It’s Easy to be a Critic

I have never liked reality TV. Although I don’t deny it can be entertaining at times, there are several things about it that bother me. I don’t like the gossip, the backstabbing and the grandstanding antics that drive ratings through the roof. But what bothers me most is not so much what happens on the shows, but what happens to the viewers.

As a coach, I know that the crucial key to creating the life you want is taking action. Watching reality TV is a perfect example of how not to get what you want. Instead of stepping forward and engaging in life themselves, viewers live vicariously through the participants as they struggle to deal with challenging situations. It is easy and seductive to be part of the audience; to criticize and judge others who are taking action while you sit on your butt in the safety of your living room. Meanwhile, watching TV and talking about what happened on the show last night is not moving you any closer to your goals.

Perhaps I am feeling sensitive because of my own age. I will be 57 years old in a few months and recently several acquaintances younger than me have died of natural causes. Suddenly I am feeling a sense of time urgency as never before. Things are going well but I still have more to do and more to give. I have not created the life of my dreams yet.

Think about Michael Jackson. He was only 50 years old and although you may argue that he did not die of “natural causes”, his time is over. One thing you can say for him is that he did not play safe. He took action and shared the best and the worst of himself with the world. He played full-on while millions of armchair critics sat back passing judgment. How many of them accomplished anything worthwhile or even broke a sweat working to reach their potential the way Michael did?

I was recently reading “The Think Big Manifesto” by Michael Port and he reinforces this point with an excerpt from a speech delivered by Teddy Roosevelt in 1920: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Life is short and there is much to be done. Celebrate failure – at least you tried! The biggest and most seductive trap of all is to live your life as part of the audience; to feel smug and superior as you watch, judge and criticize others while doing nothing to achieve your own goals. So the next time you catch yourself playing the role of critic, identify something you want in your life and do something – anything – that will move you towards it. Yes, it is risky to take action. But a greater risk is to do nothing and let life pass you by. And the most annoying and useless thing you can do is spend your time talking and complaining about others while you do nothing to create the life you say you want.

Andrew Barber-Starkey is a Master Certified Coach residing in Vancouver, Canada. His coaching program, the ProCoach Success System, is designed for entrepreneurs, small-business owners, self-employed and commissioned sales people who want to double their income while simultaneously doubling their time off within 3 years.

Jonathan’s note: I met Andrew recently and was very impressed with what he’s doing. I now receive his newsletter, and I found this issue so relevant that I requested permission to post it here. I hope you find it useful.

2 Responses to It’s Easy to be a Critic
  1. It’s Easy to Be a Critic – Reality TV Syndrome…

    Reality TV brings about strange things in people, and there’s this growing phenomenon that happens to viewers. Everyone likes to be a critic, but often at the expense of actually taking action in their own lives. Living becomes vicarious. What can we …

  2. bbrian017
    July 8, 2009 | 4:11 pm

    Oh how life is short. Being 57 and seeing MJ die at 50 would scare the *&%^ out of me! I would be thinking 24/7 on what I can do with the rest of my little life. As a hypocrite I could tell you it will be okay and not to worry about it but I won’t.

    The reality of it is 57 is a good age and you should be spending more time with the loved ones in your life. Be it family or friends. Get the most out of it all and stop taking anything for granted. I’m not assuming you are taking anything for granted but none the less it’s normally pretty good advice.

    Just live life at its fullest!

    Dug, stumbled, engaged, mixed buzzed and propped!

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