Can you ignore the ridicule to keep going?

Today is September 18 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is "can you ignore the ridicule to keep going?” One of the few shared experiences those who navigate the chaos have is the ridicule leveled against them. Strangers will question you. Family members will be jealous. Friends will leave you. Strangers, family members, and friends will ridicule you. Can you ignore them to continue navigating your path?

When you are attempting something new or working towards some goal others do not believe you can achieve, ridicule is bound to happen. In 1940 “The Rotarian” magazine published an article titled “Bat It Out!” with the byline George Herman (‘Babe’) Ruth. The Rotarian was published by Rotary International, an enduring civic organization known for its Rotary Clubs. In the penultimate paragraph of the essay, Babe Ruth presented the adage for the guidance of his readers.

“One more point: A good player never stops until he’s actually out, running as hard for first base on the almost-certain-to-be-caught fly or grounder as he would if he were sprinting the 100-yard dash. If Henry Ford hadn’t kept going in the early days despite ridicule, we would never have seen the Ford car. It’s been much the same with almost every great man you could name. He kept plugging when everybody said his chances of making first base were nil. You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”

This theme of never giving up is found throughout historical speeches. For example, American labor union advocate Nicholas Klein gave an inspiring speech to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in 1918 and said:

“my friends, after this war, there will be a great unemployment problem. The munition plants will be closed and useless, and millions of munitions workers will be thrown out upon the market. And then the time will come to show whether you strikers and you workers believe one hundred per cent for organized labor or only 35 per cent.... And my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First, they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. And I say, courage to the strikers, and courage to the delegates, because great times are coming, stressful days are here, and I hope your hearts will be strong, and I hope you will be one hundred per cent union when it comes!”

Unfortunately, Klein's words are often summarized as "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win", and mis-attributed to Mahatma Gandhi and to Arthur Schopenhauer as "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident". Ruth and Klein understood the need to ignore the ridicule as it only serves as a distraction if you want to keep going.

Klein’s observation offers several questions for reflection associated with today’s post.

“First, they ignore you.” Have you been ignored before in your life? Has being ignored stopped you from doing what you want to do? Have you ignored others? If so, why?

“Then they ridicule you.” Have you been ridiculed before in your personal life or career? Have you allowed the ridicule to prevent you from doing what you want to do? Have you ridiculed others? If so, why?

“And then they attack you and want to burn you.” Have you been attacked either personally or professionally? How did you respond? Have you attacked anyone? If so, why?

“And then they build monuments to you.” Are you doing what you are doing so people build monuments to you in the future?

  • Can you ignore the ridicule to keep going?