Back in 2007, when I was talking with Steve Chandler, author of far too many books to list here, he told me a tale that I’ve seen play out in business, sports and much more.
“If someone is playing a great game of darts, the easiest way to get him off target is to pay him a compliment,” he said.
“I think I know exactly what you mean,” I replied.
“Suppose someone hits a bullseye three times in a row,” he continued. “If you say, ‘Wow, that’s three in a row you’ve just thrown. You’re awesome,’ watch how he misses on the very next dart.”
“So true,” I said. “In baseball, when a pitcher is throwing a no hitter or a perfect game, there’s a reason that NO ONE comes up to him and says anything. Literally. NOTHING. Not only that, but no one even sits near him. They don’t want to get inside his lucky aura and disrupt it.”
Okay, how does this message apply to you in your everyday life?
I’ll answer with the following story:
“One day, Bing, was practicing Tai Ji in a park near Beijing. He’d been training each day, religiously, for three years. During this time, no teacher had ever paid him a compliment in any way.
He was only taught to practice hard, to “chi ku” (eat bitter) – as well as to watch his breathing and pay meticulous attention to every detail of every move. Bing did exactly as instructed.
On this particular day, Chen, a well-known Master, came by and watched Bing train for a few minutes.
When Bing finished his set, the Master Chen gave him a thumbs up and said, “Your form isn’t bad.”
Young Bing smiled from ear to ear. Finally, a compliment for all his hard work.
But then the Master continued, “But it’s not so good, either. Keep training.”
Bing’s smile turned to confusion as the Master walked away. He wondered to himself about the meaning of the Master’s words.
Was he playing a game with me? Was he trying to trick me?
Why did he immediately follow his words of praise with words of criticism? Why did he build me up just to tear me down?”
After several days, Bing realized the Master did him a favor. He gave him balanced feedback. He gave him the yin and the yang of the situation.
“Your form isn’t bad.” – this is not really praise – but Bing saw it as such. And look how he immediately reacted. He smiled and felt proud. Why? Because the “compliment” fed his ego.
Unbeknownst to Bing, the ego interferes with success, it puts the focus on yourself instead of upon what you’re working to accomplish.
“But it’s not so good, either.”
This line from the Master was designed to put Bing back into neutral, to make him lose his addiction to praise as well as to help him not take criticism personally.
“Keep training.” This advice was the best thing the Master said to Bing. Keep your focus on what you are doing – not on how you feel about someone’s praise or criticism.
Back in 2005, at one of my seminars, I taught the following:
“Remain emotionally neutral about both praise and criticism, yet wise enough to see how either can be used to your benefit.”
I still think the same way today on this matter.
Beware those who flatter you, who tell you how great you are, who praise and coddle you. These people are not going to lead you to success.
Find the coach who tells it to you like it is, the one who wants you to succeed far more than he wants to hear you tell him how great he is.
I realize the above isn’t practiced too much in society today. And that’s precisely why there will never be tens of millions of people running around who’ve mastered something.
P.S. Want to truly master something? – then go here.