When we breath life into the mad ideas that spin in our heads and make them manifest for the world to see, to experience and to judge.
Be it an entrepreneur launching a company, an artist showing canvases, a writer bringing out a book or a team innovator offering an idea more than one standard deviation from the judgment-free norm. We care about what other people think. Because we’re human. And, anything truly new or different, presented with a strong voice, will create the opportunity for people to respond with a strong, often visceral yes or no.
That’s the way it should be. The world needs that voice, it needs the energy and conviction of those vested in the quest to reveal possibility. And as creators, we learn, grow and benefit from the response to our work. At least, sometimes. Other times, we are demoralized without benefit by the vocal critic who seeks not to offer feedback in the name of growth, but rather vitriol in the name of shame and power.
So, how do we handle that?
How do we know whose voice matters and whose doesn’t?
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to explore this very question with researcher, professor and New York Times bestselling author of Daring Greatly, Brene Brown. She was my guest for a stunning 50-minute episode of Good Life Project that crossed a variety of topics. It was an extraordinary conversation, one I keep reflecting on.
But when we got to criticism and who, as creators, we should and shouldn’t listen to, she shared a decision she’s made in her life that we all can benefit from.
Here’s an excerpt of that conversation:
BB: I have no intake at all of any feedback or criticism from anyone whose not in the arena. Click to tweet
Unless you are, in your own capacity, in your own world, in your own life, getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in what you have to share with me about my work.
JF: What flipped that switch.
BB: A profound respect for myself and other people who are out there trying to do work and trying to walk with uncertainty and vulernability who are really risking. Because it is so easy to make a life and a career out of sitting in the bleachers and making fun of people and putting them down….
The people who are in the arena, who are showing up and letting themselves be seen give feedback that is far more constructive and far more helpful and mindful about what people can hear and not hear…. I love debate and discourse…people who make fun of me and other people…you’re either making the world a better place or you’re making the world a worse place…everyday our choices have a huge impact on people….
A fake avatar and a fake name and even a comment is not benign.
Because I’ll keep putting my work out there, and you’ll keep putting your work out there, but there are people who have amazing gifts, who could make the world an incredibly better place, who won’t put their work out there for that reason. And that’s a loss. And whether we know what that work was or not, we miss it and grieve it every day.
There are songs that we need to hear, there are stories that need to be told, that we’ll never see or know because there are so many people out there who are so reflectively cynical and critical and mean-spirited, I don’t like it.
As you move forward, as you continue to own the call to bring ideas, solutions, experiences, art to life, think seriously about Brene’s words. Both in terms of how you receive criticism and, also, how you give it and why. And, more importantly, if you’re primary role in life has been that of the critic and not one who lives in the arena…when will you take the reigns?
Because as Brene shared a moment later, “the greatest pain I’ve ever seen is from people who’ve spent their lives outside the arena, wondering what would’ve happened had I shown up?”
And, in the comments below, share an experience where you’ve been criticized and how you’ve handled it and decided who to listen to and how to engage with what’s being said.
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