When I first got into business a nasty hell-bent woman at the end of her career told me I’d never make it unless I could handle disdain. “If you do anything meaningful at all, half the people won’t like you.”

I thought she was old and bitter and I knew the world was better than that. But she was right, mostly.

Learning to deal with that hasn’t been easy.  I’ve been over sensitive, or too callous, depending.  Neither reaction worked out very well.

On a regular basis people tell me they wake up everyday to read my words, they occasionally go on and on about how important something was that I said, how much I helped them, how inspired they were.  Often, I hear about the good they went and did in the world as a result.  I hate to observe this in me however these words mean almost nothing.  I hear the people say it, I can see their lips moving, I understand the sincerity for which they speak but I have no personal association with the sentiment.  I have taken it in now and then but it’s very difficult and often it’s long after they’ve said it.

On a (thankfully!) not as often basis people tell me they wake up everyday to read my words and think they are useless, trite or bullshit.  Even more, they harshly criticize my point of view, discredit what I was saying or completely misunderstand my intent.  I hear what they are saying but this too I don’t really take in.  Occasionally it gets to me but now that I’m sitting at something like 1300 days straight of releasing words here I no longer get stuck in emotion based on other people’s harsh thoughts.

These days I want to let the praise in, I know I’ve earned some of it.  And I want to let some of the feedback in, I know I need it.  My head knows to trust what that old woman said.  My heart still needs to be reminded.

Learning to hold the contrast of these two things is the real work.  It’s how we get better.  As I see the divide in our country, as I see how we speak and treat each other, as I see the extremes of praise or disdain between us, I am again reminded of the incredibly sacred and holy responsibility we all have to practice right speech and right action.

Right Speech Vow

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving-speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering.

Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope.

I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure.

I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord or that can cause the family or community to break.

I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts however small.

~from “The Blooming of a Lotus” by Thich Nhat Hanh