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Malcolm Gladwell did it right (And why you must IGNORE some criticism)
Last Updated May 21st, 2015

Someone called me an ass…

…and they threatened to unsubscribe from my email list.

So I beat them to the punch.

“Thank you! I put you on the “BLOCKED AND BANNED” list. I wish you the best of luck.”

And that’s it.

Am I really the bad guy here?

The other day I shared one important business concept: if you want to create and sell online courses (or do anything of value), compare yourself to yourself. And get better everyday.

Now I’m sharing another important concept…

The customer is always right… until that customer is wrong.

Most people – the people who believe “the customer is always right” – would have apologized.

And they would have tried to “save” this person. Plus, they’d probably call me a bad guy who can’t handle criticism.

But that’s not the case.

Here’s why:

But the customer is always right… until that customer is wrong. And in this case, this subscriber was dead wrong. And I was happy to let them know that.

The question is, how do you know if someone who offers advice or criticism is right? How do you know who you should listen to? And who you should ignore?

I go over the difference in this video.

Why You Must Ignore Criticism From THESE People

I’ll never forget when Malcolm Gladwell shot down a critic…

Gladwell said:

“If my books appear to a reader to be oversimplified, then you shouldn’t read them: you’re not the audience!”

And that’s EXACTLY IT.

You see, when you’re building a business, there are TWO different audiences.

I’m Derek Halpern, and you’re watching Social Triggers, the place entrepreneurs and executives learn to get ahead in business and life.

And in this video, I’m going to reveal those two audiences. I’ll also explain why you should worry about one and not the other.

So, the two different audiences are:

1. The people who pay you money.

2. The people who pay you mind.

What’s the difference?

The people who pay you money are your ideal customers.These are the people who watch what you do, decide if it’s right for them, and then possibly give you money for it.

The people who pay you mind, on the other hand, are often other influencers. And while they may have a legion of followers who are willing to pay you money, the only thing they offer you themselves is either respect or criticism.

Now, this may come as a shock, but if you want to succeed…

Focus on the people who pay you money. Ignore the people who pay you mind, just like Malcolm Gladwell.

You see, psychological researchers like Steven Pinker have long criticized Malcolm Gladwell for cherry-picking interesting research, oversimplifying it, and making pseudo-scientific claims.

But here’s the deal:

Gladwell doesn’t write books for other scientists. He writes books for regular people.

And me personally?

When I buy a Malcolm Gladwell book, I don’t expect an in-depth analysis of hundreds of research studies.

For that, I’ll turn to someone like Eliot Aronson, Dan Ariely, or Adam Grant.

Instead, when I buy a Malcolm Gladwell book, I expect to read compelling stories that bring a few pieces of key research to life. I also expect to be inspired by these stories.

And that’s EXACTLY what Malcolm Gladwell is trying to do with his work. Because that’s what HIS readers want.

He’s focusing on people who pay him money. And telling people who pay him mind to stuff it.

I appreciate that, and I now strive to do the same with my business.

But I didn’t always do that…

When I first got started, I wanted to be recognized by other people in my industry as someone they could respect.

The problem is:

These people NEVER paid me anything.

The only thing they offered were words of encouragement. And that’s about it.

So, I shifted.

I started focusing on the people who would actually invest in what I’m selling. And because of that, I’ve been able to help way more people and grow my business.

And I’ll never forget this email I got from one of my “influential readers” after I made that switch. He said:

“Derek, why are you talking about THIS again? That’s a TIRED topic.”

And I told him point blank:

”Just because it’s old and tired to you doesn’t mean people don’t want to learn about it. And according to my survey results, it’s the number 1 most requested topic here at Social Triggers.”

He later unsubscribed. And I later went on to launch one of my most profitable products in the history of Social Triggers.

All because I decided to focus on the right people in my audience and pay no mind to everyone else.

And this is something you should do in your business, too…

Focus on the people who matter and forget about the haters or the people who don’t get what you’re doing.

Thanks for letting me rant just a little bit. Now, I have a question for you:

How do you deal with people who criticize you or just don’t get what you’re doing? Do you let it ruin your day? Or do you move on to focus on the people who actually matter?

