The two types of critics

It’s ironic how most people in the modern world are convinced that criticism will bring the best out of us, given that there was a time when criticism would draw out the swords and guns! I guess those were simpler times. 

I think people confuse criticism with feedback. And since we’ve been sold into thinking that “feedback is the breakfast of champions” — it can’t be that bad. Right? Well, I think criticism or feedback or whatever you want to call it, can destroy confidence like anything. Unbeknownst to most people — far more people reach and exceed their potential with encouragement than criticism or “feedback.” 

Of course, I’m not suggesting feedback is bad or should be avoided. I reason the point of focusing on all your past screw-ups when you can be talking about a better way forward? 

As a coach, the core of my work revolves around the concept of feedforward. It sets the client up to learn by identifying the desirable behaviours and intent for the future. I can’t help but see another way to make lasting and positive change possible because the challenge with criticism is that it reminds us of the outcome instead of the process. 

I see creatives get stuck in the narrative of ‘the outcome is more important than the process’ all too easily. As Seth Godin would say, “criticism takes the commitment out of the process.” And believe it or not, the critics play a huge role in cementing this belief. The result? The creative never reaches his or her potential. 

Most criticism, particularly the ones you find online is utterly useless as it’s focused on the person and not the work. And almost none of them don’t even know the creator to be able to make a valuable contribution. Why on earth would you listen to such a critic? 

If a critic doesn’t like you or your work, all they’ve done is tell you that they’re not the audience you’re seeking to serve. 

That’s why I believe a developing professional, creative, or a leader should seek another kind of critic. The one who has taken the time to understand your intent, review your work and share a useful evaluation. They’re keen to see you succeed. They’re part of your journey to wherever you’re going or instead of taking them, so they deeply care about your work. 

Now that could be a raving fan, one of the members of your minimum viable audience, your coach, mentor, or even your dad. The critical point is to understand that seeking them out kickstarts a learning and development process that’s far more powerful, contextual, and meaningful than some random dude who decided to post a review of your work. 

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