How to rise above the doubters

Use these simple tricks from the best athletes to win the game of business.

Greetings, Chief Storytelling Officers.

I hope you had an amazing Thanksgiving and found ways to recharge for the December sprint. 

If you're like me, you've been keeping up with the World Cup to see who will step up for their country on the biggest stage. I'm a diehard USMNT fan. I've been to qualifying matches, Gold Cups, and have defended their honor for two decades now. But I want to talk about a different team here today. 

Argentina suffered an insane upset loss to Saudi Arabia and were in a must win situation against Mexico on Saturday. Lionel Messi did GOAT things. He took a ball and drove it beautifully into the corner of the goal to put Argentina ahead (where they would go on to win). 

The thing that stood out?

His celebration. 

He ran to the Argentinian fans and soaked in their love and admiration. He spoke with them. He surrounded himself in abundance. 

Because Messi knows, when you surround yourself with the right people, anything is possible. 

That's what we're diving into today. 


DEEP DIVE: Handling the Haters

No matter where you are on your founder’s journey, you’ve inevitably hit some roadblocks along the way. There have likely been moments of anxiety, self-doubt, and maybe even sheer terror.

One barrier you’ll inevitably have to navigate is dealing with haters. Haters are the people who are negative and discourage you from achieving your goals. They come in all forms—the naysayers who think you’re crazy for following your dream to the critics who would do or say anything to see you fail. 

Sometimes they actively try to take you down with public words and actions, and other times they do it insidiously, planting seeds of doubt in your head.

I can’t think of a single successful person who doesn’t have a harem of haters. Tom Brady has won SEVEN Super Bowls and will likely go down as the greatest NFL player of all time, but he still has thousands of memes and Twitter accounts dedicated to hating him.

If you come from a sports background, like me, you're most likely familiar with the term "bulletin board material". Teams take the negative media coverage, quotes from opposing players, and any small slight they can find to use it as a daily reminder to push harder. 

I still remember being in high school and a scout telling me that I'd never be fast enough to play pro ball. At the time I ran a 7.2 second 60-yd dash. The major league average he told me was below 7.

It pissed me off. 

I can remember thinking to myself..."F that guy". 

That led to an obsession with sprints, starting line speed, and running mechanics that by the time I was a sophomore on my college baseball team I ran a 6.6 second 60-yd dash. That weakness turned into a massive strength as the speed caught the attention of many other pro scouts. Without that bulletin board material inside of my head, I would've never made that level of improvement. 

It's not just athletes that do this. Many musicians likewise address their haters in their lyrics. Jay Z’s “Dirt off Your Shoulder,” T Swift’s “Shake it Off,” Drake’s “Energy.” It’s clear that haters are on their mind.

Diss tracks have become an art form in the music world. The beef between Biggie and Pac is a classic example of how serious musicians take these slights. (Sadly, that beef ended up robbing us all of two of the greatest rappers and lyricists of all time.)

While it might seem like these superstars at the top of their game take the criticism in stride, it’s not that easy. Studies show increased exposure to negative criticism results in a huge blow to mental wellness, resulting in anxiety, depression, anger, and shame.

The trickiest part about haters is that they’re sometimes hard to spot. Without realizing it, your best friends, closest colleagues, and even family members might be haters.

Here are a few different types of haters—and what you can do to prevent them from holding you back.

Know Thine Enemy

Haters come in all shapes and sizes. One that’s top of mind in our modern society is the internet troll—the person who makes inflammatory comments on social media with an intent to provoke. Having a fairly large social media presence, I certainly deal with my fair share of trolls or people who don’t understand my message. If I let them get to me, it could jeopardize my entire path forward.

Sometimes, though, the haters aren’t so anonymous, and their comments can’t just be deleted.

Do me a favor: think back to a time when you were REALLY excited about a new passion. Maybe you decided you were going to train for a marathon or learn how to play the guitar—or found a new business. Now think about how the people reacted when you told them about it.

Most were probably encouraging and supportive, but I bet there was at least one who wrinkled their nose at you. You? Running a marathon? You’ve never even run around the block! Or, Who do you think you are, Jimi Hendrix? Or, You know half of new businesses fail within the first five years, right?

Whether you realize it or not, those people were haters, and their little jabs struck at your confidence.

There’s a million reasons why people might hate on you. Maybe it’s because they’re envious of your ambition or have some aversion to risk. In some situations, it might be someone who really cares about you and doesn’t want to see you get hurt or fail. But even when these haters have the best intentions, the result is the same.

What’s worse is that the more you put yourself out there, the more vulnerable you become to hate. You know by now that founding a company is no easy feat. People will call you crazy for leaving the safety of your normal life, for taking a huge financial risk, or for diving headfirst into the unknown with a fervor they don’t quite understand.

