New presentation: How to overcome critics & build a powerful support system

Ramit Sethi · May 20th, 2013

I got a huge response to my previous post about dealing with critics. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the most formidable critics never attack head-on. Instead, they say things like “Are you sure about that?” or “I’m just worried about you…”

So I wanted to go into more depth to go beyond just “handling” critics — and go into the deeper area of building a POSITIVE support system.

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This week, I’m giving a live presentation on How to Overcome Critics and Build a Powerful Support System this Wednesday night.

You’ll learn:

  • The subtle ways critics cut people down
  • Unconventional ways to handle critics (beyond just ignoring them)
  • How to build a positive support system of people who WANT to help you and hold you accountable

This event is online and free:

And, to the 5,000 people who live in Siberia, or have kids, or have a dog with a runny nose: This is live. There will be no transcript or recording. Again, for the illiterate people who are not reading this and will email me anyway — I said sorry but no, I will not record this.


Register for the webinar here:


P.S. Once you register, leave a comment and share:

  1. A subtle way that someone close to you gave you unsolicited, negative feedback
  2. What it would mean to have a POSITIVE support system around you, who would constantly hold you accountable, support you, and wouldn’t let you fail.

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  1. Julie

    Actually, Siberia would be a fine place to be that day–it works out to 10 am the morning of 5/23. Where I am in Eastern Europe, not so easy at 6 pm. So don’t knock Siberia.

  2. Sarah

    When I announced that I was leaving my in-house translator position to go freelance, several people asked whether I’d be able to make enough money doing that or whether I was planning to get a part-time job as well.

  3. Katie

    My work mates used to ask me not to jokingly say I was working too hard and making them look bad.

  4. Carolynn

    1. My grandmother is RIFE with fear. She’s actually quite crippled because of it. This weekend she ordered me to never ever leave my low-paying job as a temp. She did temp work for years and raised 3 kids, but the electricity was always turned off and she’s living hand to mouth in her retirement. I think wealth scares her, as does entrepreneurship or anything outside this box where you work your ass and just be grateful you have any menial office job (especially if you’re a woman). I don’t swallow her fears, so now I just smile politely because she’s my grandma and deserves my respect and no more anxiety than she already has. I’m earning good money freelancing now and it’s only building and building (just raised my rates last week and people are still paying!). When I do go full-time entrepreneur, I imagine Grandma will freak out, but I’ll have numbers to back up my decision and I know my family will back me and soothe her on this. The insidious thing I’m finding about subtle attacks from critics is it’s so subtle. It’s fear masquerading as love, so with relatives like my grandmother I have to be on my toes and ask myself if their words are good advice or their own issues and neuroses in clever disguise.

    2. Positive support had been critical to my success the last 6 months. I wouldn’t be freelancing if it weren’t for the support I’ve gotten at Ramit’s Brain Trust. I’m actively seeking other such supports in my daily circle as well. Positive people inspire me to stretch myself upwards and not get bogged down by failures, instead viewing them as learning experiences.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Awesome realization. And I like with how you decided to treat your grandmother — she does deserve your respect, and at a certain point, it’s very hard to change someone who’s felt a certain way their whole lives.

      For everyone else wondering, here’s where you can get on the waitlist for my Brain Trust group:

  5. Erika

    This year I radically improved my diet and have lost a bunch of weight. (50lbs gone; still need to lose another 150lbs or so. Truth.)

    Pretty much everything everyone has said to me about it is a “subtle way that someone close to you gave you unsolicited, negative feedback.”

    * One person briefly noted that my skin looks better, then went on an excruciatingly in-depth tirade about all the previous problems she had noticed with my skin, ignoring all my polite requests to stop until I finally had to cut her off with “We’re not talking about this anymore.”

    * Many people scoff and roll their eyes when I tell them I have gone low-carb, grain-free, and no-sugar. Like they think it’s some kind of wacky fad diet?

    * One person said I was losing weight too fast. (Note: she is not a doctor.)

    * Typically when it comes up in conversation, it triggers the other person to go on a long ramble about all the ways they have tried to improve their health and failed.

    I try to avoid the topic as much as possible. The best way to get someone to try and drag you down is to tell them that you have lost weight (or Ramit, in your case, that you have gained weight).

    The scale and the great way I feel are all the support system I need.

    • Erika, I am on a similar diet. It’s really helped me, although I’ve never had a weight problem. But I don’t get any more awful headaches or feel exhausted all the time. I experienced that since adolescence so I really thought that it was normal and healthy to feel that way.

      I do have odd reactions from my carb-loving family. Nothing overt–just comments like “it’s okay to have carbs in moderation” or “everybody deals with sugar crashes–nothing wrong with them.” I was beginning to doubt myself this week, so I’m glad I read your comment and that you’ve experienced success with your diet.

  6. Emily

    I feel like I have less of an issue with people in my life offering subtle or direct criticisms. I tend not to open myself up to it honestly. I have a pretty loud inner-critic and spend a lot of energy fighting with that and probably abiding internal scripts about my own limitations. I think having a positive support network would be great. It might help me build confidence in my own abilities and encourage me to accept a bit more emotional and personal risk.

