The strength of criticism lies in the weakness of the thing criticized.
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Are the people who are close to you—your friends and family—preventing you from going after your dream of starting your own business? If so, you have a problem that is more common than you might think.

It’s not that they want to do you harm. It’s quite the opposite: they usually have your best interests at heart, but they think it’s hard to start a new business, and they don’t want to see you fail. As a result, they discourage you from even trying.

For example, one of my early small businesses (one that I operated for quite a while) was a successful ballroom dance instruction studio. While most of my relatives just rolled their eyes when I initially explained my business idea, my grandmother was particularly harsh. She chastised me for wanting to start such a business. She told me that nobody was interested in ballroom dancing anymore and that I simply didn’t have any “common sense.”

I have to tell you that the scowl she gave me as she belittled my ambitions really gave me some doubts, but I’m sure that she didn’t mean to upset me. She probably thought it would be better for me to feel a little hurt at that moment than to go off and start a project doomed for failure.

Is it possible to build your own business without taking enormous risks (like quitting your day job or plunging all your net worth into an unproven new venture)? Absolutely. I’ve done it myself, and I’ve shown many other people how to do it. However, what happens when you don’t get the support of your family for something that you’re excited about doing?

For most people the natural reaction is to become defensive, and in that defensive mode you waste valuable time and energy trying to get the approval of someone who is unlikely to be swayed by anything you say.

Having said that, it is possible to take that criticism and turn it into something positive—something that could help increase your chances of success.

The first thing that you need to do is give yourself a little bit of time to calm down. Once you’re feeling rational, objectively analyze the criticism to see if it has any merit—to see if that person may have seen something that you hadn’t thought of.

When I started my ballroom dance business (in the early 1990s), my grandmother was certainly correct when she pointed out that ballroom dancing wasn’t the latest craze. When I thought about it, I realized that what she was telling me, in her less-than-diplomatic manner, was that she didn’t think the market would be big enough for me to earn a good income by teaching people how to do it.

I did some due diligence and researched the matter, and I discovered that virtually every metropolitan area in the country had one or two of the major ballroom franchises as well as some independent operators. That seemed to indicate that, in general, there were enough people interested in taking lessons to sustain a business like mine.

Then, I looked more specifically at my local market. Here in south Florida, there were (and are) many affluent retirees—likely targets for my new business. Also, I learned that there were already about three times more ballroom instruction businesses in this area as there were in other metropolitan areas. A good sign.

Not only had I reassured myself that I had a viable concept, but my grandmother's criticism actually helped make it happen. She’d gotten me to pinpoint my prime marketing target—which is at the heart of any start-up business plan. At this point I was sure that there was a place for me in the marketplace, so I got myself in gear and was able to quickly build up a profitable small business.

Within a short period of time I was making enough money to support myself—much to the surprise of my relatives. Then, I was featured on the front page of the lifestyle section of the area’s largest newspaper, and for a brief moment I became a local celebrity.

My grandmother was first in line to say that she always knew I could do it.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Paul Lawrence is an entrepreneur and the creator of Early to Rise’s exciting new Microbusiness Program. What do you want to do this year? Become wealthier? Get healthier? Read more books, travel the world, and become wiser? Sign up for ETR at, and we’ll show you how to do all of that and more . . . in just five minutes a day. Paul Lawrence is also a nationally published author, business consultant, and accomplished screenplay writer with a major motion picture featuring name-talent actors and an expected studio-level theatrical release. For his screenwriting Paul is represented in Beverly Hills, California, by Suite A Talent & Literary.