The first step to rising above the hate is recognizing criticism when it occurs. Listen to how the people around you respond when you tell them about your newest venture. Are they supportive and positive, or are they deflecting your dreams with sarcasm, sly jabs, and strings of “yeah, but…” Or, are they masking their hate in genuine concern for you?

Their words might seem innocuous, but prolonged exposure to those negative vibes can be the death of a thousand papercuts.

This is why it's so important to surround yourself with people living in abundance and positivity. You have no doubt heard the idea that you're the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time around. Make sure those people support you, believe in you, and inspire you. 

Drink the Haterade 

As with many other things in life, handling hate comes down to your perspective. Thomas Edison knew this when he famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

You can likewise reframe criticism and turn it into motivation. For some, that motivation comes from anticipating how good it will feel to prove the haters wrong. 

I talked earlier about bulletin board material in sports, but it's not just for athletes. Author Stephen King literally performed this ritual during the formative part of his writing career. In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King writes that each time he received a rejection notice for one of his stories, he placed it on a nail above his writing desk. “By the time I was 14, the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”

The strategy also works in the business world. “Negative feedback can either be the anchor you drag through the desert or the wind behind your sail,” bestselling author and entrepreneur Dean Graziosi told Forbes. “The revolutionaires who made an impact, changed the rules, ended wars, and fought for freedom were the ‘crazy ones.’ They had to listen to naysayers and absorb the criticism—and they let that be their fuel, not their kryptonite.”

I remember listening to Alexis Ohanian (founder of Reddit and Seven Seven Six) who said that he keeps all the negative tweets and comments he receives. Then years later he will reply to the person with their original tweet once he's proved them wrong. Some might call this petty. I call this motivation.

It's the chip on the shoulder that the greats use to their advantage. 

Another way to manage the hate is to set boundaries around it. Many artists and athletes have long gone out of their way to avoid reading reviews because they’ve found it affects their performance. Actor Adam Sandler told Variety he stopped reading reviews of his movies after critics panned his 1995 movie, Billy Madison. “It didn’t make sense to me, and it screwed up my thinking a little bit,” he said.

Once you’re aware of the way people around you voice their criticism, begin cutting it out. Don’t give haters the opportunity to bring you down. Change the subject or get more selective about what you share with your friends and family. Over time, you can gradually distance yourself from potential negative situations.  

This might mean that you will have to make some tough decisions about your close friends and family. Once emotions are wrapped up in relationships, things can get tricky.

I was reminded of this once during the first child abuse trial I ever led as a prosecutor. The victim was a teenager in high school and came to our first meeting alone.

Odd, or so I thought until I asked why.

The victim told me her family didn't support her. They wanted her to stay quiet and not get her uncle in trouble. They tried to pay her off. When that didn't work, they tried to threaten her into silence. I listened to her story, and from there I told her that we would be her support.

When trial day arrived, she was nervous. Her family had shown up, but not to support her. They were there to remind her that she was going against her family.They were there to scare her.

She pushed forward. The trial ended. The defendant went to prison. The victim had stood strong.

There’s no way around it. Building a company is hard. Fundraising venture capital is hard.

But it's nowhere close to the level of hard that the victims of child abuse face when they step foot into a courtroom to fight for justice. If they could push through those horrors and haters, you can push through the hard times of building a massive business.

Keep going. Keep building. Keep doing the hard things.

Find a way to win. That will do the talking for you. 

RESOURCES for Founders and Storytellers

How do we define ourselves and each other? That’s the topic of storyteller Derek DelGaudio’s one-man show, In & Of Itself, which is streaming on both Hulu and Disney Plus. Through a series of storytelling vignettes and a little sleight of hand magic, DelGaudio takes the audience on a journey to redefine their identities and how they show up in the world. It’s a masterful tear-jerker that will leave you contemplating bigger things.


Private equity has a reputation for surviving in most economic crises, thanks in part to its liquid nature and focus on long-term horizons. But as a recent PitchBook article shares, this quality can also at times insulate them from reality. Read why that matters here.


Solar, wind, and other renewable energy startups have been slowly seeing more favor in venture funding. Despite the economic downturn, companies in the space have managed to raise around $7.6 billion, including a recent $120 million raise from California startup Swell Energy. This CrunchBase article explains why renewables are getting more love than ever.


What's been the biggest takeaway for you since you started reading this newsletter? 

Hearing from readers is one of the best parts of my week. 

And before I go, I'll leave you with one quote that I was thinking about this week from Les Brown. 

"Don't go where the path may lead. Go where there is no path and leave a trail behind."

If you're planning to raise venture capital for your company in 2023 and want to make sure you have the right strategy, story, and don't make any costly mistakes...that's what we do ($330,000,000 to date). Feel free to apply here.