If you are one of those people who is not scared to stick your neck out and take risks, then you are also one of those people who may get knocked down everyone once in a while. Whether, you’re a blogger who gets a tsunami of personal attacks when you post half an opinion, or an expert who runs a seminar and the participants start to criticize you. You may have even pitched a project to a client who makes you feel like an underprepared student at your final exam. Or perhaps you’re that incredibly intelligent and ambitious woman whose has a male boss that undermines you every chance he gets. Maybe you’re the idealistic young man or woman who wants to accomplish great things but is surrounded by people who chip away at your aspirations and motivations, making you a smaller person day by day.
You might be a tough cookie. A lone rider. A lone wolf. A hardboiled egg who doesn’t need anyone’s help. However, when the lights have been turned off, and the last dance has come and gone, we all need a warm hand to hold for the journey home. Someone who stands at the end of the tunnel holding a teeny tiny candle. A safe arm to catch us when some of the older kids at school have humiliated us by shoving cold snow down our underwear; leaving us to get frostbite.
You’re not alone….
If you don’t have that person in your life, let me swoop in and be that person for a second, because I’ve been there, and I know what it’s like to want to throw in the towel and be like everyone else. Nonetheless, the fact is, you can’t exist in this world without facing a little resistance. If you get involved with public debates, be prepared for retaliation. Sometimes you’ll have evil clients or unfair bosses and the media can drive you to the brink of suicide. Shit happens and not always for the right reasons.
Criticism and constructive feedback can be perfectly healthy – after all, a boxing match wouldn’t be fun if people just sat there talking to each other. However, just like with everything else, the hardest hits are the ones you don’t expect coming.
We all need a sidekick. Batman had Robin. Robin Hood had Little John. Don Quixote had Sancho Pancha. Maverick had Goose. Nemo had Dory, but sometimes you have to remember to be the sidekick yourself. The beautiful thing about being a sidekick is that you don’t have to be particularly intelligent, successful and such. You just have to be present. Sidekicks ride shotgun, laugh at all the jokes the hero makes, are never the center of attention, and spend most of their energy trying to make the hero look good, but most importantly, the sidekick will always save you in your hour of need.
THE GUIDE TO SIDEKICKS
Disclaimer: Always aim to communicate as respectfully and consciously as you can manage. The fact that other people act like idiots isn’t an excuse for you to act the same way.
You have to listen to constructive feedback and honest criticism whenever it’s presented to you, but it’s important that you don’t let bullies in suits drag you down. And no, you shouldn’t put up with everything people do and say – that goes for social media and public arenas too. Know your limits and make sure you don’t let people overstep them. Otherwise, your sidekick will chase them down and make them pay.
SPOT THE VILLAIN
We’ve put together this guide to help you spot a Villain. Villainy is a complex scientific discipline, so forgive me for boiling it down to its purest possible form. I’m bound to lose some nuances and facets of the process.
As a general rule, villains are evil, and they’re drawn to power, which they either have a lot of or very little of. They love to divide, destroy, and warp without a legitimate reason. After all, they’re villains. A lot of their power comes from the fact that you think they think like you to or because you believe they are misunderstood people who just need a bit of love. But, why let one vampire who criticizes your article bleed you dry and completely ignore the nine lovely people who praise you? Why make your entire working life be ruined by one lousy boss when you have two amazing colleagues who just want what’s best for you?
I know – because it’s so damn difficult to ignore the negative things. However, if you’re fed up with hiding your burdens behind a smile, read on to find the tools you need to defend yourself. Learn how to give the villains a round kick straight to the back of the head.
Trolls love to attack people but aren’t particularly brave. They thrive on social media, where they can write as many perfidy comments and personal attacks as they want. Their weapons are chance and vanity. Chance in the sense that there’s no “big picture” reason to attack you and vanity in the sense that they use your shortcomings to hurt you. An example is this comment on one of my articles, as shared by a famous politician:
“A good idea would be to look into the success rate the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies has had throughout the years. I can reveal that the so-called research has had roughly the same value as the stuff coming out of Corinta’s crystal ball… as in, it’s useless nonsense based on guesswork and projections from present-day models that, for several reasons, don’t consider future interim events.”
A classic troll attack. They lash out left, right, and center using arguments that have nothing to do with the content of the article. Their trick is to write something that will prompt the writer to respond. Another classic move is to attack your premise – seen in this example as “the future is unpredictable.” In the early days of my career, I’m sure I would’ve launched myself headfirst into an endless aggravating discussion, but there’s a reason we say, “don’t feed the trolls.” At first, the comment made me sad, but there is no deeper meaning when trolls attack you.
