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Joseph Brodsky Explains Perfectly How to Deal With Critics and Detractors in Your Life

Joseph Brodsky Explains Perfectly How to Deal With Critics and Detractors in Your Life

In 1962, a young man named Joseph met a woman named Marina. They lived in Russia together. They shared a passion for art. He wrote poetry. She created paintings. They fell in love and had a child together.

It was shaping up to be a good life until one day in 1972, the Soviet officials came knocking at the door. They stormed Joseph’s apartment, took him captive, tossed him on a plane to Vienna, and informed him that he was exiled from the Soviet Union.

He never saw Marina again.

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Anti-Soviet

Joseph was Joseph Brodsky, the famous poet. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987. His poetry, mostly written in Russian, was received favorably by pretty much everyone except the Soviet government. They claimed Brodsky’s writing was “anti-Soviet” and over the course of a decade he was slandered in the papers, pushed out of his job, and eventually exiled from the country.

Thanks to the help of fellow poets, Brodsky was able to find refuge in the United States and soon had teaching positions at Yale, Cambridge, and the University of Michigan. In 1991, nineteen years after being exiled from the Soviet Union (and what must have seemed like an entirely different lifetime), Brodsky was appointed the United States Poet Laureate.

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    How to Deal with Your Critics and Detractors

    In 1988, Brodsky delivered the commencement speech to students at the University of Michigan. The full speech is shared in Brodsky’s book, On Grief and Reason: Essays. I think it shares a beautiful strategy and method for dealing with the critics, detractors, and negative influences in your life.

    “Try not to pay attention to those who will try to make life miserable for you. There will be a lot of those — in the official capacity as well as the self-appointed. Suffer them if you can’t escape them, but once you have steered clear of them, give them the shortest shrift possible. Above all, try to avoid telling stories about the unjust treatment you received at their hands; avoid it no matter how receptive your audience may be. Tales of this sort extend the existence of your antagonists; most likely they are counting on your being talkative and relating your experience to others. By himself, no individual is worth an exercise in injustice (or for that matter, in justice). The ratio of one-to-one doesn’t justify the effort: it’s the echo that counts. That’s the main principle of any oppressor, whether state-sponsored or autodidact. Therefore, steal, or still, the echo, so that you don’t allow an event, however unpleasant or momentous, to claim any more time than it took for it to occur.

    What your foes do derives its significance or consequence from the way you react. Therefore, rush through or past them as though they were yellow and not red lights. Don’t linger on them mentally or verbally; don’t pride yourself on forgiving or forgetting them — worse come to worse, do the forgetting first. This way you’ll spare your brain cells a lot of useless agitation; this way, perhaps, you may even save those pigheads from themselves, since the prospect of being forgotten is shorter than that of being forgiven. So flip the channel: you can’t put this network out of circulation, but at least you can reduce its ratings. Now, this solution is not likely to please angels, but, then again, it’s bound to hurt demons, and for the moment that’s all that really matters.”

    –Joseph Brodsky, On Grief and Reason: Essays

    “It’s the echo that counts.”

    The impact of negativity is magnified when we talk about it, no matter what we say. We breathe life into poor decisions, bad ideas, and evil people by discussing them over and over again. You wouldn’t want to waste all of your meals on junk food. Why waste your thoughts on junk ideas and your energy on junk people?

    The best thing that can happen to bad advice is that it becomes irrelevant, ignored, and forgotten. In the words of Brodsky, “it’s the echo that counts.” Negativity doesn’t deserve a louder voice. Spend your time echoing something worth hearing.

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    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    Thanks to Maria Popova of Brain Pickings for originally sharing Brodsky’s quote.

    Featured photo credit: OuadiO via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on July 15, 2019

    41 Beautiful Pictures That Show What True Love Is All About

    41 Beautiful Pictures That Show What True Love Is All About

    Some things in life are hard to describe, yet we can recognize them when we see them.

    Love is one of those things.

    True love comes in many different forms, but here are some that many of us know well.

