Somebody hates me. Yaaaay!


Last week, an editorial in one of Denmark’s leading newspapers took aim at yours truly. Here’s the introduction:

Enforced mirth
The title alone guarantees some mirth: Chief Happiness Officer – senior happiness comissioner.

The line between embarrassing and funny may be a fine one, but you certainly can’t take a title like that seriously.

Truth to tell, among many other ridiculous titles, it has to be a candidate for some award: stupidest title of the year or something like that.

It goes on at some length…

When I first spotted this editorial it made me sad. Nobody likes to be criticized – I certainly don’t – and this criticism seemed both unfair and a little malicious to me.

A blog comment like this one is another good example. They’re very rare, but they do crop up occasionally.

As I was thinking about how to react to the editorial, I remembered this graph by Kathy Sierra:

Love and hate

In one of her very best posts (and that’s saying something) Kathy talks about the physics of passion saying:

You don’t really have passionate users until someone starts accusing them of “drinking the koolaid.” You might have happy users, even loyal users, but it’s the truly passionate that piss off others enough to motivate them to say something. Where there is passion, there is always anti-passion… or rather passion in the hate dimension.

This means that the kind of criticism I got in that editorial is great news. It is a sign that my message is sharp enough that some people take an active dislike to it. They may not care for it – but they care!

If all I got was negative feedback it would probably be time to rethink my work in happiness, but fortunately it’s not all hate – far from it! Many, many people tell me that they enjoy my book, blog and presentations and have used them actively to become happier at work.

I think we can all use Kathy’s excellent reminder to do two things:
1: Whatever you’re doing, get yourself and others passionate about it. Your project, product, company, process, leadership, work, salesmanship – whatever you’re doing will go better with passion.

This means that your message can be anything but bland. Don’t set out to actively piss people off – that’s just crude. But if you’re pleasant, moderate, mild and soft-spoken you also run the risk of being utterly forgettable. No one will oppose you – but no one will be passionate about whatever it is you do either. That’s why you must hone your message to the point where it’s possible to be passionate about it.

2: When people get negative about you, remember that this is part of the process. As Kathy puts it:

Should you ignore the detractors? Diss them as nothing but evidence of your success? Should you just wave them off with a “just jealous” remark? Absolutely not.

Somewhere in their complaints there are probably some good clues for things you can work on. But if you start trying to please them all or even worse, turn them into fans, that could mean death. Death by mediocrity, as you cater to everybody and inspire nobody.

I’d rather go down in flames than risk death by mediocrity. Kevin Briody said it best:

I dont want their reaction to be a measured, rational, dispassionate analysis of why the product is better than the alternatives, how the cost is more reasonable, feature set more complete,

I want f**king cool! Period.

I want that pure sense of wonder, that kid-at-airshow-seeing-an-F16on-afterburners-rip-by so-close-it-makes-your-soul-shake reaction, that caress-the-new-Blackberry until-your-friends-start-to-question-your-sanity experience. I want an irrational level of sheer, unfiltered, borderline delusional joy.

What about you?

26 thoughts on “Somebody hates me. Yaaaay!”

  1. de Mello said: “Nobody can be said to have attained the pinnacle of Truth until a thousand sincere people have denounced him for blasphemy.”

    Reading your book I could almost hear a thousand bosses shouting “Blasphemy! Get back to work, Toil, Toil, Toil!” They are honest in their assessment of how things should be handled but that doesn’t make them right.


  2. Well, as Oscar Wilde said, there is no such thing as bad publicity. And it’s a sign that you’re stirring things up, which is great. We cheer you on all the time, so you have more fans than this one detractor. You do great work…keep it up!

  3. Apparently JP decided not to stay mediocre, but to move onto the Hate Pole… ;)

    Bless’em, do your thing.
    There will be always people not being fair – if you ask me, I meet them everyday….


  4. Don’t let them get you down! We need every bit of happiness that we can get in the workplace & I think what you’re doing is wonderful.