Your first line of defense against trolls is IGNORING THEM. It’s impossible to win an argument against a troll and about 20 insults in, someone starts calling someone a Nazi. Don’t take it personally and learn to ‘shake it off.’ Trolls hit you hard and fast, but the wounds heal quickly. Don’t take it personally. It’s not worth it.
Note that it’s difficult to get eye contact with stormtroopers. It’s actually incredibly difficult to get stormtroopers to admit that their behavior isn’t okay. A stormtrooper can be your best friend who’s incredibly nice and friendly when it’s just the two of you, but who turns around and stabs you in the back when they’re with the other clones. They tend to move in packs and have collective opinions. Their weapons are adult bullying and peer pressure, and they fall in the category of stupid with high power, which means that using solid information and persuasive arguments to get through to them is just about as effective as trying to stop a stampede of cattle with a physics textbook.
When I was younger, a colleague and I created a 2-day workshop for a management group, and oh my God did we move mountains to make them happy. They were all waiting ravenously to meet with us one-on-one to have in-depth conversations about their frustrations, career goals, private lives, and teenage kids. The night brought on a party atmosphere and a new host of deep discussions, and we went to sleep feeling like everything was working out perfectly. Just before the workshop ended, the moderator sat everyone down for a final roundup – and that’s where things went belly-up. At first, nobody said anything, and then everyone started talking about how irrelevant, complex, abstract, and loose they felt the whole thing had been. A soft hiss filled the room as the stormtroopers’ visors went down and cut them off from all human contact and empathy. Henrik and I sat in the corner as the walls of the death star closed in around us, and our only hope was being washed out with the rest of the trash. I remember locking eyes with the blond guy who’d seemed the most excited to be there. The guy who had spent all night telling me the workshop was life-changing. I was sure he would throw us at least a string of a lifeline, but nope. He averted his gaze and jumped right in with the rest of them.
What went wrong? Were we really that terrible?
The moderator said to us, “listen, you’re standing in front of them – and you both are young, smart, and incredibly talented – trying to tell them all about the future they know they have to exist in… but they understand jack shit. On the second day, it occurs to them that they’re in above their heads and that they have to go back to their everyday lives where there isn’t space for the future or excitement. It’s easier for them to say that you guys are the ones who aren’t good enough. The alternative is owning up to the fact that they need to make changes, so it’s less work to turn back to what they know, which means turning against you. They give up before they even get started.”
I think it took my colleague and me 14 days of hugs from colleagues (and heaps of red wine) to get back on our feet. Group dynamics and sometimes be where human beings show their worst sides. Something happens to us when we’re in a group – and whatever it is, it isn’t rational. When the visor is up, and the helmet is off, we can connect to the people around us, but you never know who turns into a stormtrooper when the pack strikes. Your best defense against the stormtrooper is to stay true to yourself. Listen to your own words, don’t get discouraged, still listen to feedback, but never let negative feedback get to your head. If you are passionate about your thoughts, opinions, and purpose, then stick to it.
Stormtroopers tend to respond to well thought out speeches and plans with “I don’t get it,” and of course, you can’t get through to them. They’re wearing helmets….
THE SHADOW MAN
The Shadow Man is the evilest and powerful of the four villains because he’s inside your head. He’s the little voice pouring poison in your ear. He’s the shadow and the darkness; the evil thoughts that seem to come from the very pits of your soul. He’s the one who tells you that you aren’t good enough; that you’re fake, selfish, untrustworthy, and that the people around you laugh at you when you aren’t looking. He’s the one who tells you that nobody loves you and that you’re lying about who you are.
The Shadow Man has nothing good to offer; he’s the part of you, that wants to see you dead.
The Shadow man is the part of us that pushes us to do evil things, whether toward ourselves, others, or the earth. The Shadow Man doesn’t want you to know that he’s there. He’s interested in making you believe that he is you because that’s how he gets his power. He’s the one who doesn’t want open processes, transparent companies, or healthy societal quality goals built on anything that isn’t a flat economy.
As soon as you see him and realize that the darkness just exists in the places the light can’t reach, he disappears. As soon as you start fighting the darkness, you’ve lost. The Shadow Man is the evil dog inside your head that just gets stronger and bigger the more you feed it. You’ll never get rid of it, and it’ll always be a hideous thing that you’re instinctively ashamed of. It’ll always be a part of you that you’ll be scared to show to the people around you. You need to find the courage to fight it by believing in the light and love. To believe in hopes and dreams, and the fact that the world and the universe want what’s best for you. You have to learn to believe that you’re important, regardless of how old and crippled you are. You have to learn to believe that you’re here for a reason and that you’re worth loving, regardless of how many mistakes you’ve made, and how many evil comments the Shadow Man has made you spit at the people around you. You can fight this by making peace with the fact that you aren’t perfect. Look at the people around you. Part of what defines us are the five people we spend most of our time with. Are your five people the darkness or the light? Maybe it’s time to make some changes.
