Open Letter to People Who Do Things

If you do things that others know about, you will attract a lot of criticism.

People will think you’re wrong a lot. Sometimes you will actually be wrong; sometimes you won’t be.

Sometimes people will be vicious. Sometimes people will try to hurt you as badly as they possibly can.

No matter how well you do things, there will be people who are disgusted by what you do and think you’re a terrible person.

No matter how politically neutral the thing you do is, people will attack it for political reasons. (Either a specific reason, or they’ll say it’s frivolous and that you should be fighting global warming or poverty or something instead.)

If you charge money for what you do, people will be outraged (including people who would never work for free.)

No matter how much you charge, people will angrily tell you that it’s too much.

Even if you work for free, people will be angry with you for addressing some things but not others. Or for not giving them what they want fast enough.

No matter how well you consider other sides, someone will angrily accuse you of censorship or refusing to listen.

And so on and so on. No matter what you do, there are people who will be angry and disgusted by it. There will be people who will hate you. There will be people who try to hurt you to make you stop. This happens to absolutely everyone who does things that a lot of other people know about. It is possible to live with that.

(Part of the way to live with that is by learning to keep perspective in the face of other people’s anger.)

A note about criticism - it’s important to be open to criticism, because sometimes you will be wrong. In order to be truly open to criticism, you have to get past the desire to appease everyone who is mad at you. If you try to please everyone, what ends up happening is that you end up deferring to whoever is the loudest and meanest. Listening to criticism in a good way means you have to be selective — and it also usually means disengaging from jerks.

You don’t have to be perfect to do things that matter. If only perfect people could do things, nothing would ever get done. Everyone who has every done anything has also been flawed in a serious way. Because that’s how people are.

It’s also important to remember that you don’t owe the world a heckler’s veto. There will always be people who don’t like you or your work. That doesn’t mean you have to stop. It doesn’t mean you have to engage with them. It just means that you’re being noticed, and that some people don’t like what they’re seeing.

tl;dr If you do things that people notice, some people who notice will be mean to you and try to convince you that you are terrible. That happens to everyone who does things. It doesn’t mean you’re terrible. It means you’re visible. Being open to criticism doesn’t mean giving the world a heckler’s veto. It’s ok to do things even if you’re imperfect and sometimes people are angry at you.