In 2012 I worked as the radio sideline reporter for BYU football games…a post I held for nearly a decade. At each game I provided commentary before and during the game, interviewed the head coach at half time, and interviewed players and coaches post game. Broadcasting football games from Notre Dame, Michigan, Texas, and Hawaii, with two of my best friends, Greg Wrubell and Marc Lyons was a life highlight for me.
But attending these games came with a cost. Especially in 2012. Each week, during the 2012 season, I wrote a column about some aspect of the upcoming game. As a reporter, I was expected to objective, even though it was understood that I wasn’t entirely neutral. I had played at BYU, and it was because of my connections to the players and coaches that I was offered the job as the sideline reporter. I wore a BYU polo to each game, and the fans listening knew that I wanted BYU to win.
Because of my ties to BYU, I expected a warm reception to my articles, especially because BYU fans are, by and large, kind and respectful. But I was shocked at how upset some fans got at my articles…even though we were all pulling for the same team. For example, in one column I argued that the projected starting quarterback could have an especially big year. But several fans were angry that I placed such high expectations on the quarterback. Other fans called me names for not giving the back up quarterback more credit. Still others attacked me personally for the comparisons I made.
This experience drove home one of the most valuable lessons of my life…that some people didn’t like me. I had dedicated myself to BYU as a student, player, and broadcaster for nearly a decade. But even still, some people disliked me intensely. Furthermore, I realized that if I was disliked by fans who were on my own team, so to speak, over mild topics, I would be especially disliked by people who weren’t on my team, over much more important topics.
This lesson I learned in 2012 has been learned by countless people since then, especially now that social media is commonplace and people can easily get feedback on their posts. But in 2012 this lesson wasn’t so obvious to me.
Several years later, I was listening to a podcast with Reid Hoffman the legendary Silicon Valley investor. Hoffman was an original board member at PayPal, founder of LinkedIn, and early investor in Facebook and Airbnb, among others. He was recommending books, and the title of one recommendation caught my attention: The Courage to be Disliked, by Japanese authors, Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga.
I instantly ordered the book and was intrigued by the ideas it taught…ideas that I had learned from broadcasting several years earlier. One of my favorite passages read, “Don’t be afraid of being disliked. There may be people who do not think well of you. But controlling their perception is not your responsibility. Simply move forward without fearing the possibility of being disliked.”
Reading those lines crystalized the lesson I had learned from broadcasting. Not everyone will like us. And although we should listen to constructive, honest feedback, we also need to have the courage to be disliked…to continue doing what we believe is right, even when people dislike us for it.
No doubt Abraham Lincoln understood this lesson, as he once said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Nor should we try.
But so what, why does this matter? If we spend our life trying to gain the praise of others, we will live a life following other’s expectations for us. And in the process, we’ll abandon our lives and live theirs.
On this topic, Kishimi and Koga asked, “What is freedom? Freedom is being disliked by other people. It is proof that you are exercising your freedom living in accordance with your own principles. It is certainly distressful to be disliked. If possible we would like to live without being disliked by anyone. But conducting ourselves in such a way as to not be disliked by anyone is an extremely unfree way of living.”
I’m not suggesting that we take satisfaction in other people’s anger. Being true to ourselves is a poor excuse for being rude. We can always be respectful and considerate. But we should also have the courage to be disliked. In fact, if it wasn’t for this lesson I learned from broadcasting, I would have never created this podcast.
In summary, kids, please be kind, humble, and respectful. But also have the courage to be disliked.
It’s a simple idea. Please take it seriously.
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