  7. Brian

    I had a coworker who would offer his “constructive criticism” of my projects, even if it was for a project that he had no skill in. He would bring up his “concerns” to our VP about the direction I was going, often exaggerating details to make it sound like I was about to crash and burn. He also made sure to tell others how I wasn’t doing my job because I was focused on certain projects, although he would neglect to tell these people that the duties I was neglecting were actually his or another coworker’s tasks.

    He did this to several people throughout the years, although I’m not 100% positive why. I have to assume that he was threatened when anyone was excelling at a project so he would try and drag them down by being a concern troll. The sad thing was that he had as much opportunity to excel at his own work but he would rather drag people down due to his own fear of failure (I assume, he may have jsut been a major jerk.)

    Positive support wouldn’t jsut be a back pat for me. Positive support would include someone caring enough about my success that they will be honest with me, even if it’s a harsh truth. Offering a fresh perspective would help when I feel stuck.

  8. 1. I can’t think of the last time someone gave my negative feedback (though I know it’s happened plenty), but I can give an account of the last time *I* was the critic. We’re trying to encourage my uncle and his new wife to move out of our house (she wants their own place, thankfully). My uncle is *very* lazy and procrastinates constantly. I suggested several options including a condo, apartment, even townhomes. He decided to buy a house (they’re still looking). I was very critical of this decision at first, and honestly, I’m still not sure he can (or should) handle it. However, it’s his decision to make, not mine. I’ve since realized I was being an ass for being so critical and am now trying to encourage him in the right directions as far as house-buying goes.

    2. A positive support system for my uncle will hopefully mean he finds a decent house in his price range soon and moves out before the year is up. For me, it would mean keeping myself on task for all the art projects I have on my to-do list, and finding the right venue through which to sell them. And maybe even breaking even or turning a profit on them so I can keep making more projects.

  9. James

    Friends of mine will often give me negative feedback when they scoff at the number of different projects that I have going on. I don’t think they realize that intake it personally and view it as them attacking me as my passions.

    With a positive group around me would help me yay on track with my projects since I know there are people invested in my success , even if t is just emotionally. I could turn on them for advice, like a president does to his cabinet, and I would expect them to he candid, direct, and kind while still knowing how to best communicate with me to get results.

  10. 1) As a college kid, when I get my work done and want to get to bed (relatively) early, my friends/roommates have numerous insults/derogatory remarks about my sleeping habits. They claim that since they can subsist off of 3-5 hours of sleep, then I should too!

    2) It would be awesome. I think there’s a fine line between blind support and accountability. For instance, when my workout buddy bails on me, I ask him why he missed it and he gets offended and mutters some excuse. He gets upset after I try to hold him accountable – something he told me to do when we began working out!

  11. John Corcoran


    A number of years ago, I remember a backhanded “compliment” (if you can call it that) that I got from someone else when I had just told everyone in my office that I had gotten a new job. I had been a writer in my prior position, and was going on to a new writing position, but where I would be doing a different kind of writing. That person said “well, I think your writing is much better suited for [the new writing] anyways.” The clear implication was that I was not good at writing the kind of product we were producing.

    Even though I was proud of my new job, I hated that comment.

    It would be wonderful to have a support system around me that could hold me accountable and support me. I feel like most of us who are trying to build something online have family and friends who don’t understand. I am certainly no exception.

  12. Anil Kuppa

    2.What it would mean to have a POSITIVE support system around you, who would constantly hold you accountable, support you, and wouldn’t let you fail.
    I have been reader of your blog for about 2 years, though I have not paid for any course yet. The reason being it is too expensive for the money I earn. Through your blog, I have come across brilliant stuff such as tiny habits course, Tim Ferris book. Through tiny habits, I have become very self disciplined and motivated now. Thoughts lead to habits , habits lead to actions and actions to long term results. This has changed my perspective. The positive support system I currently have is my books , my habits and my Evernote where I track whatever I do. I still feel shy enough to talk about good or bad things with my friends. I am now accountable to myself.

  13. Eric DelGrego

    1) I’m a guy in my mid-20s working in a white collar office. Recently I decided to grow my hair long. I don’t think a single person directly said “I don’t like your hair”, but I can’t tell you how many people said things like “I liked your hair better short” or “do they let you keep your hair like that at work?” These comments were the worst because the people thought they were being positive or looking out for me.

    2) I’m not exactly sure how to answer part 2, but I can’t wait to hear this part: “Unconventional ways to handle critics (beyond just ignoring them)”

  14. Thomas

    Someone of the worst critics are the ones that you love the most like spouses, families and friends. A lot of them really think they are helping. I remember when I first starting making money online and my now wife said so when are you going to get a real job. Things have changed and over time she is my biggest support system. She never lets me get down and always says you can do it. I now even have a mastermind group every Thursday were we set goals and plan out how we are going to get them done. I see critics as those who want to do things the same old way. If they dont understand it it must be wrong.

