Bill and Carrie go to our church. My wife and I adore Carrie. She's not just smart and funny - she's also one of those women who you imagine may have a heart that is literally made out of gold bullion.
Carrie's husband, Bill, is around my age -- a great, humble guy. He's so humble, in fact, that you'd never know that he is so brilliant that he was recruited into the upper echelons of the world's most prestigious investment bank. When Bill offers predictions, finance magazines quote him verbatim, since many, many millions of dollars follow his observations.
The other day I happened to mention to Bill and Carrie that I'd gotten some anonymous criticism about something I'd written. In fairness, the criticism was pretty mild. But my instinct, upon receiving said criticism, is usually to change my name and move to the forest.
In truth, I was probably telling them because I was hoping to hear them say that I was a fine writer, and that the person criticizing was probably some kind of Neolithic half-dunce who hadn't evolved enough to appreciate true art.
They didn't say that.
But what Bill wrote to me was even better. "You think that's bad?" he said in an email. "Check this out." And he sent me a link in which a blogger had named him, Bill, the "Idiot of the Month" for one of his financial forecasts.
Now, I've been criticized before. But I've never been called the Idiot of the Month. I very much hope that nobody EVER calls me the Idiot of the month. For the first time, I actually felt a bit sorry for Bill. Idiot of the Month?! Yowch!
That patronizing sympathy for Bill lasted about ten seconds. Then it struck me:
You know what you have to do if, like me, you want to ensure you're NEVER called "Idiot of the Month?"
Nothing at all. You live your life as safely as you can. You never put yourself out there. You never write something that people can criticize, you never stick to your principles, you never suggest radical innovation. You never try anything new. You never risk failing. You never set out to make an impact on the world.
But that's not Bill. Bill works harder than anyone I know. He's recognized for that. He's enormously respected in his field and by his friends.
So why would Bill share that link? Why would he even keep that link?
Because Bill knows that he's making a difference. Not just in the world of finance, but he's also providing for his wife and his daughters. He donates to charities he and Carrie believe in. He takes risks. He doesn't give up. And if that means taking personal criticism, that's the price he'll pay.
This doesn't mean he's okay with criticism, that it doesn't bother him. That Idiot of the Month thing probably crushed him. But he saved it. And by keeping it, and sharing it, he took the power out of it.
I want that in my life. I want to make a difference. I want to be such a fearless risk-taker that somebody, at some point, feels the need to call me the Idiot of the Month. It would devastate me -- don't get me wrong. But if I'm living by my principles, then it would also mean that I'm being courageous.
We have made it this far because of the Idiots of the Month. We should find a way to join them.