Negative comments can slow us down and cloud our everyday judgements, so how do we build a mentality that allows us to filter them out? At Will It Make The Boat Go Faster, we use ‘Bullsh*t Filters’.
In 1919, a young artist was fired from his first job at a Kansas newspaper because his editor felt he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Tough words for any young professional to hear and for the next 4 years he struggled to fulfil his dream of becoming an animator. In 1923, he and his brother risked everything and opened their own studio in the burgeoning neighbourhood of Hollywood. Fast-forward almost a century, and the studio is now one of the most widely recognised names in the world. The artist’s name was Walt Disney.
I reference this story because it plays perfectly into the subject of this article – bullsh*t filters.
What are they?
Bullsh*t filters are the mechanics used by teams and individuals to ensure that their goals and ambitions are not thwarted by negative or disheartening comments. Ask anyone who has ever strived to achieve great things, and they will more than likely tell you that the road to get there was paved with doubt from friends, family, colleagues or outsiders.
They were essential to the success of Ben Hunt-Davis and his team in the lead up to the Olympic finals of 2000. For a task that required huge amounts of strength, focus and determination, to waste any time digesting the comments of people who had no role in the overall performance of the team would be a hinderance, and could ultimately prove disastrous.
Ben explains it best when detailing the team’s mentality after their victory against the Romanians in the Vienna Regatta of 2000 – “That evening in the hotel and the next day we had a number of people telling us different things, how well we had done and that the final was a forgone conclusion or that the Aussies had looked fantastic and the final would be really tough, it was all bullsh*t. The only thing that mattered was that we kept our filters on and only listened to the people we trusted.”
Have you ever been told that you couldn’t do something? Have your abilities or ideas ever been questioned? And have you let these doubts change your belief and mindset? I’m sure we all have at some stage, especially when the information comes from someone working closely with us.
So, what are some of the bullsh*t filters that you can introduce into your everyday life that can reduce the impact of others’ opinions and thoughts – well intentioned or otherwise?
Don’t talk bollocks to Basil
One of the best things you can do when working towards an ambitious goal is to only engage in conversations that will motivate you to move forward. If you know people that tend to have a pessimistic view, then avoid discussing your intentions with them. When you find conversation turning and you can sense they could dampen your spirits, try and change the subject or calmly excuse yourself so you can refocus on positive thoughts.
Harriet Beveridge, co-author of the book Will It Make The Boat Go Faster, describes the crew’s mentality towards these types of conversations – “The crew kept away from bullsh*t whenever they could. Lots of Bullsh*t comes from other people so that meant avoiding unhelpful people in the first place or – if that wasn’t possible – avoiding certain topics of conversation or filtering out what they said.”
Accept the facts, challenge the negative interpretation
Facts are facts, how you choose to interpret them is down to you. For example, let’s say you were given a project at work which, due to lack of experience, you failed to deliver on time. It is an unarguable fact that you failed to effectively deliver that project. When the next opportunity at work comes around, you jump at the chance to give it a go. Some colleagues may argue that “He/she failed last time, they don’t have the ability and shouldn’t be taking the lead on this one.” This is an opinion, and you can either choose to accept it or look at it another way – “I lacked experience before, since then I have learnt from my mistakes and I’m ready to show what I am now capable of.”
The only member of Ben’s crew who had been to an Olympic Finals before was Ben and he had lost every single time. The crew was inexperienced, this was a fact. This led to people doubting their overall potential to reach the podium. But what good would it do the team to think this way? To even consider adopting this mindset would, in an instant, reduce their belief and energy for the challenge ahead. Ben and his team chose to form their own opinions and belief system (packed full of evidence they had gathered) to help them achieve a gold medal.
Use bullsh*t as emotional fuel
“I love it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder to prove them wrong.” – Derek Jeter
Negative comments can be some of the most powerful fuel to drive you to work harder. It can be incredibly motivating and provide a huge boost to your confidence to prove a doubter wrong.
Following his recent win at The Masters, many commentators are calling Tiger Woods’ major win one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history. However, not long ago many people called for his retirement, and boldly claimed he would never win again. In a brilliant video Tiger watches clips of his doubters writing him off. Tiger must have had some serious bullsh*t filters to block out all the negativity that came his way over the last few years, and clearly motivated him to prove them wrong.
One member of Ben’s crew used to keep a record of all the hurtful things they had heard in the past as emotional fuel just before a race. Although some may find this extreme, it was a great reminder that there were people who underestimated their abilities, and it was those people he was going to prove wrong.
Bullsh*t filters were just one of the tactics Ben and his team used in the lead up to Sydney and they proved invaluable. If Walt Disney or Tiger Woods hadn’t had their bullsh*t filters turned on, would they have experienced such great success? They all refused to let the negativity, fear and doubt of others affect their ambition and creativity. Think now, is there something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time but haven’t gotten around to because someone said it was a waste of time or you weren’t up to the challenge? Go ahead and do it and turn on your bullsh*t filters and enjoy the experience for what it is. Encouragement from others can be extremely motivating, but belief in yourself is one of the most important tools in achieving your goals. As Henry Ford once said: