What to do When You Face Negativity — 5 Lessons Shared by Experienced Entrepreneurs (FS239)

You likely will face some kind of adversity or negativity as you build your business. This article is all about how you respond.

How we deal with negativity and adversity is an essential ingredient in our success, so let’s think a little bit critically about this.

Because it really is true: we all encounter negativity on the journey to success.

In this article you’ll learn a few successful ways to respond.

Listen to this article as a podcast:

I remember when I heard my first conversational podcast. I was blown away by how much I learned through the natural, conversational style.

So, we created our own natural, honest, conversational podcast to teach creatives, freelancers and indie entrepreneurs how to earn a living doing something they care about.

Listening to these hosts talk about negativity can make a much bigger impact on how YOU respond to negativity next. So, give it a try.

Here’s the episode. Please enjoy!

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We all face negativity

In Corbett Barr’s entrepreneurial history he ran a VC backed startup during the second big wave of tech investment. He was in the Bay Area at the time and says:

“It was just magic. San Francisco was so small at the time; we pitched our idea to people who are BIG names today. BUT, when we walked away from each meeting it was like we were kicked in the [sensitive body part]. In some cases we were talking to them just as friends of friends. I remember getting huffy about it, feeling down about it. Back then the constructive criticism came across as ’it’s just a bad idea’ without any ‘you should do this to fix it.’ I wish I could go back and talk to my 29 year old self and tell him to be more receptive and ask ‘how do you think we could make this better.’

This is a classic piece of negativity all of us will experience: negative feedback about our business idea. Think about it, you’re going to put a bunch of your focus, time, effort and energy into something that MIGHT NOT WORK. Everybody else get’s to think about the business idea objectively, but you’re COMMITTED — if you don’t commit enough to this thing it won’t happen.

So it’s very common to receive negative feedback about your business idea. It’s just something that comes with the territory. So what? Your mindset needs to look something like: ”maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong, either way I’m gonna try this sh*t out.

Corbett’s right, we’re all going to face negativity in our businesses (though most of us won’t be pitching VC investors!).


“We all face negativity in our business. The question is, how do you respond?”
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Some negativity is actually constructive

Before we go any further, let’s get clear about this: some negativity IS good for you. Sometimes it’s instructive advice from an experienced mentor — their words might hurt, but they may have a bigger perspective than you.

And sometimes it’s the painful truth you just don’t want to hear… but it’s true, and the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can continue with your real dream of making something amazing actually happen.

Sometimes negativity is just shame inducing and mean. But sometimes it’s essential for your success and the success of your project.


Perceived negativity

Lookout for situations where someone says something that feels horrible to you, but they do so just because they have NO IDEA what you’re really up to in your project or life.

Steph tells a story in the podcast about when a family member said something that really hurt her. (Happens around the 16 minute mark.) The truth was this family member simply didn’t understand what Steph was up to, why she was making this transition in life, what the plan and potential for her goal was.

Looking back now Steph can see that clearly and have a little grace for the person making the remarks and feel much less negativity from it. BUT it hurt at the time.

So, this negativity you’re encountering, is it really just someone not understanding what you’re up to? Is it coming from a good place in them but they simply don’t know what you know about the potential for your project or business idea?

Sometimes all it takes is a quick re-jiggering in our heads to get underneath that negativity and kind of mentally judo it into understanding that, hey, this person loves us, they just don’t understand what the hell I’m aiming at! Just cuz uncle Larry doesn’t think the chances of my success are very high, doesn’t mean he’s right.

This is perceived negativity, and it can be mostly dissolved by simply understanding that the person giving the feedback doesn’t really understand what you’re talking about.

People come from their own worldview and experiences. If YOU get hung up on getting approval from EVERYONE out there, you’ll never be certain enough to get started.

Free yourself from the shackles of needing approval or permission from others. Sometimes negativity comes simply because they have their own worldview and outlook. Maybe it’s a valuable point of view for your venture… but, then again, maybe not. You get to decide, OK? You decide.

Here’s what Steph says about handling this kind of negativity:

“Recognize that some people don’t get it and that’s OK. I see now it was a great learning thing for me — you get that hot button, defensive response. I have since gotten to know what that feels like. When I get that reaction it’s a good time to go inside and figure out why. It’s important to examine those feelings when they come up.”


“Free yourself from the shackles of needing approval or permission from others.”
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How self-centered is the negativity?

Lookout for people giving you “feedback” that has more to do with them than it does about you.

Corbett tells an amazing story about a “curmudgeonly co-worker” who literally got furious with Corbett. (This story is not to be missed! Starts around 24min in.)

Well, this guy’s feedback, at least in one of the emails, is clearly coming from a place of defense or regret in his own life about the decisions he did (or didn’t) make.

Sometimes when people give “feedback” they’re really just making it all about themselves. You might have noticed this emotion at work within yourself, the envy or jealousy or negativity that can come when you see someone else excited about their idea… maybe a little too excited; there’s no way that thing’s going to work out; the stupid lil’ b#^%$!

That’s where self-centered negative feedback comes from. When Frank gives you shit about your business or project idea, or this strategy or that, maybe that feedback is more about Frank than it is about your strategy.

You’ll normally be able to tell by how well you know the person giving you the feedback. Do you know they care about you? Are they fighting for you as they give this feedback? Or are they really just fighting for themselves?

If it’s the latter, feel free to disregard with a simple, “Oh, I really appreciate your feedback. I’ll definitely think about that. Cheers!”


“Whenever someone throws a bunch of negativity at you it’s probably about them more than it is about you”
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3 pieces of advice from Chase

  • Be sad … if something f-ed up is happening to you, make sure you allow yourself to feel it as f-ed up. Feel those feelings then start working on the response. Many of us instinctually avoid feelings of sadness. Don’t do it. They’ll come back up eventually… besides, they’re kinda nice when you get used to them.
  • Start with chill… do something to come back to peace and presence and centeredness in your life. Sounds stupid maybe to you, but it ain’t. You react out of fear and you’ll get that in kind. This to me is the first step in getting to a RESPONSE instead of a reaction. We gotta get to a place of calm and chill when we face something negative, otherwise we’re likely to make the situation worse.
  • Be patient… Sometimes the way you need to respond to the negativity takes some time to figure out, so give it some time. Sometimes it feels like you have to say or fix something RIGHT NOW! But more often than not you may have more time than you think, so allow the REAL response to take some time to develop. Don’t go until it feels right.

Hopefully these thoughts and ideas have been helpful for you facing negativity of multiple kinds. Thanks for reading and please share!


““Negativity is the enemy of creativity” ~ David Lynch”
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