    True love means supporting those who can’t support themselves

    supportive couple

      A young man comforts his date in Times Square, New York City. Image by mbtrama

      strong hug

        A young man holds his significant other close to him. Image by Brad Fults

        running help

          A young track competitor helps one of her injured opponents over the finish line. Image from ViralNova.com

          feeding kitten

            A soldier in the Korean War takes time to feed a baby kitten. Image from US Naval Insititute

            It’s having the perfect selfie partner

            mom and daughter selfie

              A mother and her daughter take a selfie together. Image by Andrew Fysh

              girlfriends

                Two young girls pose for the camera. Image by Rolands Lakis

                selfies

                  A happy couple takes a picture together. Image by Kayla Heineman

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                  selfie

                    Two best friends take a selfie together. Image by Jason Wahido

                    dude selfie

                      Friends take a selfie together. Image by Glenn Scofield Williams

                      It’s all the warm fuzzies

                      12748262703_84c008f4e5_z

                        A young man spends time with his dog on a beach. Image by Magdalena Roeseler

                        DSC06952

                          A pet owner hugs his dog while on a day trip in San Francisco. Image by Taro the Shiba Inu

                          It means having a friend to photobomb you

                          photobomb

                            A boy makes a funny face as he poses for a picture with his brother. Image by Michael Bentley

                            old man photobomb

                              A man photobombs his wife while their grandson snaps a picture. Image by Frank

                              family photobomb

                                Family members photobomb their relatives’ Thanksgiving day family photo. Image by Beth Scupham

                                boyfriend photobomb

                                  A friend photobombs the photographer and their friend, the woman in the foreground of this photo. Image by Lachlan Hardy

                                  True love means being there even when life gets unbearably hard

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                                  shoulder to cry on

                                    A family watches the Vermont National Guard depart for Afghanistan. Image by The U.S. Army

                                    flood dog

                                      During a monsoon in the Philippines, a boy carries his dog to safety. Image by Romeo Ranoco

                                      A woman is rescued from flood waters by a resident standing on top of her car during heavy rain in Chalandri suburb north of Athens

                                        A man helps a woman out of her vehicle during a flood in Chalandri, Greece. Image by John Kolesidis

                                        lunch

                                          A woman has lunch with her husband every day, even after he’s passed away. Image from ViralNova.com

                                          hug

                                            A woman hugs the mother of 6-year-old Noah Ponzer, who was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. Image by Spencer Platt

                                            rubble

                                              An Oklahoma couple pauses while trying to salvage belongings from a family member’s home after a tornado. Image by Adrees Latif

                                              sister and brother

                                                A girl puts her arm around her little brother as they wait outside of Sandy Hook Elementary after gunshots are fired. Image by Reuters.

                                                headstone

                                                  A woman sits at her husband’s grave the day before their wedding anniversary. Image from NBC news

                                                  It means taking the time for long goodbyes

                                                  110321-N-BT887-100

                                                    A man says goodbye to his son before deploying. Image by Official U.S. Navy Page

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                                                    national guard goodbye

                                                      A South Carolina man says goodbye to his son before deploying for Afghanistan. Image by The National Guard

                                                      saying goodbye

                                                        A Sergeant hugs both of his sons before being deployed to Afghanistan. Image by The National Guard

                                                        And cherishing reunions

                                                        husband home

                                                          A woman hugs her husband as she sees him for the first time since his deployment to Iraq. Image by The U.S. Army

                                                          boyfriend home

                                                            A young  woman hugs her significant other as he returns home for Kuwait. Image by The National Guard

                                                            mother hug

                                                              A mother drops to her knees as she hugs her son on her return home from the Persian Gulf. Image by The National Guard

                                                              True love is letting yourself feel young when they’re around

                                                              elderly women

                                                                Two friends on their smartphones. Image by Robert Neff

                                                                feeling young

                                                                  A young couple getting their picture taken. Image by db Photograph

                                                                  sprinkler dad

                                                                    A father plays in a sprinkler with his daughter at Millennium Park in Chicago. Image by Ben Forsberg

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                                                                    subway couple

                                                                      A young couple on a subway enjoys sharing time together, while the girlfriend’s father sneaks a photo of them. Image by Gareth Williams

                                                                      wheelchairs

                                                                        A couple holds hands on a fall day. Image by David Amsler

                                                                        It’s letting yourself be silly… just because they’ll enjoy it

                                                                        silly faces

                                                                          A grandfather makes faces at the camera with his granddaughters. Image by Tim Pierce

                                                                          vote for pedro

                                                                            A woman’s father wears a Napoleon Dynamite t-shirt to make his daughter laugh. Image by emdot

                                                                            True love is allowing yourself to show how you really feel

                                                                            date night

                                                                              A young couple kisses in the back of a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Image by Derek Key

                                                                              playing violin

                                                                                Violinist Nancy Dinovo plays at a memorial service for the victims of 9/11. Image by Christopher Morris

                                                                                True love is timeless

                                                                                old friends

                                                                                  Friends spending some time together. Image by Cristian Bortes

                                                                                  sitting around a fire

                                                                                    A group of friends sits around a campfire eating. Image by New Old Stock

                                                                                    elderly couple

                                                                                      An elderly couple walks down a street together. Image by Matteo Paciotti

                                                                                      Featured photo credit: Matteo Paciotti via flickr.com

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