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The entire Navigate the Chaos collection of all 365 blog posts is now available in a paperback entitled Navigate the Chaos (795 pages for $24.99). A smaller collection of thoughts from the Navigate the Chaos collection is available in paperback entitled Wonder (94 pages for $4.99)

How often can you ignore the critics and keep moving forward?

Today is February 20 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often can you ignore the critics and keep moving forward?” Navigating the chaos will often involve you being criticized. The reasons for criticism leveled against you are, for the more part, unfair, fueled by jealousy, marked by incompetence, or based on ignorance. So, what is one to do?

Well one option is to consider former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who once noted “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you will be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” AC/DC didn’t let being called ‘the all-time low of rock and roll’ stop them.

High Voltage was the first internationally released studio album by Australian hard rock band AC/DC. It contains tracks from their first two previous Australia-only issued albums, High Voltage and T.N.T. (both from 1975). Originally released internationally on 30 April 1976 on Atlantic Records and in the US on 14 May 1976 on ATCO Records, this edition of High Voltage has proven popular, selling three million units in the US alone.

However, initially the album was panned by some critics upon its release. Perhaps the most famous critic was Billy Altman, who in a December 16, 1976, review in Rolling Stone wrote “Those concerned with the future of hard rock may take solace in knowing that with the release of the first U.S. album by these Australian gross-out champions, the genre has unquestionably hit its all-time low. A band whose live act features a lead guitarist (Angus Young) leering menacingly while dressed in schoolboy beanie and knickers, AC/DC has nothing to say musically (two guitars, bass and drums all goose-stepping together in mindless three-chord formations).”

AC/DC ignored the review, continued making music and in 2009 the Recording Industry Association of America upgraded the group's US sales figures for all of its albums from 69 million to 71 million, making AC/DC the fifth best-selling band in US history and the tenth best-selling artist, selling more albums than Madonna and Mariah Carey.

AC/DC is hardly alone though as many successful people had to endure ridicule, criticism, and ignorance as they navigated the chaos. Here are just a few of the many examples to consider for today’s reflection:

  • In 1876, William Preece of the British Post Office was quoted as saying, “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”

  • British physicist Lord Kelvin, one of the foremost and most innovative scientists of his generation asserted “X-rays will prove to be a hoax” and “radio has no future.”

  • In 1899, Charles H. Duell, a Commissioner of the US Office of Patents claimed that: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

  • In 1903, the President of Michigan Savings Bank advised Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Company insisting, “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.” Rackham reportedly ignored the advice and invested $5 000 in Ford stock, selling it later for $12,5 million.

  • A modeling agency told Marilyn Monroe: “You better get secretarial work or get married.”

  • In 1966, Time Magazine wrote off e-commerce long before it was conceived of by claiming that: “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop.”

  • In 1981, inventor Marty Cooper was adamant that: “Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems.”

  • Robert Metcalfe, founder of 3Com, who in 1995 gave this prophecy: “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.”

As you review these and other examples of critics, and how tremendously wrong they were, recall the dictum of Arthur C. Clarke in 1962 “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is almost certainly wrong.” You will be criticized. You will be told no one wants what you have. You will be laughed at. You own family members will not believe in you. So what?

  • How often can you ignore the critics yet move forward anyway?

  • How often are you criticizing someone trying to navigate the chaos?

  • How do you respond when someone criticizes you?

  • Why do you think you criticize someone as they are trying to translate one dream after another into reality?

  • How do you respond to the statements made in today’s post from so-called experts and their terribly incorrect predictions?

  • Do you agree with Clarke in that ‘when a scientist states something is impossible they are almost certainly wrong?’


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