I’d love to hear more! Leave a comment and let me know.

And if you know anyone else who you think would like this video, be sure to pass it along.

Now, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to Social Triggers and sign up for my newsletter to receive exclusive free content about business, persuasion and more.

See you in the next video!

Want another video to watch? Check out “How to Deal With Haters.

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48 comments Leave a comment

I can’t get wistia video to work with zippycourses, derek. Where is the hotline for dire emergencies?


That’s one side of the story. =) But what WAS the story?

Spencer Goldade

Worst advice: That I should should charge less
Best advice: That I should charge more.


Hey Derek thank you for another great post and great video! I would agree that the customer is not always right. Many times they will try to get something for nothing.

When I first started blogging online, one of the most helpful pieces of advice was to include an image with each blog post. This may sound like basic, elementary advice, but considering I’m not the creative/artistic type, this was something I knew I needed to improve on. I’ve also learned to make my own blog posts more engaging and colorful.

And then there will be people who will always have something to gripe or complain about no matter how much good you do. I’ve learned to avoid these people and distance myself from them since they do me no good.

Tims solutions

It’s more like the customer is hardly ever right!


Such a timely video and post, thank you. I admit sometimes I let critics get to me, I do what I do with love and when I pour my soul, time and effort into something and I get a critic I tend to take it personal, I know I shouldn’t but I do. While watching this video, I started running a list in my head of the critics I’ve had and not a single one of them is my ideal client 😉 so thanks for this post! I’ve read Malcolm books but somehow I missed this. I guess it wasn’t relevant to me at the time I read it.


Hi Derek

Not a customer but a reader of yours 😉

I like your content however…

The cuts made it difficult to watch so I simply listened …NOT Unsubscribed.

Just thought to let you know …and I do matter 🙂

Don’t hit that button as I want to hear more from you.

Will D


    Agreed. The video editing is a little too stylistic. I love the content but the ‘cool factor’ makes it difficult to absorb. Just my 2 cents.


The notion of “the customer is always right” comes from an era in which the person behind the counter was assumed to be fundamentally inferior to the person in front of it. Both the customer and the provider add value to the transaction: something valued in exchange for money (usually). If you provide something of value you are an equal in the transaction in fact, there’s plenty of money out there so, perhaps the provider is actually, a little more significant in the transaction. The customer has the right to distribute their money elsewhere if they don’t value the product but they don’t necessarily have the right to “lord” it over the provider.

Marsha from YesYesMarsha.com

Freakishly perfect timing: I just did a reader survey for my newsletter, and got hundreds of dizzyingly lovely responses. Then in the same week, I check my unsubscribes – I’m cool with knowing there’ll always be a handful, but like to check in from time to time – and of course one person has said something negative, kind of the polar opposite of what all those other people said.

Guess which one I was focusing on? 🙂

Thanks for pulling me out of that, and redirecting me towards my paying guys!

Sarah Jordan

This is such good advice. Another example of “whatever you focus on expands.”


In the wedding industry, they either send us a nasty email or use Yelp. For instance, when a venue’s house mic went out, one couple wanted their money back for officiating. Now, we always insist on them having a professional DJ or we won’t perform a ceremony if the ceremony has more than 20 guests..especially outdoors. People hide behind their computers and distort the actual turn of events. When I planned weddings they get really crazy. Usually at weddings, they don’t even know what happened and then their friends and family (who were more than likely intoxicated) and know nothing of what is in a contract, increase their bravado and get the couple to complain.

Hmmmm. Best piece of advice from a customer? In the wedding industry we get good testimonials or a couple bad reviews but not really much for constructive advice. They are often in a huge emotional adjustment (high or low) and aren’t really thinking in practical terms as far as what we could do better. They are in a little bit of a let-down mode after months of excitement and anticipation. I quit planning weddings because of Bridezillas and also guests attacking vendors. It is more common than you’d imagine. I would love to see more respect for all business owners! I love “The customer is always right unless they are wrong!” Finally!

