Most people do not like strong-willed critics who question their actions, hold them accountable, or express opposing views.

That is unfortunate, because they are missing out on an opportunity for growth.
That’s right! Strong-willed criticism is a wonderful opportunity for self-development, and those who avoid it will never know what they missed.

All of my life, I have enjoyed a good fight. (That is, as long as there is no physical pain for anyone or any bloodshed—especially mine!)

What I enjoy about a fight of ideas, when aggressively slugged out with a passionate and well-rehearsed opponent in one corner and me in the opposite, is that it clarifies my thinking. A worthy opponent can cause me to understand his position, provide an opportunity for me to clarify my own position, and offer a chance to weigh the benefits of different ideas.

Only after I test my position in this way am I prepared to preach, practice, and persuade others to accept my position. It is a healthy process that must be faced head-on and never avoided.

Let me give you an example.

During my late twenties and early thirties, I taught a Sunday school class for young married couples at my church. We were all about the same age and most of us had young children. There were sharp people in that class and many of them were comfortable enough to speak up or disagree.

I was blessed to have one special person in the class—let’s call him Joe. He was an airline pilot, and when he entered his cockpit, he was fully prepared to fly. He expected no less of his teacher.

Joe was intelligent, had an almost photographic memory, could debate skillfully, and knew a great deal about the Bible. Along with several others, he made certain I tied up all the loose ends in my lesson presentations.

Joe was the one most responsible for holding me accountable, pushing me to grow and develop into a more effective teacher. He motivated me to always be at my best, and I had to invest more time in the preparation for this class because the focus was not only on what to say to the class—the lesson also had to be prepared in a way that was acceptable to Joe. The process inspired me personally and spiritually.

Thank God for the many friends like Joe I have had in my life over the years.

Be thankful for strong-willed critics!

At Chick-fil-A, we attracted many independent-minded, entrepreneurial, and high-spirited Operators (franchisees). I loved them!

They were the mustangs—people who lived on the edge of, and sometimes beyond, their authority. Mustangs charge and pull ahead very quickly, and some Operators pulled really hard.

That was okay with me! I appreciated this kind the most. The scuffles were productive and we all grew and profited from them. They stimulated my personal and professional growth.

I am thankful for the mustangs in my life.

Be thankful for strong-willed critics!

Some people prefer dealing with milder, more submissive personalities who do not tend to make waves. However, few things change if everyone is concerned about maintaining the status quo. Mustangs get ahead faster because mustangs take charge and move things forward.

As a creative follower, be an example—be a mustang!

Think for yourself, push the envelope, and live on the edge of your authority. You are much more valuable on the leading edge than you are in a safer, more sedate place where nothing much happens.

At the same time, take it a step further: cultivate and encourage mustangs to keep you on your toes. And …

Be thankful for strong-willed critics!

Jimmy Collins

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