    You’ve got to be miserable in your job to be so petty, hope JP gets a whiff of your happiness campaign too- they seem to need it more than most people!

    Aloha :)

  5. Perhaps a corollary to the love/hate passion theorem:

    I’ve been playing in bands for years, and I solidly believe that a public negative review is a true sign of success. Nobody bothers to write a negative review about an unknown band (“they stink, nobody’s hear of them.”) Nay, the negative stuff can only appear after a critical mass of positive feedback has occurred.

  6. Congratulations, Alex! To stir that kind of passion sends a clear signal that you are nowhere near the Zone of Mediocrity. This is a signal to do even more of what you are doing.

    I read phastphill’s comment and smiled. At our second outing as a band (yearsssss ago), some people in the audience started tossing pennies at us.

    30 years later, having not changed a thing, we walked out onto a stage in Philadelphia to do a reunion show with an audience that included fans who had actually flown in from outside of the U.S.

    A note: it’s still a good idea to duck when the pennies start flying.

  7. Don’t think you should be getting upset at all :)

    The way to look at it would be you con’t convert the whole world to your line of thinking at the same time :).

    There are already loads of people like myself who have taken your line of thought sooner or later others would follow .

  8. Pingback: Blog
  9. You are a wonderful respite from the swampland of snarkiness. Keep up the good work. I love reading your blog!

  10. Thanks a lot for all the nice comments and encouragement. The next time someone comes down on me hard for being too happy, I’ll just go read the comments on this post :o)


  11. Great post. Timely for me as I just got my first negative (DIScouraging comment) the other day. I felt kicked in the gut and it had me down for part of the day. Then I finally realized that it takes a pretty sad person to read the Career ENCOURAGEMENT Blog and shoot off a negative message. So I gleaned the feedback that was useful, and moved on. Yours is a blog for the emotionally compentent (or those on their way to that productive, mature state of mind) – don’t change the message!

  12. Alexander, I’m not sure if you support or have written my theory here before, but I think happiness is a state of mind. So, as much criticism as you might get can never be enough to get your happiness away if you have the right mindset.

  13. You know there are three groups of people around you. Those that absolutely love you, those that think you’re allright and those that don’t like you at all. If you try to change to suit the third group, and you can, you’ll end up with three groups of people around you. Those that absolutely love you, those that …

    Remain your authentic self. It’s the most joyous state of being.

  14. Since I started my blog on June 1, 2007, I have gotten wonderful comments and encouraging comments from my readers. Last week, I got a comment from a reader who said that my writing was schizophenic rantings. The person wrote me 2 emails to my personal email address. They didn’t post a comment on my blog. I answered the first email. At the end of the second email, this person added, “Oh by the way, this is not my email and this is not my name.” I can understand some reasons for anonymity but this goes beyond that. I was upset for one night. Then I decided that all of the good comments far outweighed whoever this coward was who couldn’t even give me his/her name. I deleted the 2 emails and did not answer the second. I also deleted his subscription to my blog. That person doesn’t need to read my schizophrenic rantings if they are going to be so upset by it. Have a glorious day and thanks for writing this article.

  15. Surely this kind of response says more about the person doing the attacking than about the person being attacked? To use abusive language, rather than accurate, constructive criticism, is a clear signal that this is someone who enjoys putting others down; perhaps they like to feel superior, perhaps they just need to feel that there are people out there they can attack (note also that he didn’t address his criticism towards you; which makes it pretty safe for him).

    So although I agree with what you are saying about mediocrity, sometimes it just isn’t about you. But it says a lot about him. Clearly he cares more about impressing his readers with language of power than any actual debate on happiness in the workplace.

  16. Lodewijkvdb, what you just wrote is pure genius! I’m going to post that on my wall so whenever I’m having a “pity party” for myself because I’m not pleasing everyone around me, I’ll remember the three groups of people! Thanks!

    Alex, keep up the great work!

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