Larry David feels just like me and you when it comes to criticism.
You’d think he wouldn’t. He co-created Seinfeld, the most successful sitcom of all-time. His current show Curb Your Enthusiasm is a smash success. He’s on the cover of this month’s Rolling Stone magazine. And yet, he still does the same math you and I do when it comes to critics.
What’s critic’s math?
It’s the mathematical formula most of us use when it comes to criticism. Here is an example of how it works:
1 insult + 1,000 compliments = 1 insult.
And we need look no further than a story about Larry David in that Rolling Stone article to see it in action. Here is an excerpt of the piece by Brian Hiatt:
“One night during his stay (in New York), David went to Yankee Stadium to see a game. His image went up on the big screen as Curb Your Enthusiasm’s theme song played over the big speakers. An entire stadium of fans stood and cheered for the hopeless case from Brooklyn. It should have been a life-defining moment, the redemptive final scene in the biopic. But as it turned out, not so much. As David left the stadium, a guy drove by and yelled, “Larry, you suck!” “That’s like, literally all he heard,” Berg (David’s friend) says.
David spent the ride back from the Bronx obsessing over that moment, running it over and over in his mind. It was as if the other 50,000 people, the ones who loved him, didn’t exist. “Who’s that guy? What was that?” He asked. “Who would do that? Why would you say something like that?”
That’s critic’s math.
1 insult + Any number of compliments = 1 insult
How powerful is that? One insult was able to erase an entire stadium of adulation. More than 50,000 people disappeared at the hand of one point of bitterness. David Blaine and David Copperfield couldn’t even make a crowd that big vanish. Critic’s math might be the most powerful magic on the planet.
There are three things you need to know about it:
1. It doesn’t instantly go away with success.
If right now you’re thinking “If I sell a certain number of books or get a job promotion, I won’t worry so much about what critics think,” you’re wrong. Larry David is incredibly successful. If you have a hard time with critic’s math with 10 followers on Twitter, you’ll still have a hard time with 1 million followers. Don’t chase success as a way to beat critic’s math. You’ll only hurt yourself.
2. Every time you believe critic’s math, you make it more powerful.
Doubt and fear are like muscles. Every time you believe a lie, it gets easier to believe the next time. It took Larry David a lifetime of critic’s math to ignore a full stadium of fans.
3. You’re not the only one with a math problem.
You know which review for Quitter on Amazon I think about the most? It’s not the 95 5-star reviews the book got. It’s the one 1-star review. The reason David’s story jumped out at me is because I struggle with critic’s math.
That’s a few things I’ve learned about critic’s math over the years. But here’s the thing you need to remember: It’s poison. It’s fake. It’s a lie. And it’s trying to ruin your life.
Not your day. Not your weekend. Your life.
And it’s time you and me and maybe even Larry David let it go. Critic’s math doesn’t add up. In fact, it’s all about subtraction. Subtracting compliments. Subtracting happiness. Subtracting joy.
I’m calling quits.
Today, I’m giving up critic’s math like I gave up real math in my freshman year of college. I never looked back on calculus, and life worked out alright.
Farewell critic’s math.
Have you ever wrestled with critic’s math?