Judgment Be Damned

Scroll down ↓

Last week, I shared how inviting judgment can and should be a critical part of any creation endeavor; how judgment is really just data plus emotion. And we shouldn’t reject the data simply because we’re not equipped to process the emotion in a constructive way.

Now, a word of caution…

Being open to outside opinions and data does not mean “surrendering” your intuition.

It’s important to invite feedback, but it’s also mission critical to maintain enough of a strong sense of independent vision and leadership to know when the whole damn world has got it wrong and you’re the only sane person in the room…even if that means you’re viewed, for the moment, as the bastion of lunacy.

Every new paradigm breaks an old one.

And the people who create, push, massage and shape these new constructs are inevitably viewed as nut-jobs, at least in the beginning. In part, because new paradigms necessarily unseat long-held “comforting” beliefs, and along with them the long-seated creators of the last big paradigm. And often, entire institutions, bodies of work and worlds.

Disruption is the seed of evolution. And innovation its spawn.

This causes pain both to those who find solace in the way things are and those whose reputations and often livelihoods are based on preserving the status quo. So, feedback in the guise of pure opinion is often unwittingly (or quite intentionally) motivated by the desire to avoid the discomfort of disruption.

It’s your job to prod people into a zone of exploration and experience they didn’t know they were missing until it dropped into their world. Starting with yourself.

So, yes, feedback is an important element of creation. But not all feedback is valid, not all data is useful and not every person, however brilliant, well-read, hailed and regaled or purportedly endowed with the omniscience and good taste to be right all the time matters in the context of your creative process.

Between banal and genius lies a morass of opinion, most of it wrong.

Witness this fascinating study reported in E. D. Hirsch’s The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them:

Students have long believed (on good evidence) that if the same paper is submitted to two teachers in two different sections of the same course, the paper is likely to receive two very different grades. In 1961, Paul Diederich and his colleagues proved that this student belief is no myth. When 30 student papers were graded by fifty-three graders (a total of 15,900 readings), more than one third of the papers received every possible grade. That is, 101 of the 300 papers received all nine grades: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, and D. Diederich also reported that

94 percent [of the papers] received either seven, eight or nine different grades; and no essay received less than five different grades from fifty-three readers. Even when the raters were experienced teachers, the grades given to the papers by the different raters never attained a correlation greater than .40. Diederich, P.B., French, J.W., and Carlton, S.T. “Factors in judgments of writing ability.” Research Bulletin RB-61-15. Princeton, N.J.: Educational Testing Service, 60 pp.

This wasn’t about how smart or accomplished or qualified the graders were, it was about straight-up, pure and simple subjective interpretation.

Part of our job is to ask. But the other part is to filter, synthesize, curate, integrate, disregard, pivot, act, combust, create, evolve. Put another way, listen, but don’t supplant.

Where does this leave us?


The world needs the crazy ones far more than it needs gardeners of the status quo.


So, be open to a “leaner” process that allows for input and insight, rapid iteration and evolution in the name of accelerated learning.

Be open to the possibility of your hunches and assumptions being proven wrong.

Be open to the need to change course, to the possibility that what got you here won’t get you there.

Be open to feedback, to judgment, more specifically judgment built not just upon opinion, but upon fact.

Invite experience on a level that allows you to validate (or invalidate) hunch with data.

But, also be open to the possibility that while all the input, insight and data may lead you down the road to a faster horse, if your gut keeps telling you a combustion engine awaits in the ether, then the ether is the place you need to brave.

Judgment be damned.


Join our Email List for Weekly Updates

And join this amazing community of makers and doers. You know you wanna...

41 responses

41 responses to “Judgment Be Damned”

  1. This is the smartest and most inspirational thing I’ve read in a while. Thanks, man.

  2. Thank you for this Jonathan. I sometimes feel like a leaf blowing in the wind with a million different opinions coming and going. It’s great to be able to take in what works and forget the rest.

