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How to Deal With Criticism

If you are afraid of criticism, you will die doing nothing. (Part 2)

Coach Wooden believed in this clear message, the same idea other great philosophers also expressed:

  • “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”Winston Churchill
  • “To escape criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” Elbert Hubbard

Coach taught his players how to deal with criticism by breaking it down into two types: criticism they would receive from him and the coaching staff, and criticism they would receive from sources outside of the team (media, fans, alumni etc.).

Let’s discuss dealing with criticism from outside sources now.

These two ideas are excellent anchors for a sound philosophy to deal with criticism from external sources:

  • Be true to yourself.
  • Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, as your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

In his book Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court with Steve Jamison, Coach recounted how he counseled his players on dealing with “outside” criticism:

Fellows, you’re going to receive criticism. Some of it will be deserved and some of it will be undeserved. Either way, deserved or undeserved, you’re not going to like it. You’re also going to receive praise on occasion. Some of it will be deserved and some of it will be undeserved. Either way, deserved or undeserved, you’re going to like it. However, your strength as an individual depends on how you respond to both criticism and praise. If you let either one have any special effect on you, it’s going to hurt us.

It goes back to what my dad used to say: “If you get caught up in things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect those things over which you have control.” You have little control over what criticism or praise outsiders send your way. Take it all with a grain of salt.

I think this is an important message to share with people today because we are often confronted with external praise and criticism as a result of social media.

Let’s help all of us grow into philosophers, who Coach Wooden describes as: a person who meets all events, whether favorable or unfavorable, with calmness and composure.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Criticism 

Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.