John Wooden on Praise and Criticism

You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one. John Wooden

Wow, did this quote ever from the great UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, hit me. (Be sure to see the quote I provide at the end for a great lesson.)

Praise and criticism both appeal to the same ego, but from opposite ends. The same ego I speak of is the insecure ego. Insecurity, especially when it is in a leader - is a most dangerous situation. The insecure leader acts to quench insecurity.

The insecure ego wants-needs praise, affirmation, reassurance... It does not have security based on identity with Christ, or based on a true knowledge of self flavored with gratitude and humility. There is nothing wrong with needing affirmation and encouragement. That is built into our humanity. But insecurity drives the legitimate needs out of whack, and to a place where it is never enough. Never satisfied. Never really convinced... so it wants more.

Criticism works in the other direction. If praise is a temporary balm for the insecure ego, criticism is a sledge hammer (or a wrecking ball). For the insecure person, criticism cuts them to the core. It wounds them. It intensifies the insecurity. 

The responses to criticism will vary quite a bit. One person may respond in anger. Others in disbelief. Others in depression. Some withdraw, while others go on the offensive against the critic.  Some rationalize away the criticism and ignore it, while others obsess on it. Even if criticism is authentic, accurate, gentle, with pure motives - the insecure ego simply cannot receive it.

If praise or criticism GET TO YOU - that is an indication that inner work needs done.

If you can receive praise with humility and gratitude, and if you can receive criticism with openness and trust - that is a sign that good inner work has been done.

How about you?
How do you respond to praise?
How do you react to criticism?

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

p.s. If you want to be inspired, just do a Google search on John Wooden quotes and you will find lots of them.