Do what you feel in your heart is right, for you will be criticized anyway.
Criticism is prejudice made plausible.
To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
In criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with a friend or foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me.
Edgar Allan Poe
You can’t operate a company by fear, because the way to eliminate fear is to avoid criticism. And the way to avoid criticism is to do nothing.
I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.
A critic is a man who knows the way but can’t drive the car.
Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, if they could. They have tried their talents at one thing or another and have failed; therefore they turn critic.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things.
Criticism (as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary):
1. The art of criticizing, especially adversely.
Critics (as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary):
1. One who forms and expresses judgments of the merits,
faults, value, or truth of a matter.
2. One who tends to make harsh or carping judgments; a fault finder.
Type of Criticism
There are many types of criticism: criticism you give and criticism you get. Criticism can be constructive, understandable, natural—or hurtful.
Criticism is very damaging when it concerns who someone is, not what they do. When you give criticism, you must always keep in mind that many people can’t separate what they do from what they are, and may not take your criticism in a constructive manner. If this is the case, you will become a target for them and lose any respect they may have had for you. If you give criticism, it should be constructive in nature—or just keep your mouth shut. You must always think about how you would feel if you were approached in the same way with the same comments. However, don’t be afraid to give constructive criticism, as this is always the best advice that can be given to someone. First, ask if they would be interested in hearing your constructive criticism. If they say no, then don’t worry about it, as they wouldn’t listen to you anyway. If they say yes, then pour it on them—but be constructive.
Know It All
I have seen many coaches offer help to lifters in competitions, gyms, clubs, by email and telephone, only to end up irritating the athletes. The athletes become irritated because of the coaches’ approach. Many athletes spend thousands of hours preparing the methods they use and don’t take kindly to being told that everything they’re doing is wrong. Through trial and error they’ve come up with a program and may not be interested in what you have to say. I was exactly the same way. I had 15 years of training under my belt and thought I had it all figured out. I also had many other teachers and coaches try to steer me to other ways of training, but all they ever did was piss me off. I might have listened if they had more than just an education background and more to offer than telling me that everything I was doing was wrong. How could everything be wrong when I had been using it for over 15 years and was a hell of a lot stronger than they were? The methods I was using were also supported by the research I was reading. When they could lift what I could then maybe I would listen. I thought I knew it all. What I did not know is that they all had something to offer. They just could not find the best way to communicate it to me.
Big Squat Record
One day, a powerlifting coach (Louie Simmons) walked up to me at the Toledo Hall of Fame Powerlifting Championships and asked, “Would you like to hear some advice?” Since I had just badly missed my second-attempt squat, I decided to listen. I knew of Louie from the lifters he had trained and his own accomplishments in the sport of powerlifting. Louie took a few minutes to show me how to expand and push my abdominal muscles against my belt when I squatted, and then told me he would back spot me just to make sure I remembered. When I unracked the same weight that minutes ago I couldn’t even stand up with, I heard Louie talk me through the lift by yelling, “Use your belt! Hold your air!” I could not believe the difference this made, as I squatted the weight without any problem and felt like I could have squatted 50 pounds more!
Afterward, Louie asked me if I would like more advice. I said yes, and over the next few years everything I thought I knew about training changed. This change may not have happened had Louie approached me and said, “Hey your form sucks and so does your training.” He knew that there is a very delicate balance between helping and upsetting, and decided to take the path that was best for me. When you choose the path that is best for the other party, success is achieved for both parties. Critics choose the path that is only best for them. They are only concerned with what will make them look better. They feel the best way for them to look better is to make others look bad. This is the way of the critic.
How I Look
I do not look like your normal small-business owner. I have a shaved head, goatee, and weigh close to 300 pounds, with body fat around 12%. I spend a very large part of my life in a weight room. In many ways you can say I grew up in a weight room. Since my junior year in high school I’ve been judged by the way I look. It began as “the dumb jock” and grew throughout the years to a newer, higher standard—“the dumb powerlifter.” The bigger you get, the more stares you get, and you even be- gin to think this is kind of cool. Part of me has always wanted to become the biggest freak I could so when I walked down the street, people would stop and think, “Damn, that guy is a freak!” I have never really cared about how people perceived the way I look, but now, as a small-business owner, there are many ways this can work for and against me. For example, when I’m in a business meeting, I find I have to work harder to break free of the first impression others have of me. I have also found that when you’re a lifter, you’re also very confident and carry yourself differently, and this demands attention without your having to say anything. It is what you do with this attention that can make or break you. Why do I bring this up? I have learned over the years never to judge people by the way they look. When you are the victim, you see things in a different light. Have you ever noticed that when you shop in retail stores it’s always the properly dressed sales reps that seem to blow you off and have an attitude? If you have, then you’ve probably also noticed that those who may look “different” always seem to give great service. I have received some of the best service from clerks that look like they’re dressed for Halloween year round, with a zillion piercings, more tattoos than I could count, and wild-color hair.
