I have spent a long time caring what people think. It’s impossible not to be influenced by the opinions of others. And I am not talking about flaky acquaintances who have the time to talk about you, but not to actually have a conversation with you. I am talking about the people that are closest to you, whose opinions you value and listen to.
I am not an indecisive person, neither do I lack conviction. I have faith in my own judgement, but I realise that this often leads me to make mistakes in my personal and professional life. However, it is my philosophy that it is more fruitful to take risks and pay for them, than to refrain and ponder what could have been done. It isn’t always a fantastic strategy, but I wouldn’t change it because the gains are bigger.
In the last few years, I have tried to tone down what can only be described as a ‘boisterous’ personality. The only way I have learned how to do this is by listening, instead of speaking. By taking as much information as I possibly could, I thought that it could help me to refine the person that I wanted to become. In some senses, this was a good thing. It made me into a more reflective person, which is one of the reasons I started writing, and it taught me that everyone has something to say.
Though that is the danger. When everyone has something to say, it is difficult to know when and where to listen. It just becomes noise. The last few months has made me realise that faith in one’s judgement is not enough, but having faith in one’s actions is more important. I made a big decision at the end of this year that has changed the game for me. For better or worse, it made me realise who to listen to and who to stop.
So that is the lesson I am taking into next year. People will talk, it is in their nature. They will advise and critisize, but it is unlikely they will be able to empathise. Back yourself. Know when to listen, but also know when to ignore. Know who to ignore. Remove the people from your life who don’t add value, and make time for those who do – even if you consider them to be close to you.
And one more thing. Tell the world, “Ridicule Me!” and see if you can take what it throws at you. Adversity and critiscism are necessary for us to progress, so don’t fight it. Encourage it. My favourite quote of all time, by Mahatma Gandhi perfects this, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win.”