Saturday, May 15, 2010

The New Thing Part 2 is coming in 3 days

An essential part of the New Openness is letting people judge your work. I'm a little cautious about this, mostly because I'm acutely susceptible to negative feedback - it's not that I don't like it, it's that I've often found negative feedback demolishes my desire to create something.

There's been a recent bubble of articles about letting people judge your work, and asking who should judge your work. Seth Godin has been talking a lot about shipping (finishing a project and sending it out into the world); he says:
[S]ome people learn to ship, they learn to do work that matters and most of all, they learn to ignore the critics they can never possibly please. The ability to choose who judges your work--the people who will make it better, use it and reward you--is the key building block in becoming an artist in whatever you do.

Trent at the Simple Dollar also did a post of being careful about who judges you.

A lot of the people who judge you will never be pleased with you, no matter what you do. It will never, ever be enough. There will always be something with which they can bring you down and reassert their sense of superiority.
Guess what? Their opinions do not matter. Not one little bit. If you waste even one second of your life trying to please such people, that’s a second you’ll never get value from and never get back.


In the end, the only opinions that really matter are your own opinions and the opinions of a very small and select group of people who know the full situation and whose opinions you’ve actually decided to care about. Everyone else? Not so much
After thinking about this, I've decided to take a different approach with Part 2 of the New Thing. I'm going to be interested in everyone's opinions and ideas, but I'm going to reserve the right to not care about them. I have no idea how that balancing act will work in practice, but I'm fascinated to find out.


Amanda said...

I think you are right. You can't care what everyone thinks. I know in my job as a lecturer in nearly every class there will be one person who basically hates me and who will evaluate me as crap at everything. It's hard not to fixate on that but if the rest of the class feedback is good then that person is an outlier and their opinion doesn't matter.

Also I have found with with research and writing some peoples opinions just have to be disregarded because they are simply not qualified to judge or they are not the intended audience for the piece.

I think openess is important. If you don't put yourself and your work out there you are missing out on opportunities to learn and grow and connect. The corollary of that is you risk rejection so all you can do is try not to be too sensitive. The alternative of being a closed in defensive person who never risks anything isn't a good way to live.

Helen Rickerby said...

I've always been pretty careful about who I show my unfinished work to, because I'm a sensitive soul. I tend to select people who I know (or at least feel) are supportive of the kind of thing I'm trying to do. Then I know that their feedback won't just be that they think my whole project is stupid, and no matter how well I did it they would never like it. There are always going to be some people who are such a different page (or planet) that you can basically ignore them.

When I give people feedback now I always say to ignore what doesn't feel helpful, and take only what does. Of course, it can be hard to figure that out, and hard for negative feedback to not hurt. But going into it with the attitude you have can only help. Also, I found sometimes that something that didn't seem helpful at first was actually helpful if I came back to it after some time.

Steve Hickey said...

@Helen: "When I give people feedback now I always say to ignore what doesn't feel helpful, and take only what does." I think that's a lovely philosophy. I may well use it.

My typical response to feedback when it's given well is to ask a lot of questions, let it settle for a couple of months, and then look it again (and ask more questions).

Steve Hickey said...

@Amanda: It's good to hear about your 'the inevitable hater in your lectures' experiences. Hearing you say that reinforces how universal this stuff is - it goes across disciplines, across sectors and across mediums (you find it online as well as in meatspace).

I am fascinated to see how the next few weeks go. I think I will keep a log of my experiences, for a follow-up post.