    You hit on intuition too, which has been the best tool for navigating the sometimes wonky online landscape that we’re exploring. 🙂

  3. Sean D'Souza says:

    Feedback is critical. But feedback is often confused with testimonials. Testimonials are testimonials, and feedback is feedback.

    Unfortunately, most of us want to hear testimonials. We want to play hero and have adoring masses. And most humans are not built for that. It is a skill that needs learning.

  4. HELL YEAH!!!

    In business, the only opinions that matter are those of your customers, those who have a need that you understand and are able to help with in an authentic, meaningful, life-giving way.

    You join (help lead?) the chorus that is discrediting the supposed “intelligentsia,” long overdue. This is not an anti-intellectual rant, but a demand that our minds and spirits be put to good use, not just used to defend our own subjective distortion of reality.

    Keep it coming!

  5. …and we need to remember the bad grade Fred Smith got in his MBA program for a paper proposing an overnight delivery company…he flunked the course…but won in life by founding FedEx. And that Woody Allen flunked flimmaking in school too….You have nailed and described very well a key mental shift that, as Sean D’Souza writes, needs to be learned, especially when someone is first starting out on their own. Again, mazel tov!

  6. Lori Connelly says:


    Sorry to sound so simple but-
    Man I love your stuff! Thanks for making my life so much better. I am paying it forward so please keep it coming.


  7. […] and thought provoking post on on of my favourite blogs –  Jonathan Fields.com called Judgement be Damned. Check it out for a great perspective on opening yourself up to creative Feedback! Readers who […]

  8. AHBrowne says:

    Love this one. I have to completely agree with it. I find that my biggest struggle most of the time, even in my writing. I have so many people telling me (or making feel) that it’s a waste of time, yet I have–in my gut– the feeling that it will help people, and have had many people say it has. So I’m constantly conflicted about what I KNOW is the right thing to do, and having my people pleasing tendencies come back up to hold back, despite the knowledge that most nay-sayers are the ones who are either: jealous, don’t want you to do better than them, or some other negative reason. Seems there are more that want challenge then support. I find myself struggling with that a lot. This is a very great post. You’re always writing good posts. 🙂

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      No doubt, pretty much all writers, me included, struggle with this. Especially if you’re writing within the framework of traditional publishing. But the world is evolving very quickly

  9. P.E.R.F.E.C.T.

    Thank you.

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is a terrific post — one of the most inspirational I’ve ever read.

  11. Jonathan,

    Great post. Your title says it all.

    “Judgement” pits you against me. (I’m right and better, smarter…) “Feedback” has the potential to offer something unexamined, constructive, of potential value. You’re absolutely right only the combination of your intellect and your gut (in no particular hierarchy) can guide your creation.

    “Judgement be damned.”
    “Feedback welcomed.”

  12. Excellent.

    A+ !!!

  13. Julie Rains says:

    Your article is especially timely for me, as I am nearing the end of a major project which will involve getting feedback (though I have been collecting feedback all along). I know the difference between honest insights that are feedback and pure opinion, but your post helps me to better understand and articulate the difference.

    On a practical level, for a component of the project, I was able to handle opinion disguised as feedback: my group had established criteria for the selection of a product but when we reviewed the product, the comments were vague, such as “I like…”; fortunately, I was able to insert the idea that we needed to evaluate the product options based on how well they fit the criteria that we had all agreed upon; then the choice was easy and obvious.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Cool, sometimes creating a well defined structure for feedback like you did can help

  14. Joe Hinkle says:

    Wonderful post! Your writing is constantly timely and thought-provoking. Thank you!

  15. Another Thank You, Jonathan. As a creator, I am sensitive to judgment, but I understand and look for the difference between the emotional subjectiveness of another’s judgment and that of assessment. (still hard to hear at times).

    Both contain bias, both influence, and both should be measured by our own internal “knowing”, which must remain open for innovation but shielded from the terrorism of other’s opinions…even if well meaning.

