We often begin by asking the question “Who should I satisfy?” or “Who should I serve?”
Sometimes we don’t even get that specific. We just set out to please as many people as possible and we get bent out of shape when others are unimpressed or disappointed by what we offer.
If you find yourself constantly worrying about how many people are liking you, here’s an alternative approach I’d like you consider:
Instead of asking “Who should I aim to please?”, try asking “Who should I expect to annoy if I achieve my goals?”
Remember the whole idea about how one man’s hero is another person’s villain? Well, for any given mission you set out to fulfill, you’re going to undermine or threaten someone else’s agenda. If you tell people to pursue alternatives to the status quo, you might anger people who make their living off the status quo. If you fight to liberate the oppressed, you might become an enemy of the oppressor. If you strive to initiate change, you might annoy those who enjoy the comfort of things remaining the same.
For everything you believe in or live for, there’s an enemy who stands against your cause. Instead of trying to escape the experience of being disliked, prepare yourself ahead of time for the inevitable by identifying the people you’re not here to please. The sooner you can get over the people you’re not here to please, the easier it will be to focus creative energy towards the people who truly value and appreciate what you do.
By the way, the “Who should I please?” question isn’t mutually exclusive with the “Who should I expect to annoy?” question, so make sure you avoid the trap of turning this into a false dichotomy. Ask both questions. Know who you want to serve. Know who you’re not here to please. A sane and creative mind finds its power in the balance between those two things.
At least that’s the way I see it.
P.S. Thanks to Steve Patterson for inspiring this post by sharing his insights with me about how he copes with experience of online antagonism.