How Do You Feel?
Do not judge people based on how they look. You have to do your best to get past this. The value of a person runs much deeper than how they look. If you find you can’t get past it, and do not like them because of it, then get over it and move on. You don’t have to speak to anyone, and can choose who you want and don’t want to do business with. Let’s face it: If this is how you really feel, then they probably wouldn’t what to be around you either. I know many of you are now ask- ing, “What do you mean? What’s wrong with me?” I’m sorry, I forgot—you’re perfect and everyone should be based on your standards. You are the exception to all rules and should be the model example for humankind. You have never and will never do wrong or make mistakes. You, my friend, are perfect. So how does it feel to be judged without my knowing who you really are?
Shortly after I began powerlifting, at the young age of 14, I began to experience hurtful criticism firsthand. I write “hurtful” not because of the way it made me feel but for the way it was intended to make me feel. Only you can decide how you’ll feel about what someone says to your face, behind your back, and now, in the digital age, behind their keyboard. Was I criticized before the age of 14? Yes, of course I was, but I didn’t care as much because it was about things I really didn’t care about in the first place, as you will see later in this chapter. I was called a slow learner, stupid, the list goes on and on, but it didn’t make me as upset as being criticized for something I loved to do. I don’t know many people who really care about being criticized for something they suck at in the first place. Ask me to paint you a picture, and guess what? It will suck and you can tell me so—because I don’t care. Now criticize a 14-year-old’s dedication to powerlifting and start rumors ranging from lying about the weights he lifts to drug use and you’ll find one pissed-off kid. Over the years, I have gotten much stronger, my lifts have all gone way up, my ranking has gone up, I have become much smarter, and have had great success in all areas of my life. As I have grown as a person, so has the criticism. Criticism has been there through the good times and the bad. When you’re striving for success, it will always be there. There’s just no way around it. The key is to know what and whom to listen to and avoid all the rest.
As mentioned before, I was criticized (or made fun of ) through- out my entire preschool and middle-school years. I was labeled in my early school years as a “slow learner” or, as they called it back then, someone with a “learning disability.” As with most kids, I can’t remember everything about my preschool years, but I do remember this:
• I remember having a huge picture of a clock on my desk, with the hour and minute hands pointing to the exact time I had to leave the classroom to see my tutor. I hated this clock picture. I was the only one in the room that had this plastered on his desk. The only good part was that I got to leave and go to a very small, private room and work with flash cards. When I did a good job, I would get a cool stick- er to put on my shirt, and if I did a really good job, I would get candy as a reward.
• I remember being made fun of on the playground for being stupid and always being picked close to last for all the team activities.
• I remember great sunny days at the local swimming pool with my friends and having to leave early to go see my special-education teacher.
• I remember having to take special classes through middle school and wondering why all my neighborhood friends were in more advanced classes.
• I remember all my high school friends being tracked for college-prep classes while I was taking classes such as earth science, basic reading, business math, etc.
• I remember being told I would not be able to handle those other classes.
• I remember being told my GPA would not be high enough to graduate high school and that I may have to take summer classes.
• I remember the way 90% of the teachers and administration treated me. If it were not for football, the other 10% would have also treated me the same way—like a moron.
• I remember taking freshman college-prep classes as a senior in an attempt to get into college.
• I remember being turned down by every college I applied to except for one very small business university in Tiffin, Ohio.
• I remember spending my entire first year in college taking classes that were not for credit. These classes were to make up all the classes I should have taken in high school, including algebra, English, biology, speaking, and history.
• I remember passing all my classes and being around people who didn’t know I was supposed to be stupid. I began to believe that maybe I wasn’t a slow learner and actually had a chance to learn something.
• I remember leaving the small business university to attend- ed Bowling Green State University.
