Slights and Chalkboards

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A colleague has been struggling with some negative talk on the back channel and asked me how I deal with it. When someone slights me, I use that resentment to drive me further, finish hard projects, go the extra mile, and get up when I fail.

This is the famous chalkboard moment. Sports teams often use slights and trash talk to go out and hand it to the opposition.

Michael Jordan admitted a similar fueling approach when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Jordan was criticized (justly), probably because he said he did it to prove all of his critics wrong. He also revealed several resentments toward players that were in attendance.

I recently heard a story of a woman who was in a difficult marriage. Every time her husband angered her, she would go into their backyard and dig, then plant. Within six months she had a magnificent garden. She said that garden made the issues with her husband less omnipresent and more tolerable.

No one should be so brazen as Jordan and publicly list all their grudges. But when I receive a slight, am criticized unjustly (at least in my mind), or flat-out bullied, I hold those wrongs closely to me and use them for fuel to go do something positive.

Go Out and Build Something

I know of only one way to stop thinking negatively, and that’s to take action towards positive outcomes. Really, I’ve never been a good person to piss off, but age has its benefits, and I have learned that response rarely does anything positive, so I try not engage when angered. Success is the best remedy, and the ultimate vindication.

It’s always best just to let go and forgive, but sometimes I just can’t do it for whatever reason. Those justified moments of anger? Yeah, I need to find good projects to throw my angst into. There’s too much energy inside of me to simply breathe and let it go most of the time.

It’s not fight, it’s not flight, it’s forward. Though it appears that I’ve turned the other cheek, in reality I’ve just turned on the afterburners.

Is it the ultimate expression of spiritual health? No. For a healthier approach, check out Peg Fitzpatrick’s tips on how to handle nastiness.

I realize how flawed this motivation is, but it is progress. It’s just how I process slights, and why I do some of the things I do. I hope some day in the future, that slights will be non-factors in any way for me.

Usually half way into the project — something I wanted to do anyway for personal reasons — the raison d’être is forgiven or the angst has subsided, and love for the project carries the momentum. You have to do work because you love it, otherwise it’s going to leave you feeling empty inside. There are never enough wins to fill a bottomless hole.

Do you use slights for motivation? How do you process them?

8 Replies to “Slights and Chalkboards”

  1. “It’s not fight, it’s not flight, it’s forward.” I love that line. Slights still hurt, but I never want to have a thick skin like many people advocate. Rather, I have broad shoulders to carry the load, for a moment, then release it. Sometimes I carry the load a tad too long, but I’m getting better at releasing the pains, slights and injustices of life. Cheers! Kaarina

    1. I think the people with thick skin are putting on a good show. I have seen enough of the back channel responses to know they get pissed, too, but just play a better game of politics. Some do grow numb to it, though.

  2. Fabulous post as always, Geoff.

    The best example of this for me was my high school experience. I got bullied all of the time, so I decided I would make it to the top ten by graduation so I could get some positive attention. Not only did I succeed in that but the grade averages were so close I was actually able to knock my arch-rival out of the top ten altogether. It was a rather delicious moment, I must admit.

    The social media world is a little bit different. First, you can get inundated with negativity a lot quicker, and it is all in writing so it sticks with you. Also, though, it seems like it should be so easy to shake off online slights. Just unplug away from that person. It almost seems silly to spend any time on online quips. Almost…

    1. I always feel deliciously guilty and giddy when that moment arrives.

      I do agree on the social media side, but have really gottent to the point with it, where I am starting to become dispassionate and jaded with the commenting. In short, I just feel like if you hang out in a bar, you can’t complain about the drunks.

      Certain networks are worse than others and we know their are serial complainers, so it becomes easier to qualify comments. At the same time, I tend to avoid the seedier establishments, so to speak. It helps.

  3. I am a Taurus and it is fair to say I share some of the traits of the bull. I am relatively slow to anger but when you get that sort of attention my desire is to not just hook, but trample you.

    Age, experience and maturity has done a lot to soften the edges so I am far more likely now to ask myself if responding or reacting carries any benefit to it.

    But I definitely also use those as motivation to push myself. I figure it is going to bother me I might as well try to make something positive out of it.

    1. Sometimes a resentment is there for a reason I have learned. I know some coaches who give you one just to piss you off and get you going. I don’t know. I wish motivation was more altruistic, but it is what it is.

  4. When I finally was successful running away from an abusive home, the words that stuck with me were “you will never grow up beyond 13…you will always be a Granny’s boy”. I put about 9 years of hatred on high simmer, and I used those words as my chalkboard quote to drive my success.

    One caution, hatred does stunt the heart’s growth. My best emotions to channel were hate, disappointment in failures, etc. I did not respond well to the “softer emotions” for years. It still takes a patient wife to be my emotional compass and keep me from burning out too soon.

    1. It does, it’s a lifetime’s work to get rid of it. But we are only human and trying to get better.

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