Why It’s Worth Ignoring Negative Reactions (and how to block out trolls)

This is the transcript from the fourth episode of Individuate, Easygoing Digital’s podcast. Listen on the player below.

Today, I want to start with some criticisms of an American President. 

No, not that American President; it’s one you won’t expect, but see if you can guess from these following comments.

Extra points if you can guess what famous event they’re referring to.


The Chicago Times wrote,


“The cheeks of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances.”


The Harrisburg Patriot & Union wrote,


“We pass over the silly remarks of the president … willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall no more be repeated or thought of.”


Another said


“it was a perversion of history so flagrant that the most extended charity cannot regard it as otherwise than wilful.”

A caricature of Lincoln from the 1850’s – image source


These are pretty fired up comments!


And these happen to be comments written in 1863, at the time of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.


To me, the Gettysburg address is probably the most eloquent collection of words that I’ve ever heard. Edward Everett, who spoke for almost 2 hours immediately before Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address, later said,


“I should be glad that I should flatter myself that I came as near the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”


History remembers these 272 words almost as fondly as any others, but in the minds of these particular opponents, they bordered on blasphemy.


Now I can’t help but think, that if you were a political opponent and public detractor of Lincoln, no matter what he said at that address, if it was in any way stirring, particularly if it was this stirring, this negative reaction would have been the response of some people.


If we go back to episode 2 of the podcast and what we learned about the shadow side, I can’t help but think that these reactions are more of a negative projection than an honest appraisal.


I want to read an excerpt from an article by the great-great-grandson of one of these famous Lincoln detractors, Oramel Barrett.  


He was editor of what was then called the Daily Patriot and Union.


“To the Lincoln-bashers, the president was using Gettysburg to kick off his re-election campaign—and showing the poor taste to do so at a memorial service. According to my bilious great-great-grandfather, he was performing “in a panorama that was gotten up more for the benefit of his party than for the glory of the Nation and the honour of the dead.”


To me, these are the words of someone who’s had an emotional reaction to Lincoln’s speech and doesn’t want to admit to himself how stirred he was.


Someone could have a legitimate grievance if a political opponent misappropriated what was supposed to be an apolitical event to launch their political campaign. Although, I think history quite rightly sees the Gettysburg Address as much more than that. It invoked much deeper notions, which most people felt were appropriate to the occasion. 


So what can we take from this? And how can we apply it to the idea of starting our podcast?


What stands out to me is that if there’s a negative reaction to what’s regarded as one of the most stirring speeches of all time, what won’t receive a negative response?


There’s a quote from Winston Churchill that goes,


“You have enemies? Good, that means you stood for something, sometime in your life.”


I think this speaks to these themes. No matter what we look to say or do, there will always be someone who projects their internal negativity onto us.


It should never be prohibitive to putting our voice out there because even if we choose not to say or do something, there will be someone who sees that negatively as well.


It’s part and parcel of life that we’re going to experience this at different times.


In my opinion, if our leading detractors are those who are projecting internal negativity onto us, it speaks to the value of what we’re putting out there.


I recently spoke with one of my mentor’s James Whittaker, from the podcast, Win the Day, and he had a brilliant quote.


“Some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.”

It seems to me that if you feel like a statue, you’re more likely to go out of your way to try and present yourself like a pigeon and try to make someone else the statue.


The other interesting thing about the Gettysburg Address is that Lincoln himself felt he failed in the speech.


As he returned to his seat after the speech to only a small smattering of applause, he said, “that speech won’t scour,” which is what was said about a plough in the prairies when you couldn’t get the mud to come off and re-shine the surface.


Lincoln thought the shortness of the speech would leave people to dislike it and think it disrespectful.


So, if even the great Abraham Lincoln expressed dissatisfaction at how the Gettysberg address landed, then when will anyone ever be legitimately satisfied with something they’ve done?


There are earlier versions of the speech written in Lincoln’s hand in the days before his address at Gettysburg, and it’s clear from how much he changed it that he pained over its content.


So that’s the subject of today’s podcast.


If we bring it back to the idea of starting our podcast and projecting our voice into the world, we have to come to terms with the fact that we may experience some negativity.


Even internally.


Hopefully, today’s podcast can get across the notion that some people are just stuck in a negative headspace. It’s no reflection on you, your podcast, or your perspective if you experience some judgemental reactions.


I’ve been thinking about what it would be like for Oramel Barrett and his fellow critics of Lincoln to hear the Gettysburg address, and I think it’s an example of their shadow side in play.


If we let these sorts of cereal cynics and dissuaders influence whether or not we speak up and attempt to put ourselves out into the world, we’d never get anywhere.


Even internally, if Abraham Lincoln is sitting there feeling foolish after the Gettysburg address, I would hate to think what he thinks of something like this podcast.


But at the same time, Lincoln was already an experienced and distinguished orator by the time he got to Gettysburg.


If he’d allowed that negative self-reflection to stand in the way of his performing, he never would have put in the reps’ needed to develop and improve as an orator anywhere near well enough to deliver the Gettysburg address.


Lincoln realised that as much as it can be uncomfortable to put ourselves out there, there’s also a cost to inaction.


If the only cost to action is our negative self-talk and the projected negative self-talk of others who may be triggered at seeing someone give it a crack, then surely the cost of inaction, of not following through and not even attempting to put your voice out there is a much greater cost.