• I remember flunking out of BGSU after my first quarter. I failed all my classes except for one D in earth science. I guess it was a good thing I had taken this in high school.
• I remember going back home for the spring thinking about what I had been told my whole life— “You’re not college material.”
You may be asking, “Why are you telling me all this?” Why would you expose your past in such a negative way? I didn’t have a bad childhood. I grew up in a strong middle-class family that cared and still does care very much for one another. I grew up with very strong family values. My parents did a very good job raising my two brothers, sister, and me to be strong, independent adults who knew the difference between right and wrong. If I can be as good a parent to my kids as they were to me, then I know I’ll be very successful. My parents had their work cut out for them, as they had been told my entire childhood that their son was “slow,” had “attention deficient disorder,” and many other things. As a parent, what are you to do? They did the best they could do. They hired help, worked with me when ever they could, and hoped for the best. The truth finally came to a head in the parking lot of my old high school weight room. I was home from college for the spring. I would have rather stayed at Bowling Green, but as you remember—I didn’t really have a choice. I was trying to find a job at the time and had given up on the whole college thing. My parents were pressuring me to go back, but I had had enough of it. I was not a smart kid and college was not for me. I figured I could just stay in town and find a nice factory job that paid well. As with most other times in my life, I was training for an upcoming powerlifting competition and thought I would go back to the old high school weight room for a training session. It had been a year and a half since I had been there, and I needed a change of pace from the gym I was training at. My brother was a junior at the time and was conditioning for the following football season. He had a train- ing session with the team, making it easy for me to gain access to the weight room. After my training session I made my way back to my car to get a bottle of Gatorade I had bought on the way to the school. As I leaned against the car I saw one of my old coaches walk out the gym doors and head my way.
Bill Shoop was one of my football coaches in junior high school. I always liked coach Scoop because he was also a weightlifter and would always run around yelling out intense things like, “Rip or be ripped!” He was a very intense coach and very passionate when it came to helping us be our best. I loved his coaching style and how he could get the team fired up. Unlike other coaches, he didn’t try and take the limelight and gave every kid all he had. If you were a starter you got his best; if you were a bench warmer, you got his best. His best was all he had to give, and he gave it to everyone. He would always tell me about how he just bench pressed some huge weight for multiple reps earlier in the day. I shared the same passion for training and always made it a goal to be stronger than him some day. This kept me training hard in the weight room, and during my senior year I did become stronger than him.
Coach Shoop didn’t see you for what you were but for what you could be. I didn’t really understand what this would mean for me personally until years later, drinking that Gatorade outside my high school weight room. I was leaning back against my car sucking down a bottle when Coach walked toward me. He asked how I was doing, and I went into a long dialogue about how I was training for an upcoming meet and how my squat had really taken off over the past year. I told him about all the training research I had been looking into and what things I had applied with success and what things did not work out so well. I let him in on a few bench pressing tips I had picked up over the past year and how, if he used a few of them, he might be able to get his bench press to go up 30 or 40 pounds.
Do You Want to Know What I Think?
We spoke training for the next five or 10 minutes, and then he asked me how school was going. I guess he didn’t know what had happened, and I had enough respect for him to tell him the truth. I told him how I went to Tiffin for a year and then
￼transferred to BGSU and flunked all but one of my classes and was asked to sit out a semester. He went on to ask me if I was going back in the summer or fall. I told him that I didn’t plan on going back and that college was not made for people like me. About this time he leaned back against his truck that was parked next to mine and asked me one question I will never forget.
“Dave, do you want to know what I think?”
What was I supposed to say? Here was a guy I had respected since the day I met him. I respected him enough to just spend 10 minutes telling him all my training secrets. He looked me in the face and said:
“Dave, you are not stupid, you have never been stupid—you’re just lazy and do not care.”
I didn’t know what to think. I’m lazy! What is he talking about? I bust my ass in the weight room every day. I’m not some bum who stays home watching TV and eating chips all day. I do not care! I care more about my training than anything else. I eat clean, don’t smoke, don’t drink, and will not do anything that could hurt my training results in any way. I think he could tell my frustration as he went on.
“Look, I understand you’ve been tracked and labeled your en- tire life as being a slow learner. The school systems have a way of placing people in different career tracks and only go on what they feel is best for the kid. There are a few ways to be tracked, including business, shop, college prep, and ‘just graduate.’ Have you ever considered they may have been wrong?”
