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Beating the Odds

What’s Your Response to Criticism?

“All of us,” the saying goes, “could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.”
But people are not the weather. They are more than water, wind and sun. They are a complex mix of thoughts and feelings. But each person has a choice in responding to criticism.
This point comes across clearly in Ron Chernow’s book “Grant,” a study of the man who led the Union army in the Civil War and who later became president.
At one point Chernow writes of a moment just before the 1868 presidential election. Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia were sitting and reading the papers in Galena, Ill.
Julia became incensed over the coverage of her husband. His critics were portraying him as a raving drunk.
Chernow writes, “Then she gazed up from her paper and scrutinized her sober husband dressed in his white linen suit calmly smoking and reading his paper and smiling at my … indignation, saying, ‘I do not mind that, Mrs. Grant. If it were true I would feel very badly, perhaps as badly as you do.'”
You can’t blame Mrs. Grant for reacting the way she did. She instinctively wanted to protect the honor of the man she loved.
As for Grant himself, he had two things going for him in a situation that would have brought others to their knees.
First, he had always been cool under fire. He would engage the enemy when others would not.
“In every battle,” he said, “there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.”
Second, sitting there in that room in Galena, Grant could feel secure in himself. He had done things, nearly impossible things. He had won fame, and rightly so.
Those two things — coolness under fire and the knowledge of his own worth — no doubt helped him brush off the arrows that others fired at him. Were these qualities innate or learned? Let’s leave that to science for the time being.
One thing is beyond dispute. Grant was an invisible gem. There was little in his youth to suggest he would succeed the way he did. His work at West Point was less than stellar. When faced with the challenges of battle, however, he responded.
Everyone gets criticized one time or another. But when you’re attacked, it helps to have a sense of worth that comes from having accomplished things.
Grant did, though people were slow to see it. All of which shows that even though gems may not be visible all the time, they are there.

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