Southern Festival Living

Derek, I agree you should focus on the ones that not just paying you money, but the ones who want to hear your message.

Everyone does not learn the same way. It has been said that on average it takes the average person up to seve times to take action on a message.

I agree with your video.

Carlos scarpero

Great tip. I really appreciate it. Its something I’ve struggled with as well. Keep up the great work!


Thank you! This was a very helpful reminder for me. Sometimes we get so caught up in things that we get blown every which way by “haters” and “know it alls” and we end up totally unfocused and confused. I always go back to my message and my target audience if I feel thrown off. Am I staying true to my brand or am I all over the place? Am I going on a wild goose chase because someone is leading me on one? Like you said, pay attention to those who get you and are willing to invest in us. So true!!


Wow, I didn’t think this video would be as useful and insightful as it actually was! Thank you Derek. I thought you were going to tell me that I should ignore rude followers…

Turns out I look up to some people who’ve at best ignored me. Congrats to you for getting encouragement words from influencers! I’ve got hard criticism for not having a university title on their particular topic (despite the fact that I am a PhD in a compatible field).

I’ve been called a lot of things by some of them, and it hurt. It hurt so much that I actually considered getting the damn degree! I ditch the (crazy stupid) idea long ago, but your video not only reainforced this decision but actually gave me permission to plain ignore these people.

And that’s awesome for me, so thanks a lot 🙂

Alkan Öztürk

Yo Derek! What I do with these kind of people is this:
1. Listen to what they say.
2. Evaluate what they say and see if it right for me.
3. Answer if it’s right, ignore if it’s not suitable.

Thank you 🙂

Dessy Dimanova

The customer is always right… until that customer is wrong.
10x 🙂


As usual Derek, you NAILED IT (and MG is mega-awesome as well)


This one is a great video as always that where to invest more of your time than the influencers.

And hey, liked the FX and all… this looks pretty interesting !


Good timing! I just had someone who is in my field comment on one of my YouTube videos basically telling me I didn’t know what I was doing and I should take my most popular video down because it’s creating more confusion. It has over 60k views. I deleted her comment and if she comments again, I’ll simply block her. If one of my private clients said that, I’d consider it, but this video has generated several hundred emails to me personally saying “thank you” or something of the like. Clearly not helpful criticism.


Malcolm Gladwell probably isn’t the best example. See “igon value problem.”


Worst comment from a client came from a team of merchant bankers when their CFO said “I wouldn’t have signed if I’d read the contract first.”

Kim McNeil

Thanks for another great newsletter and video Derek!

I once had a newsletter subscriber say, in response to a question I had asked my list:

“I would love to join your classes but cannot afford at all. Too bad as I have fibromyalgia and 2 knee replacements. (Blank) who used to work at (blank) told me about you but ….. I guess your knowledge base is too expensive for us norma”

She ran out of space to finish her rant. I’ll assume she meant to say “us normal people”.

I wrote her back personally and pointed out I had several offerings that were inexpensive for this very reason, some including the newsletter which she had unsubscribed from were FREE. Needless to say I never heard back for her.

Best piece of advice was to continue to be honest and share real-life stories in my newsletters. Makes writing easy when you already have the material to share.

Thanks Derek!


Dodie Jacobi

I cannot remember the last time I had a hater comment, but my circle of influence is small and carefully curated. I know when I expand my online presence, this will shift and I’m practicing for the filter to let the haters walk on by.

But the best advice I got from a loving client was to provide a measurement tool to help her (and me) measure the impact of our work together. This made annual renewal in my mentoring program a no brainer for her, and all the other clients who agreed to create and maintain this tool. Interestingly, those who didn’t measure, were way less likely to renew our services, relying on gut value perception or what I’d done lately as an indicator they should continue our work together.

Thanks for all your good advice Derek! Love the new site.


As a Christian writer / blogger, my whole life is guided by Bible wisdom. For example:

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back” – Proverbs 29:11

Lest anyone misapply that, I’m thinking of the critic as the fool and you as the wise man who holds it back and moves on.
I cannot begin to count the times I’ve used that to keep my cool.

