How To Master The Art Of Receiving Feedback To Advance Your Career
Art and business are two very similar industries.
Art wouldn’t succeed without business, and business wouldn’t succeed without art.
The people who succeed in both endeavors all share some very similar traits:
- Courage to try new things.
- Understanding of humanity.
- Understanding of cultural relevance.
- Enough humility to receive and implement feedback.
Feedback is crucial for any artistic and/or business endeavor. Without feedback, we are simply projecting our self-identified genius onto the world.
But the goal of any business or artistic endeavor is ultimately to serve the people. But if we don’t receive feedback from the people we’re supposed to be serving, we remain ignorant to the pathway that will lead to our success.
After understanding the necessary role of feedback, we also need to adjust our attitude to allow feedback to adequately influence our decisions. If we don’t do this, we will think that everything we do is right and that our own personal feedback is all that matters.
But it’s not.
- We need to master our preconceptions.
- We need to master our delusions.
- We need to master our emotions.
With our emotions controlled, we then need to master The Art of Receiving Feedback.
1. Understand that you’re not perfect.
This is probably the hardest thing to do. We’re told from an early age things like:
- “You can do anything you want”.
- “The world is your oyster”.
- “Who knows? One day you could wake up and be president”!
Sure, those are all great things to say, but reality works a little differently.
If you’ve ever had a failed relationship, your well-meaning friends have probably given you this advice:
“You’re perfect just the way you are”.
Sure. On an existential level, I suppose that’s accurate. You exist the way that you do and that can’t be anything other than what it is- in a spiritual sense, we could call that “perfection”.
But the problem with this kind of thinking is that it reinforces a staggering amount of delusions that we then have to battle with during our adult lives.
Because in reality:
- You aren’t perfect.
But it’s not just you; no one is.
This includes the people telling you that you’re perfect. They aren’t perfect either.
We’re all battling with our own preconceptions of the world, and those preconceptions solidify our opinions. Without outside influence, we become entrenched in our own sense of the world as it exists inside of a vacuum.
But we don’t live in a vacuum; we live in the world.
You need an outside opinion. I need an outside opinion. We all need outside opinions because the outside opinion is what will determine our societal levels of “success”.
By momentarily laying down our defensive narcissism, we can begin listening to the thoughts of our society.
We know what we want, but unless we ask, we can’t know what everyone else wants.
2. Remain teachable.
In the Zen Buddhist tradition, there’s a saying:
This means that you should perform every task from the sense that it’s the first time you’re doing it. Even if you’ve done it 7,000 times before, act as if you are a beginner.
Basically, you need to cultivate the idea that you are a “student of Life”.
With this attitude, you stay open, curious, and receptive to the process of learning.
When you remain teachable, you acknowledge that you are not perfect (see #1) and that your ego and your pride are not true indicators of your abilities to thrive in society. When ego and pride are at excessive levels, they stand in the way of our ability to even see (let alone correct) our mistakes.
We believe that if we’re perfect, there are no mistakes. We believe that if we find mistakes, we are not good enough, or whole enough, or perfect enough. But if you can accept that perfection doesn’t exist, you can begin to accept that you make a lot of mistakes.
If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this:
- Mistakes are opportunities.
It’s by making mistakes that we learn. But if we feel that we have nothing left to learn, then we won’t even comprehend the concept that we could be making mistakes.
Eventually, all of our endeavors will fail, and hopefully, if we remain teachable, we will be jolted awake.
Hopefully, if we remain teachable, we’ll come to understand this simple truth:
- Failure is the pathway to success.
Our ability to always be a student is what will take our mediocre creations and turn them into life-changing realities.
3. You are not special.
Well, you are kind of special.
You are special in the sense that no one looks exactly like you, talks exactly like you, thinks exactly like you, feels exactly like you, moves exactly like you, and has had the same exact experiences as you.
In that sense, yes, you are special.