It seems to me with something like putting your voice out there; inaction doesn’t equal neutrality; it equals negativity.


In the first episode of the podcast, I mentioned the quote from Stephen Pressfield.


“Each of us has two lives, the life we live and the life left unlived within us.”


If we don’t act on some of these deeper impulses to pursue our calling, the unlived life doesn’t sit passively in the background, it grows, and it festers, affecting the way we go about other aspects of our life.


And the problem with negativity is that it becomes loud.


It can be distracting and discouraging, but it’s in choosing the positive path that we’re able to make more difference.


The thing about podcasting and allowing your perspective and identity to develop is that it seems to me that it helps you to rise above some of this stuff.


As we go about creating more and more layers to our identity and continue further down the hero’s journey, we come to recognise that some people may be stuck at different stages.


I recently heard a flippant comment from one of my other mentors Ronsley Vaz of the podcast, ‘The Psychology of Entrepreneurship’. He said something along the lines of,


“it’s liberating to recognise when your ego gets involved because you can also recognise what motivates other people too.”


It was a profound comment because of how often we do communicate with our ego.


Only when we take our ego out of something and get to the deeper elements of our personality can we properly appreciate things for what they are.


And it’s worth recognising that some people aren’t there yet.

But the more we can take our ego out of it, the more it allows us to recognise where we can be of service to others.


If we go back to that idea of the hero’s journey…


The second step that we spoke about in episode 2 is the ‘dark night of the soul.’ It seems to me that some people never get past this point, and subconsciously, they want others to join them, so they project this negativity into the world, not realising how much of their deeper insecurities it illuminates.


I wonder whether this is where motifs of hell and the underworld have come from in literature and religion. To get stuck in the dark night of the soul is to experience hell or live in the underworld. This is part of why I think the context of the hero’s journey is so important, but I digress.


Something else that James Whittaker spoke about the other day was that he made the point that the two main indicators of success in life are resourcefulness and resilience.


I think he has a point. People from all walks of life have achieved success when they’ve had these two characteristics. 


To me, exploring the idea of the hero’s journey, and in this case, starting a podcast is the best way to boost your resourcefulness and resilience.


One thing that came up in the most recent episode of my Psych Spiels & Silver Linings podcast that I do with my dad was the thought exercise of differentiation between the use of a ‘Capital I’ and a ‘lower case i’ when referring to yourself internally.


We can get stuck in a trap of thinking that the Capital I, as in me and my whole personality, comes to be represented by particular events that are significant to us.


In fact, our personality is made up of so much more than that. For example, if we have to give a big talk or put ourselves out there in a particular way, we can think I as in big I am giving this talk. Everyone I know will see it, and they’ll come to judge me by it, and if it doesn’t go well, everyone will think I’m a failure.


But if we flip it into a little I and think that I am giving this talk, but it’s only a little I, it’s only one little aspect of my personality, and regardless of how it goes, I’ll still have other aspects of my personality, other ‘little I’s’, which will also define me.


Such as, who I am as a son, or a brother, or a friend, or a partner, a golfer, a podcaster, a cook…


I think you get the point, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more this podcasting process links in with this idea of building your personality and identity, your ‘big I.’


In starting a podcast, you are developing many little I’s, which can be represented by different podcast episodes.


As you create each episode and develop your central themes and ideas further, each ‘little I’ element of your personality that you discover adds to that idea of the bigger I.


I wonder whether people who make cynical or comments or overly negative judgments struggle with their concept of identity, their big I, and feel the subconscious desire to tear down others.


I want to leave you with a concept I heard the other day from Darin Olien. Which I think in many ways is the real point of all this.


Darin is co-host with Zac Efron of the widely popular Netflix docu-series called Down to Earth with Zac Efron. He also hosts the number one health and wellness podcast, the Darin Olien show. I was lucky enough to hear him speak at the most recent We Are Podcast conference.


Darin’s someone who’s objectively successful, he’s world-famous, highly influential, highly connected, and is a highly regarded entrepreneur. He’s got the output side of things reasonably well covered.


But as Darin points out, and I think this is central to this whole podcast, it’s not about you.


It’s not even about being a better version of yourself. It’s actually about everyone who has the opportunity to learn from you and gain your solutions.


It’s about your kids or your future kids, or your family, who will benefit from having you project positivity around and for them.


It’s about your friends who may feel in a similar position to you and see what you’re doing and be motivated to do something themselves.


It’s about anyone you’ll inspire. And anyone they will inspire.


It’s about being a force for good. If all that’s standing in the way of that is fear and shame at putting our voice out there, then we’re robbing the world of good.


I’ve gotta be honest, this is something I feel I’ve done for too long, and so that’s in many ways that’s what this podcast is about.


How do we play big and try and be the best versions of ourselves, but in the context of other people?


Now, being 4 episodes into this podcast, these ideas are beginning to crystallise for me and develop more.


The more we can develop our own identity and become a more complete version of ourselves, the more we can distil our key messages, avoid unwarranted negativity and succinctly package the solutions for other people to access.


We then increase the likelihood of promulgating those messages to be able to help more people.


I want you to join me on that journey too. If there’s any way I can help you, get in touch. Please email me. Hit me up on social media. 


Let’s be a part of a giant chain reaction of positivity.