Opinions of others

The Power of Four: Whose Opinion Matters Most?

My wife recently attempted the Audi Power of Four Trail Run. For those of you who are not familiar, it’s a 50K race up and down our four mountains: Aspen, Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. At the halfway mark she was short of the cutoff time and was not allowed to continue.

The heck of it was, she looked like she had just finished an easy two-mile jog after 17 miles up and down the most difficult part of the course. What was the problem? How could someone who looked so fresh fall short of the cutoff time? The answer was simple, “The downhill on Highlands was crazy. If I pushed myself on the downhill, I felt like I was at risk of hurting myself,” she explained.

As a spouse (really, as a man if we’re being honest) I’m not always sure what to say in situations like these. So I kept my mouth shut until I saw an appropriate opportunity to weigh in. She provided it moments later.

“Well that was a lot of fun. I’m glad I gave it a try,” she gushed.

We went out to lunch with her parents and had a great time talking about the ups and downs of the race and training. We all knew how hard she trained, and the next obvious question was if she will give it another try next year.

The answer was as swift as it was nonchalant, “No. Those downhills simply aren’t for me.”

And that was that. We continued laughing and having a great time at lunch. 

I beamed with pride. Of course I was proud of her for her training effort and having the courage to enter the race. But that is not what stood out in my mind. What stood out for me, and made me most proud, was how comfortable she was with the entire situation.

It never even crossed her mind to look at the negatives. She couldn’t have cared less what anybody thought of her performance, and the idea that she should was not entertained. She was completely comfortable in her own skin.

It got me thinking about my reactions to things and how much the viewpoints of others affect me. In some cases, I am very comfortable with how I react to outside (unsolicited) opinions. In other cases, I feel sad when I let them affect me. 

Then something hit me. The opinions that seem to affect me most are typically those of people who don’t treat me with much respect. They’re from people who don’t really care about me.

I considered this and decided to consult the opinion that matters most … mine! My conclusion — immediately stop worrying about the opinions of uncaring acquaintances.

It’s a process, but I’m moving rapidly down the road to not concerning myself with others’ judgments. And guess what? It feels great!

This reminds me of my best friend at Navy SEAL training, James Randall, who was killed in combat many years later. Jim and I were the leaders of our BUD/S training class. One day during training, Jim was taking a verbal beating from the instructors.

“You can’t lead your way out of a wet paper bag, Lt. Randall!”

“You are going to get someone killed someday, Lt. Randall!”

“Do us all a favor and quit now, Lt. Randall!”

It seemed to go on forever. A little later I went over to him prepared to give him a pep talk after the abuse he’d endured. I put my arm around him and asked how he was doing in my most compassionate voice. He looked at me inquisitively and said, “Fine. Why?”

I looked back and asked “Because the instructors just spent the last 10 minutes screaming how f^@ked up you are. I want to make sure you’re OK.”

“Oh, that,” he responded. “I’m not f^@ked up so why should I care what they said? Let’s go get ready for the next evolution.” And on we went.

I remember being so impressed with his response and confidence. He really didn’t care what the instructors thought. He cared what he thought about himself.

In my mind, Jim and my wife exhibited the most enviable of all qualities — the ability to focus first on self image and self worth before allowing the thoughts of others to interfere.

Give it some thought.  

How much energy are you wasting on another’s negative opinion of you? Now consider how much time you spend cultivating a positive image and opinion of yourself. Give it a try and see how your life improves!

Errol Doebler is a former Navy SEAL platoon commander, FBI terrorism investigator, and founder of his leadership consulting company, Ice Cold Leader. He can be contacted at Hello@Icecoldleader.com. Look out for Errol’s upcoming new book, “Ice Cold Leader: Leading From the Inside Outavailable for PREORDER SOON!

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