THICKEN THE SKIN
There\’s a line in the movie Gracie that I love. Gracie is a teenager in the 70s who is competing for a spot on the boy\’s high school varsity soccer team. In one scene, dejected and on the verge of giving up, her mother, played by Elizabeth Shue, tells her, “If you want to limit yourself, that\’s fine. But don\’t let other people do it for you.”
Most of us do an impressive job of impeding our own paths with our detrimental self-talk, minimized confidence, and self-esteem doubts without any help from naysayers. Still, too often we blame those others, not ourselves, for shrinking our dreams, aspirations, and goals. We don\’t realize that sticking someone else\’s critical words or limiting labels to our life potential is our choice.
It\’s easier to let the people who challenge us determine our resolve; easier to relinquish our power to the boss who reviews us, believing somehow what she says we\’re capable of achieving or not achieving is truth, not opinion. And it\’s easier to apply societal headlines that equate money or title or possessions with personal value, than to establish what matters for our own lives.
It\’s true that piercing words, harsh feedback, or demeaning critics can diminish our courage or cause us to change direction. That\’s why in this age of instant messaging, anonymous blog ramblings, and self-appointed “experts,” thick skin is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to be winning at working.
In virtually every work situation you face, there will be thirty percent of people who will like what you do, thirty percent who won\’t like it, and the rest who won\’t care either way. Couple that with those who practice a competitive “I win-you lose” approach or dark side company politics, and thicken your skin even more. As former TV anchor Dan Rather puts it, “A tough lesson in life that one has to learn is that not everybody wishes you well.” That\’s true. Not everyone does.
But people who are winning at working aren\’t trying to please, appease, or pacify those people. Their compass is synchronized with who they are, not who other people think they are or want them to be. When they get well-intentioned feedback, they listen, consider it, learn from it, take what works and throw out the rest. It\’s input. But ill-intended feedback, they ignore.
You see, people who are winning at working have a conviction of purpose that discouraging words, difficult roadblocks, and jealous taunts won\’t deter. They encourage others and themselves to “go for it.” Their dreams are big and their passions even bigger. They\’re out to live their life potential, so they\’re busy doing, achieving, and growing.
Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi remarked, “It\’s time for us all to cheer the doer, the achiever – the one who recognizes the challenges and does something about it.” I couldn\’t agree more.
It\’s about time, I think, to use blogs and text messaging and emails to strengthen each others\’ resolve, celebrate each others\’ successes, and build each other up. It\’s time to help each other be winning at working, so when we\’re all winning we can all win. Then we won\’t need such thick skin.
(c) 2008 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008). Host of “Work Matters with Nan Russell” weekly on webtalkradio.net. Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan\’s “Winning at Working” tips and insights at www.nanrussell.com