“Look, I see what you’re saying,” I replied, “but I’ve never been good at school since day one.” I then went on to share some of the stories listed earlier in my “I remember” list. The difference was that he couldn’t care less about what I was saying and actually told me:
“Dave, excuses are like assholes and they all stink.”
You Do Not Care Enough to Try
This statement drove the point home. He went on to tell me how I had just spent 10 minutes telling him very detailed train- ing information I had collected from books and journals. I had found the information, read the information, retained the in- formation, and then applied the information. He told me that I already had all the skills I needed—I just wasn’t using them for my other courses of study. If I placed half the effort into my classes as I did my training, then I would be an “A” student. It all came down to the fact that I did not care enough and was too lazy to try. He told me that I might have to work twice as hard as the next guy to get the same results, but that was my reality—which nobody cares about. Nobody cares how hard it will be for you; they only care about the end result.
The Long Drive
After we finished speaking I got into my car and drove around for the next hour thinking about the things he said. Was he right? Was I just lazy? I knew I didn’t care because I skipped most of my classes. I even skipped one of the finals because I had no idea what was going on and figured the time would be better spent in the gym. Could I have been tracked wrong? Could the school system have made a mistake? Did it matter, or am I living with false beliefs that were established years ago? Does it matter now? How come I can retain all this training information? These and hundreds of other questions kept going through my mind for the next hour. Finally, I realized what I had to do.
When I got home I let my parents know I was going back for summer classes and finish what I had started. I still didn’t like BGSU, and it took me five more years to get my GPA up high enough to graduate. This could have happened faster if I had re- taken the courses I failed, but this was one risk I was not willing to take. I also had a way to make sure I didn’t fail any more classes. I wanted to go to the University of Toledo but needed a 2.5 to transfer. This became my goal. I would also take only those classes that interested me. I did not use any type of career track. I just flipped through the course catalog and took what seemed interesting. Yes, I know this is not the best way to go through college, but I was not taking any chances on my GPA. After nine more semesters I transferred to the University of Toledo and set up a bachelor of science track curriculum on the goal of being a strength and conditioning coach. They didn’t have anything like this at the time, so we set up a program based on the courses that would help me the most. Some of these included nutritional biochemistry, anatomy, philosophy, psychology, motor learning, exercise physiology, sports mechanics, and biomechanics. I’m not going to lie to you: I also went back and retook the two classes I failed my first semester at BGSU. I didn’t have to take them again—it was just something I felt I needed to do. After another two years I received my degree with close to a 3.5 GPA. I also received A’s in both the classes that sent me home from BGSU years earlier. I now see failing those classes as one of the best things that ever happened to me. If I hadn’t flunked out, I wouldn’t have been in the parking lot that day. Up until that point in my life just getting by was good enough, after that day I knew I had to change my way of thinking.
I know the true strength of a man is not in how much he can lift but how high he can lift others. I may have beat Coach’s bench press, but I still aspire to be the man who helped me that day in the parking lot.
Was Bill Shoop a critic? Yes, he was a critic who had a plan to help—not destroy. If you’re going to criticize someone, make sure you can also offer a plan of action. If not, keep your mouth shut. I was told two things that were very hard to hear: that I was lazy and did not care. If that had been all I was told, it would have pissed me off and not made me drive around for one hour thinking it over. I was also told and shown how I had the skills but was not using them. There was my solution. When you’re presented with criticism—and with a solution— from those you respect: LISTEN. You may not like what you hear, but take some time and think it over. I’m not telling you to do what they say, but think about it and do what’s best for you. When you’re at a crossroads, what you decide to do can and will make a profound difference in your life. If you’re offered advice from someone who has been there and seen it all before, I suggest you take some time and really think about what you’ve been told.
If you’re criticized, and no positive advice is offered, then forget it and get on with your life. Those who try to tear down with- out any plan to build up are only trying to make themselves look better and could care less about you. They’re looking for you to get upset for their own gratification. This is a game of win/lose. If you get upset, they win and you lose. If you blow it off, they’ll try harder but will always lose in the long run. You’re too busy getting things done to worry about those who can’t finish anything.
Here is one of my all-time favorite quotes:
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; who’s face is marred by sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and come up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at his best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.
- Theodore Roosevelt