    You have inspired me along the way to Push It. Blessings to you and yours always and especially at this auspicious time of year!

  16. This speaks 100% to where I am at right now. Just hired a new coach to give me some feedback on my branding and it has been a completely emotional experience for me (which I totally love and seek). It is so important for me to approach it from a clean place and examine what I make her assessments of me and my brand mean.

    And I’ve only had the freebie with her. Our “real” work starts next week!

  17. Totally friggin’ brilliant, Jonathan, and exactly what the world needs to hear right now, and for a long time to come. We have got to learn to listen to and trust our outrageous selves – hearts, minds and guts. Yes, we also have to listen to what reaonable (and even unreasonable) people have to say about us and our work. But in the end, it’s up to us at our risk-taking best to feel what’s right and true, and to be willing to be called crazy if that is what happens. The more we own and live from our wild and singular selves, the crazier we are bound to seem. And that’s a good thing, since the world that calls itself “sane” has just about run its course. Thanks for speaking *your* truth loud and clear, as I – with considerable inspiration from you – have just started doing with mine. It feels GREAT!

  18. Clare Norman says:

    One of my work colleagues says to me sometimes “Clare, you are way out in front of the rest of us…so far ahead that you’re ahead of your time, and that’s why it’s hard to get us to see it differently”. That reminder from her and your post here remind me to keep at it – being the “crazy one” can really help people, as long as we persevere and don’t get put off by their resistance to change. Helping them to accept useful change is all part of the process.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Stephen Johnson talked about this a lot in his great book, Where Good Ideas Come From. Part of ideas turning into manifested outcomes is the coincidence of the idea and the the right time where resources and support can rally behind it.

  19. Jonathon, this came so close to home, it brought me to tears. At 71, I’ve lived ahead of the curve for most of my life, and seen things differently, and not always had the courage of my convictions. With one foot on the gas, and the other on the brake, is a pretty hard go. It’s time for that to end. Age makes it easier. People have fewer expectations t hat you be sane.
    Thank you for the push to more freely trust my gut. It’s rarely been off.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Love it. Like the great David Ogilvy said, “Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won’t think you’re going gaga.”

      That my plan and I’m sticking to it! 🙂

  20. Bryan Weller says:

    I really like to use other people’s opinions as just a point to mull over. It may be good or bad, but at least it will make me think about the project and maybe from a new angle.

  21. As a pioneer in reviving the field of ancient healing and transformational music, I have consistently met the lonely place of “being the weirdo”. It has been lonely at times, and also exhilirating. One time, to connect more honestly with others, I allowed for a group of people to openly give me feedback, criticize or express their feelings about me.

    Overcoming that fear of my own feeble ego… it was amazingly exhilirating to REALLY LISTEN to their feedback. When I was able to remember that when the other speaks, it is always them speaking about themselves, through their own filters. It is also always a mirror for me to judge reality.

    In the end, we are all connected. Everything has a kernel of truth to it. I grew so much from that encounter. I gained alot of confidence through it.

    Your post reminded me of this, at a time, when I am at a big cross roads.

    Thanks so much for your thought provoking post.

  22. Nina Amir says:

    I just got over the trauma of having someone very well respected read my manuscript. He was going to write a foreword for my book. He began to tear it apart…oh, offer what he saw as constructive criticism.

    I’m a journalist, blogger and editor. I know how to take criticism of my writing. For some reason, though, this seemed different. Some people tell you things about your work, and it goes deeper, hits harder, hurts…you react emotionally.

    At first I was devastated. Then I thought about the things he wanted me to change with more perspective. There were some issues he raised that were valid. But the overriding issues he felt needed changing would drastically alter the book. I realized if I made those changes I wouldn’t be true to myself. I wouldn’t be authentic, and the book would no longer be the book I set out to write.

