figure out that acknowledging the hypercriticism in any way only makes the problem worse. No matter how well-worded or well-researched the response, it’s a reaction and that only feeds the machine. Better to ignore them completely. To turn a phrase, if they aren’t saying anything nice, pretend they didn’t say anything at all. It’s an elegant solution, at least until it too worms its way into real life.
Constructive criticism is one of those concepts they teach you in school that’s nice in theory is absolutely useless in real life, like the Pythagorean Theorem or getting good grades. In a perfect world, everyone you meet would wrap their comments in courtesy and send you scuttling into self-improvement with a pat on the back. But this isn’t a perfect world and if you want manners, you’re gonna have to pay for them.
You know who gets hate dumped on them daily? The highly successful. Think they got to where they are by dismissing their detractors? Hells to the no. They’re the ones who figured out how to separate ‘brutal’ from ‘honesty’ and personal from business. They found value in the insults. They rose above the hate by standing on top of it, and so can you.
Real Advice: Every criticism is constructive if you build on it.
I must confess, I’ve been pretty damn good at every job I’ve ever had. Above average at least. And I’ve also been chewed out least once by every boss I’ve ever had, usually because I made a bad call. I could’ve turned around and bitched about it. I could’ve just ignored it. If I tried hard enough, I could probably lawyer the situation into being their fault. But I didn’t.
When someone criticizes you, there are two positive ways to handle it: you can accept what they’re saying is true and resolve to change it, or you can reject it and remember that one day when you’re in their shoes you’re going to handle things differently.