But because we have come to accept this as “truth”, we start to believe it must be inherent to everything.
But here’s the problem:
That’s not how it works. I’m sorry. I wish it was, but it’s not.
You will not walk down the street and some big-shot movie producer will make you the next Brad Pitt simply because “you’re special”.
- Not gonna happen.
You are not going to sit at the piano for the first time and all of a sudden you’re playing Carnegie Hall with Yo Yo Ma simply because “you’re special”.
- Not gonna happen.
You will probably not invent the next iPhone, the next Starbucks, the next Facebook, the next anything simply because “you’re special”.
- Not gonna happen.
It’s fine to dream big, and who knows….. mmmmmaybe you will invent the next iPhone.
But riddle me this:
Did Steve Jobs invent the iPhone?
Steve Jobs did not invent the iPhone.
A large team of creatives, designers, developers, thinkers, technicians, business people, consultants, statisticians, analysts, and really clever marketers invented the iPhone in a process that entirely revolved around receiving feedback.
Sure, Steve Jobs took the credit as the spearheader of the enterprise, but it was the team that ultimately created the concept, and it was the feedback that ultimately created the product.
My point here is this:
You are not an exception.
If someone is telling you, “This is not good”, you may want to listen to them because chances are, it’s not good.
In particular, if something is done sub-par, there is virtually no chance that it will take you to success. This point is hard for most people to swallow, which is why it’s also very important.
If you don’t actively work on your inadequacies, you will very likely not achieve what it is you want to achieve.
If you want to be the next Justin Bieber, but you can’t be bothered to practice singing more than twice a month, you won’t find that level of success.
- The producers won’t “smooth it out in post”.
If you’re trying to be the next Neil Patel, but your website copy is filled with grammatical errors, you won’t find that level of success.
- The audience will not look past the mistakes to “find the gems”.
If you think you’re the next Gandhi, but you believe spending 30 minutes a day arguing politics on Facebook is going to get you there, I’m sorry, you won’t find that level of success.
- No one will suddenly “see it your way” unless they also see that you’re living, breathing, and fully engaging with that practice.
It takes great effort to achieve great things. If you put every ounce of strength into your endeavor, and accept others’ feedback with humility, you can achieve great things, but only if you understand that you need to work harder than you’ve ever worked before.
Here’s a nice tweetable quote for you:
To make $1 million, you need to do $1 million worth of work.
Click To Tweet
PS… I know many people get triggered by this point. But if we all release our delusions of grandeur, we can actually achieve many great things. Ironically, our delusions are what stand in the way of that greatness.
PPS… Many of the stories of “instant fame” are just that- stories. They’re crafted by smart marketing people to get you to buy more things. Why? Because it works. Why does it work? Because fairy tales are awesome; grueling work is not. Don’t believe the fairy tales. There is no substitute for hard work.
You Need Great Feedback To Be Successful
Understand that this is the process. Feedback is crucial for every successful business/artistic/creative/socially relevant endeavor.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:
No one has ever had an idea and executed it to perfection without feedback.
That has never happened and will never happen.
We all need an outside opinion. Even if your idea is legit brilliant, it needs to be reworked and refined according to the needs of the market/audience/society it’s impacting. If you don’t want to receive feedback, you’ll never get this socially relevant information and your work will suffer (regardless of its self-perceived brilliance).
If you don’t have the luxury of having an outside opinion (i.e. you have no friends), then do some research. Put yourself into the position of an outside observer. Lay down your ideas for a few weeks and then come back to them with a fresh mind. Proofread. Proofread again. Find holes. Fill those holes.
Give yourself constructive feedback.
Don’t sit there and say, “Oh I’m great, the world just can’t see it”. Instead, figure out what you’re doing wrong and fix it. All you need to do is remember the above three points.
Ask for help.
That’s the process.
That’s the art.
Master it, and you’ll master life.
How do you incorporate feedback into what you do? Do you have any feedback for me? Let me know in the comments below!
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