By John Sonmez February 23, 2015

It’s Not The Critic Who Counts

“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.”

—Theodore Roosevelt

Print this quote out and paste it on your wall.

Put it up in front of your mirror.

Put it right next to your monitor, so that every time you are about to not do your own work, but criticize someone else's, you stop and think.

Do you want to be a critic or a doer?

Do you want to be the person who jeers at other people taking action, while you take no action of your own?

The internet is a dark place and software developers can be mean

I wrote about this before, when I talked about the dark side of software development that no one talks about, so I won't belabor the point here, but it's important to understand that when you actually do something, you are likely to get a lot of criticism for it.

I wish that we lived in a better world where everyone supported everyone else's efforts to do something—to take some kind of action—but, we don't.

The truth is we live in a world where it is much easier to condemn someone else's actions and point out their flaws, rather than to support and encourage them, or better yet, do something of your own.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are plenty of great software engineers and software development communities out there.

There are plenty of good people who are doing their own things and cheering on those of us who are brave enough to step out of our comfort zones and put forth some effort.

But, by and far, the vocal majority are critics.

I was rudely reminded of this point recently when I posted my blog post on a Joel Test for programmers to Reddit.

Some nasty comments there for sure, but that is nothing compared to how bad it can get.

My point isn't to dissuade you away from putting your stuff out there in the public, or even seeking constructive feedback and criticism, but rather to prepare you for how nasty the internet can be when you do start putting yourself—and your stuff—out there.

So what? Do it anyway

Here is the thing:

So what if people are mean.

So what if people are jerks and will criticize what you do, while they take no action of their own.

Don't let that stop you from taking action yourself.

Hateful comments and verbal abuse can seem painful, but it can only hurt you if you let it.

I know, it's easy to say that, but it's true.

We can choose to ignore that world and keep on doing our thing, if we want to.

We don't even have to read the nasty things people write about our work.

Now, this might not be the best approach in the long run. It's often worth getting feedback—even if it's delivered like slap in the face—but, if you need to put your head in the sand in order to keep making your thing, by all means, dig a hole and put your head right in.

head in the sand

Most people never do anything

Really, it's true.

Most people never really do anything with their lives—at least nothing meaningful.

It's not because they aren't talented.

It's not because they have nothing to offer.

It's because they are afraid.

That's right. They are afraid.

Afraid of what other people will think.

Afraid that what they will do will not be good enough.

Afraid that people will laugh at them.

Afraid that it will be too hard.

Afraid that they will fail; that they won't be able to recover.

Afraid that they'll waste their life doing something meaningless, so what do they do in response?

…they waste their life doing nothing–meaningless.

I'm telling you today, do something.

I don't care what it is.

I don't care if everyone in the world thinks it's stupid.

So what if it's a bad idea.

So what if it won't make any money.

So what if people will laugh at you and call you names, because you dared to do something they didn't have the courage to do.

Sit down and write.

Write a book.

Write some code. Develop that app you wanted to develop.

Launch that product.

Start the business.

Meet the girl, ask her for her number.

Whatever you do, do something.

Life is too short. It only comes by once, and then it is gone.

You can leave an imprint on a couch where you wasted away your life watching TV, or you can leave a legacy.

Yes, you… Really you.

do something

Find a thing and do it

It doesn't matter if it's the “right” thing.

It doesn't matter it it's “your calling.”

It doesn't even matter if you are good at it—or even if you completely suck.

So what. We all suck at first.

When I started this blog, I sucked at writing—some people might argue that I still do—but, guess what?

I literally don't give a shit. (I don't even care that I just used literally wrong.)

Seriously, I don't care if you think my writing sucks.

I published a damn book with my shitty writing and sold tens of thousands of copies of it.

My point is that “sucking” is not an excuse for not doing—and it's certainly not an excuse for criticizing someone else.'

If you want to get good at something, you are going to have to learn how to suck first; that's just how it goes.

You might have to fail the first few times.

You might have to go back to the drawing board or tear it up and start again.

But, guess what?

You'll eventually get there if you don't give up.

And, if you don't get there, at least you'll have tried.

At least you'll have done something—which is more than 99% of people will ever do.

And guess what else?

You can always try something else.

You don't have to hit it out of the park on the first swing.

You don't even have to use the same bat.

You can step up to a different plate.

You can even play a completely different sport.

Because, here is the secret they don't tell you in college…

Here is the thing that critics don't want you to know…

Once you start doing things, it gets easier.

Not only does it get easier, you might even get addicted to it.

You might even unplug your TV, and start doing all kinds of things, every single day.

Don't become part of the problem

I'll leave you with one final piece of advice—for those of you who aren't going to do something.

Get out of my way.

Get out of our way.

If you aren't going to do something yourself, then shut your mouth, sit on your hands and keep your opinions to yourself.

Don't become part of the problem.

Don't become a critic.

It's hard enough to do something.

It's hard enough t0 wake up every morning and put yourself out there; to face defeat; to look failure in the face—and laugh.

So, don't make it harder.

Don't make it harder for me.

Don't make it harder for you.

Don't make it harder for anyone else who is willing to try.

Instead, when you see someone trying to do something, give them a hand.

Encourage them.

Tell them they did a good job.

Tell them you appreciate what they are doing.

If you disagree with them, fine, do it in a nice way.

Treat them with respect, because although they may not be doing what you want them to do, although they may even be failing or screwing it up completely, although they may have the whole thing wrong and you know how to fix it, at least they are doing something…

What are you doing?

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."