  15. Hi Everyone,

    You can’t do that! Nobody is going to pay you for that! My irish catholic parents know everything, so they must be right, right?

    Being around positive encouraging people gives me courage and motivation to not believe the lies my parents were taught and are trying to pass on!

  16. Stephanie

    1.) I had a decent paying job as a Sales and Marketing Director but I knew my income had reached its cap (in my area at least). So I decided, with my background in sales, that I needed to go full commission because the income is essentially limitless. You’re paid what you’re worth!

    Using Ramit’s email script, I landed a job as a Commercial Real Estate Broker in the top producing firm in my city. I also landed a mentor, who happens to be the firm’s CEO. He’s invested a ton of time and resources into my training, including paying for my $3000 coaching sessions.

    When I broke the news to my family and friends, I heard nothing but criticism, some subtle, some not. They couldn’t believe I would quit a salaried and secure job for one based on commission. “Real estate is in the dumps! The economy is ZOMG sooo bad!!! You’ll never make any money! Investors will never take a twenty something woman seriously! Maybe you should dress more provocatively to appeal to them!”

    What they failed to see was that there isn’t a broker in my office that makes less than $200k a year regardless of the economy. The brokers are basically independent contractors, so they make their own schedules. If your making the numbers, you could key your bosses’ car and he wouldn’t fire you. It just seemed like a better quality of life. One where I make the rules and control my income.

    2.) I feel that at work, I’m constantly surrounded by a positive support system. Salesmen are always trying to better themselves and the positive energy is infectious. Working with a great sales team is key. And instead of hearing the above criticisms, I hear things like, “Pick a niche and become an expert in it. Attend every real estate networking event you have time for. Read books and attend webinars on the most effective ways to prospect. Identify the top players in your market and go shake hands with them.”

  17. Akasha

    My critics told me years ago that I was crazy to think that I could move, travel and work around the world because “it’s just not done” and “you have to settle down and get a real job.”

    Three years ago, I got an online job teaching journalism courses at a university, moved to Nicaragua, learned Spanish and started my own journalism site. It’s been great. I’ve lived in Nicaragua, Peru, Colombia, and Costa Rica and traveled through a few other places in Latin America, Europe and North America. Teaching online and writing freelance articles along the way.

    Now I need to up my game and make enough money to live ANYWHERE I want, including in developed countries. You can live on $1000 bucks a month in some Asian countries and some Latin American countries, but Germany, the U.S., most of Western Europe? Forget that noise! $1000 a month doesn’t even get you in the door.

    Time to strategize and execute. Like, yesterday. Critics be damned!

  18. Kimi Jepson

    I think self accountability is the only factor that can elevate you among thousands of people. No other person can make you stand up to be evaluated. Anyone whose accountable for his action is a responsible person.

  19. I wish I’d known these lessons several years ago. When I started my first year at college, I was ready to make a lot of changes in my life. I was working on my social skills (which I’d pretty much ignored previously, to the point where even the most introverted and shy people I met would tell me I was the quietest person they knew) and I was starting to work out or at least do some kind of exercise every day. About 15 to 30 minutes in my dorm room.
    Being very introverted, especially around strangers, I didn’t tell anyone about doing exercise at first, and by the time I started talking to people and making friends, I didn’t feel it was even really interesting enough to talk about; it was just something I did. I think the only person that knew was one of my roommates because he came back to the room one time when i was in the middle of my workout routine and started trying to give me recommendations about what exercises he would do in my place. I don’t know if that qualifies as negative feedback or not, because I didn’t listen to him. His recommendations all required weights and one of the major reasons I had picked this particular workout routine (which I’d spent a week searching for online) was because it required no equipment whatsoever, I could just go find anywhere somewhat secluded and do my workout even as a break to studying or whatever.

    So anyway, at the end of 2 semesters, results were starting to show. I had lost 15 pounds without even eating right, and my arms were beginning to have a toned look to them. Pretty women were even going out of their way to hit on me instead of the other way around when I moved back to my hometown for the summer. Then one day, I was talking to some friends from high school (whom I hadn’t really seen or talked to much during the year) and I mentioned since I’d lost some weight, I was thinking of making it my goal to go down to 180 pounds so I’d not only no longer be overweight, but also clear from that border line. It was only another 30 pounds or so so I could have easily managed it in a couple years but they were telling me that that’s too much, I’m working myself too hard, etc. etc. On its own, I don’t think that little bit would have stopped me, but since I had to also look for new areas where I could work out (I still didn’t like people seeing me working out in public) it just sapped me of the motivation to look for places I felt comfortable doing my exercise routine.

    As for a positive support system, I know one feature would be people like my other room mate. I’m sure he knew or eventually figured out I was working out but he also recognized that I didn’t feel the need to talk about it. this really helped because I probably would have started questioning myself rather than sticking to this one exercise routine that long and trusting that I would start seeing results sooner or later, if I had had to explain it to someone especially early on when I was just starting it.