BTW, that’s the kind of stuff I’m working on putting into my Zippy Courses. As you can see, there’s plenty of need! ~ Jan


Outliers changed the way I parent. Gladwell is brilliant man. Great video! I probably fall into the “People Who Pay You Mind” category but I follow you because I know you are many steps ahead of me dude. Great video and post!



Have to agree with Dave, I find the cuts in your recent videos, where the copy we’ve just seen appears larger and then zips away is like being on a bad carnival ride after drinking three beers…
But I love your content!

    Derek Halpern

    Yea, we tested a new video editor on these. We’res till getting a hang of it.


Haha! “If you haven’t subscribed to my newsletter, you’re an idiot!” Bahahaha

Love it

Sharon J

I am a website developer. I love it when people who have NO IDEA what they are talking about give me strict advice about how to build and organize their website, what they do and do not want and then wonder why they are not getting any visitors. In this case, I do exactly as they tell me, even though I tell them my best advice. Then I make a note of that.

When, in a month’s time, they say they cannot find themselves on Google, I go back to my notes and say, “On January 25th I told you to link to Twitter/Facebook/Linked In (or whatever), I told you you needed to blog, I told you you needed to get out there on the forums but you disagreed. This is not my job. This is not my fault. What do you want me to do?”

Best advice from a customer? “Do what ever it takes. I have a cheque book and I trust you.” Gotta love it!


    I made exactly the same experience… This are the most exhausting customers! And it’s also exhausting to make notes about every tiny thing… but it helps you out later like you said


Hello Derek. My name is Dan and I am a founder of Self Employment Ideas website. Many thanks for the great great video. You are so right about audience choice.
I think it’s awesome, inspiring and revealing video and I will add it to my bookmark list. It’s a great value and a perfect example for the people looking for the fresh ideas and the new on-line marketing techniques.


Top job. Stay hilarious! Thanks!


I have a blog that shows men how to cook healthy meals for their loved ones. I love, no ADORE this topic. I found the following comment on my blog last year from a prominent mommy blogger, “…you should do more recipes for busy moms who have 30 mins to get dinner started at least before their significant others get home and the kids start to get cranky.”

Uh, no. That sounds like my equivalent of hell. Clearly this is not the person for a blog called, Cook This…Get Laid.

Melodee Elliott

A job interviewer sheepishly asked me what my weaknesses are. My reply? I said that I l typically deal only in opportunities. And my weaknesses are usually seen in terms of what another thinks of me. And when I find that I have a lot of “weaknesses”, I must evaluate my place with that person.

She looked away and smiled.


I’ve learned a long time ago that people who hate on you –rather than provide constructive feedback and criticism — are really making more of a statement about themselves than about you. They have to hate on someone –ANYONE–to make themselves feel better about who they are. For some reason, you’ve threatened them, or make them realize their own shortcomings. But, rather than doing something about what they perceive to be their own shortcomings, they get their power by belittling someone else. It’s the cowards way out. Bullies (and that’s what they are) really feel insecure about themselves.

So, just realizing that is what helps me pay no mind to the hateres–and to actually feel a little compassion for them. I just let their comments roll of my back. It’s non productive to get into a peeing contest with anyone.



You’re right. And you’re wrong.

When you’re in business, it helps to focus on the revenues. You got that part right.


When you started out, you “needed” who gave attention to what you had to say. They didn’t pay you money from day one. They did encourage you. Which led to you doing bigger and better things. I don’t think you can dismiss that population entirely. Or in your words “ignore them”.

The best part? Towards the end of the video, you asked your viewers of they knew anybody who could benefit from the video.
As somebody who endorses you with his mind, but who is meant to be ignored, do you think I’d readily do that?

You got combative with that guy and you blocked and banned him. Feel better? Do you think the guy even cares? That’s resentment, my friend – Where you drink the poison and hope the other guy dies.

Frankly, in my opinion, bad move. But then we all have our own opinions. Won’t judge you if you have a diametrically opposite view.


Great video, Derek.. and perfect timing.

