One of my greatest teachers was Dr. Abraham Maslow who wrote about highly functioning people—what he called self-actualizers. The number one quality of these people is that they are independent of the opinions of other people, particularly the good opinions of other people. I wrote a lot about approval seeking in my very first book, Your Erroneous Zones, 1976. But I didn’t always follow my own advice in those days. When I’d do an interview or appear on a talk show, I’d read the stories about me the next day. I’d look for reviews of my books and so on. Today, especially in the last four or five years, I feel like I’ve really and truly gotten into a place in my life where it just doesn’t make any difference. The reviews are something that I now have very little concern for.
I gave a speech in Las Vegas recently and I talked about the whole idea of living your life free of concern about outcome. If you can stop worrying about whether people are going to like it or not, what a freeing place to be in your life. You can learn to treat other people’s opinions, whether good or bad, exactly the same way. If someone tells you how wonderful you are, you can treat that exactly the same as if they tell you how awful you are. One of the places I practice this is on Amazon. They have book reviews and almost every day there’s a new review or two. One will have five stars and then another will have half a star and say—“he’s writing books because he’s just there to try and make money.” I know that’s coming from someone who has no idea why I write.
I write because writing is something that I have to do. And it doesn’t matter whether people like it or not. When I write, I feel the pressure and anxiety that come with taking an empty piece of paper and trying to fill it with something from your own consciousness. I sit there for 6-7 hours a day for a year. It’s something I have to do. And I would suggest that’s true for most creative people. They don’t go to their studio and paint every day because somebody else out there is going to be buying their work. Van Gogh never made a penny in his entire lifetime. He painted because it was his soul, his excitement. It was what aligned him with his Source of being. It’s the same with me and writing. But people who are not in that place, people who are themselves short on resources, will often impose the idea that the only conceivable reason why anyone would sit down and write or paint or compose would be because it might make money. And that’s exactly the reason that they are not following their calling and not making money. An artist or a creative person of any kind goes about their work because it’s their path, it’s what excites them, it’s what aligns their soul with who they truly are, who they showed up to be.
You get to a place where you are no longer concerned whether people like or don’t like your work. I’ve just finished a book, I Can See Clearly Now, and I know in my soul that there will be people who are going to criticize what I’m saying about the things that influenced me throughout my life. I’m going to write about those things anyway. The nicest thing about being in this place in your life –when you look at the review section, you don’t have to look at how many stars you get—you can read them dispassionately and read the negative ones exactly the same as the positive ones.