Forget vultures. Don't let the idiots get you down.

Ever get discouraged by others’ criticism of your performance, motivations, even your fundamental character? Well, take heart: Even the greatest and most admired people in history, as they were achieving astounding feats, were the subject of criticism from rivals and small-minded observers. That’s not to say we should ignore criticism. Complaints should always be checked for valid feedback, and we always have room to improve. But sometimes the criticism is just plain wrong, motivated by incorrect thinking or conclusions or by jealousy and pettiness.

Either way, we should try never to let ourselves feel beaten down – everyone gets criticized.

Consider these criticisms of none other than the father of our country, George Washington, leveled at him even as he led American forces in the Revolution (I got these from Washington by Ron Chernow, a terrific biography).

Washington, as Commander-in-Chief of the American Army, led a force of irregular (as in not regular army), starving, insufficiently clothed and sheltered, and only occasionally paid men against the greatest power on the face of the Earth, and won. Yet, even as he fought to overcome all those challenges AND the British armed forces, Washington was the target of rear attacks from his top generals and his compatriots:

  • “Thousands of lives and millions of property are yearly sacrificed to the insufficiency of our Commander-in-Chief.” - Pennsylvania Attorney General Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant
  • “The commencement of [Washington’s] command was the commencement of inactivity.” - Thomas Paine
  • “An indecisive mind is one of the greatest misfortunes that can befall an army.” – Joseph Reed, Washington aide
  • “He is the most amiable, obliging, and civil man but, as a general, he is too slow, even indolent, much too weak, and is not without his portion of vanity and presumption.” – French army officer Baron Johann de Kalb
  • “As to his talents for the command of an army, they were miserable indeed.” - French Brigadier General Thomas Conway.
  • “Heaven has been determined to save your country, or a weak general and bad councilors would have ruined it.” – Conway

I’m sure Washington had his faults. But we all know that there are many reasons people are criticized, and as often as not, it is not because the criticism is valid.

So next time you hear criticism of your performance, motives or character, look closely at it for potential truths and opportunities to improve. And if there aren’t any, then to heck with them.