Craziest advice/suggestion (from a potential freelance writing gig): “Um, how about you write a sample 1,500-word piece and we’ll see how it goes?”

Best advice/suggestion (from a colleague): “Don’t let a client or yourself undervalue what you offer.”

Oh, and in line with your video, listening to naysayers is like applying for a job that you don’t want — the recruiter is mean, the hiring manager is nitpicking at every detail, the search committee wants all your personal details and the job pays like crap — so why the hell are you still filling out the form?!

Have a good one.


Thanks Derek. You saved me the trouble of having to make a video for my customers. My customers are small business owners in the beer industry that have been trained to pay more attention to the people that pay them “mind” as you put it. The beer experts are always on them about what they should do and how they should do it with no intention of becoming a customer. Meanwhile there are customers that spend hundreds of dollars per year that they should be focusing on.


Nowadays, if I realize the advice isn’t a good fit for me, I just smile, say thanks and move on. People don’t like to be told they’re wrong, so what’s the point in arguing?

Even if the person asks me whether I think they’re right or wrong, I’ll often skirt the question altogether. They don’t really want to know an alternate point of view. They just want me to reaffirm their beliefs. If I think the person is genuinely interested in getting a different opinion, I might open up to the discussion, but I’ll be very wary.


Excellent video Derek as usual. We dropped a location on our tour last year because it was going to hinder our growth and we didn’t want to commit to six months at a location that was going to hurt us instead of help us. We received tons of backlash from people who never even invested into that tour location. This year we returned to that location and sold it out in 48 hours.

The people who did invest last year waited a whole year for us to actually come and they understood why and didn’t complain. If you have a great service you have to exclude people who will keep you from being the best you can be.

BTW loving Yes Engines!

Harshajyoti Das

You said it right Derek.

I have seen it time and again where people write a review that sounds something like this, “I read the same old boring stuffs, nothing new”. I have received similar kind of reviews for almost all my books. It’s not just me, even authors in my inner circle have received similar negative reviews.

Just because one guy has read about it somewhere else, doesn’t make the concept old and boring. It can be a new concept to someone else.

Don’t give mind space to those people. They are gonna cry all day long. if you happen to check their reviews, most of their reviews are 1-2 stars. They are negative people, you can’t do anything about it. Opss.. Sorry, you can do something. Block them !


Love this, and luckily I have no problem not taking hater’s criticism to heart!

I’ve worked in food service for years and seen it all. I’ve had the MOST annoying, nit-picky, complaining customers threaten to never come back. I just reply, “Is that a promise?”

Even though food service is terrible work, there are some great lessons to be learned, and once you get over the a$$holes, you become tough and thick-skinned.

Lots of people think you’ll get better service at a restaurant by being a jerk, but it’s just the opposite. I will bend over backwards for you, rush your lunch order, give you some extra bread, if you’re nice to me. And I will definitely apply these skill to business.


I don’t really mind a constructive critique from an influencer or a non-buyer, because I may learn something that will help them become my ideal customers down the road. It’s not that I’ll bend to every criticism, but I often learn ways to fine-tune my messaging for certain audiences. Sometimes that means doing the exact opposite of what the critic suggests.

Not too long ago someone responded to one of my emails suggesting that I not use curse words because it takes away from my professionalism and undermines my credibility. The funny part was I actually didn’t curse in that particular email (though I often do); I used the word “frick” to mean…well…you know.

I laughed. Sure, I got her point. But I’m not out to project an image of a suited up business snob rubbing elbows with the etiquette elite. That’s not me. I built a 6-figure business in yoga pants and a hoodie, I’m passionate, rebellious and yeah, sometimes I curse. I’ve also helped my clients raise $ millions in financing to start their own new companies.

I call that results. Haters gonna hate. I really don’t care, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to learn something from them.


    Right on point.


Agreed! I do the same thing with subscribers. If they send me hate mail, then they get blocked. Why do we need to waste both of our times dealing with something that’s not positive?

BTW, I love the clip editing in your videos but this one made me nauseous. Tell the editor to lay off the Red Bull next time 🙂


Much needed and right on time! Love the advice.

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