    I had my agent read the manuscript. I spoke with my editors and my publisher, all of whom had been (and were still) happy with the manuscript. I spoke with someone who knew this other person. This all helped me gain perspective.

    Mostly, though, I went inside and listened to my inner voice…that higher knowing. It said the book was on target. It told me it was fine. Yes, it could still be improved, but it was fine. I was still happy with it.

    We all have to be able to listen to the feedback we get about our work and take the good advice in and use it. More importantly, we must be able to let go of the bad and stick with our intuition about what we need to say and how we need to say it.

    Thanks, Jonathan, for reminding me of that.

  23. John Sherry says:

    It’s taken me over 4 decades to get out of my head and into my intuition and finer senses. All the knowledge and data gathering did for me was to jam me up with more and more info that got filed but rarely, if ever, used.I was over full and heavy with the weight of it all. When I got to overload I dropped my Universe library ticket and began listening to my hunches and flashes of inspiration and instincts instead. And you know what, after 40+ years life has amazingly and magically turned round. I kid you not….!!!!! Data is so last Century.

  24. That would be the struggle of being a right-brained thinker in a left-brained world:(Both are important for problem solving and sometime in history the two got separated.I saw where the space program is utilizing artists…a stroke of genius:)Scientists disect and artists put it all together solving the problem.All of the Arts have to be included in the schools if we want achieve our potential.

  25. […] an article by Jonathan Fields with insights on staying true to YOU: Judgment Be Damned Okay, over to the important voices here; what is your advice to business professionals to establish […]

  26. […] fun begins once all the stories are gathered and combined with your own judgement and intuition. This is where a great program is built. LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

  27. Love this! So timely. Thank you for your clear insight. Reading and absorbing your words have reminded me not to discount my intuition and it’s okay if people think I’m a bit out there. In my work connecting new technologies and slow food, there is a bit of a disconnect about the possibilities. I often second guess myself when colleagues don’t ‘get’ what I’m up to. I had not identified the ‘disruption discomfort’ factor as a part of this. Thanks for reminding me to embrace my inner ‘crazy’. I choose not to be a ‘gardener of the status quo’.

  28. […] own joy and ideas of what could be to fuel our determination when things are bumpy. We also need to trust our own intuition sometimes and be our own […]

  29. Really like this post! May quote some of it sometime (okay?) w/your name as author, of course. I am a therapist and much of it sounds so much like what I am trying to do with my patients in therapy. It’s not infrequently that I hear: “But I’ve always done it that way” or “That’s how I am!” etc. Change is difficult for most adults so a therapist needs to be patient and encouraging. But let’s ALL try to ‘be open to feedback, to possibility’—exactly!
    This post is jam-packed with good stuff. You sound inspired yourself here.
    Just one point to add, the idea of following your feelings or your own judgment when you have conviction and despite naysayers is a natural form of decision making according to Carl Jung. He thought about half the humans would do it this way naturally (in other words, without the benefit of Consumer Reports data…!) given their natural bent.

  30. Hiten says:

    Good post Jonathan. I love getting feedback and different judgements. So many times I’ve been doing something believing it to be the best way, until someone has offered another way of looking at things. However, I also have a pretty powerful inner feeling informing me if an opinion should be ignored.

  31. Grace Bower says:

    Great post – love the idea from Christopher to expand your title – judgement be dammed Feedback welcome! I had an aha while reading this. It is when you “Rattle the Cage” and disturb people’s comfort zones that they turn hostile and as it were wrap up warm and cosy so nothing gets under their skin that forces them to change – or acknowledge the value of other thinking! Thanks Jonathan.

  32. […] Jonathan Fields <— Click To Read More Smart Stuff! […]

  33. Nick B says:

    Thanks for sharing J Fields…I think this is exactly what I needed to hear…

  34. […] an article by Jonathan Fields with insights on staying true to YOU: Judgment Be Damned Okay, over to the important voices here; what is your advice to business professionals to […]