Have a look at your kids. When you see that they’re beating themselves up with evil thoughts, tell them, “Honey, do you know the thoughts you’re thinking right now aren’t you? You know they aren’t yours, right?”
Have a look at yourself. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them. We all have embarrassing hobbies and interests. I’ll start us off with (one of) mine: I say it loud, I say it proud – I’m 89 episodes into The Vampire Diaries, and I love it!
A wound from a troll attack heals in no time. The Shadow Man returns time and time again and the further you follow him, the worse he gets. Where there is self-medication, alcoholism, and isolation, there is a Shadow Man, but sometimes that’s the way you have to go in this life. The path to self-discovery is through your internal darkness. That’s the path you have to take to become a better person. It’s a trans-formative journey that you embark on, but although you make it back, you can never go back to being who you used to be.
Light and love are the only – and the best – defense. Come to terms with your weaknesses and let others love you for who you are, with all your mistakes and shortcomings. If they can’t do that, they’re not your real friends. Invest five years in finding five new ones. You’re worth it.
We all get scared. What defines you isn’t your anxiety, but how you deal with it. I’m lucky enough to have one last line of defense in the form of my husband. Even if I crawl home, he’ll put his arms around me and tell me, “I’ll take care of you.”
Last, but not least, we have ants. Ants attack with monotony and passive aggression. Chinese water torture is the torture of monotony, which is precisely the kind of torture that ants specialize in. The victim is attacked with a steady drip of drops in the same exact spot and after a while, the noise and the pain become unbearable. Meanwhile, ants can just take a step back and say, “Wow you’re easy to get to, aren’t you?”
Ants are the type of villain who should know better (hence why they’re evil, but not stupid) and who knows how to make you look like a disaster without forcing you to incur terrible consequences. These are small-minded people who aggravate you without exerting a massive amount of effort. I have an extremely short fuse, so I’ve had to develop a bunch of techniques and lines of defense to make sure that I don’t slaughter my entire group of clients and acquaintances, due to the acts of an Ant. However, at some point, it is important to confront that Ant in order to “get it out of your system.” The worst feeling in the world is going home with an unresolved pit in your stomach and taking it out on your family at home, who don’t deserve it.
Ants can also be authoritative characters, such as school teachers or terrible bosses. My neighbor had a boss who ran her down until I played the role of the sidekick and said she needed to confront her. She went home and prepped her “get it out of my system” speech and delivered it at full force the next day. We haven’t heard from him since.
The best line of defense against ants is verbal aikido. The verbal aikido technique is thousands of years old, and it’s all about being quick and using your opponent’s arguments against them. “Aikido brings balance and harmony in energy. You adapt to the intentions of your opponent and guide them in a direction that doesn’t suit their purpose, where neither of you are hurt. By doing this, you show them that it’s possible to exist in a space where everyone respects their own limits – without overstepping those of the people around them.”
Until then, here’s Will Smith as Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happiness, on his way to the most important interview of his life. If he doesn’t get the job, he’ll have to go on being a homeless father. If he gets it, he’s en route to the American dream, but everything leading up to the meeting goes wrong. One of the places you’re likely to encounter ants is in the run-up to the actual event, but our protagonist shows an immense amount of patience and energy from the very beginning:
The Ant Boss: “What would you say if a guy walked in for an interview without a shirt on, and I hired him? What would you say?”
Chris: “… He must have had on some really nice pants”.
All that’s left is to say a massive thank you to my amazing readers who’ve made it this far. I hope that villain expertise can help you confront and deal with Trolls, Stormtroopers, the Shadow Man, and Ants that stand in your way. Stop letting these villains stand in the way of your dreams, ideas, and thoughts. There are many people out there who want to listen to you. Feel free to be naïve and walk around hoping for a better world where nobody tries to tear you down. All the greatest ideas were small and ridiculous the first time they were heard.
I hope you manage to create a way of defense that’ll help you fight for what you believe in, especially if your skin isn’t as tough. Speak up and keep speaking up! If you ever need a sidekick, let us know. Be someone else knight in shining armor. Tell them that they’re not alone. We all need a sidekick. After all, hard-boiled eggs are surprisingly easy to break.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.