Don’t take this wrong but, in my mind, constructive criticism isn’t a real thing. To me, it’s more of an opportunity to tell someone you don’t like their work, you don’t like the way they do it, or you have other problems with their performance, or possibly with them as a person. If you don’t like the way someone is doing something, this is a good training opportunity (for both of you.) The difference between, “you have too many errors” or “it’s too light” or “it’s too dark”, “it’s too long” or “it’s too short” or whatever the case is about the thing you’re critiquing, it might be better to actually show the person how you want it done, or how you do it. Asking the person if you can show them how you do it, or show them another way to do it, or to give them something to contemplate, is different than simply saying why you don’t like it and expecting them to figure out on their own how to do it so that you will like it. The two vibes are worlds apart. I’m always interested in learning a new or better way to do something, but sometimes I have found that I’m dealing with someone who simply has a very different view of what’s important than I do.
One example of this is in the importance placed on multi-tasking by some people. I think I’ve written about this before. Multi-tasking is not a thing that humans do naturally and it doesn’t lead to improvement in work product in my opinion. There is a reason why most psychologists, gurus and spiritual directors continue to encourage a “one-pointed attention.” That means to give all your attention in a mindful way to what you’re doing in the present moment, and when that is finished, or you’ve arrived at a natural stopping point, turn your attention to the next thing. This is not to say that you can’t answer the phone while you’re working on another project, but you’re not going to be able to multi-task like a computer and still put out an acceptable work product, much less, have it done timely. I’m just saying it’s time to push back on the multi-tasking mindset a little bit. Not being able to do two or three things at once, doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human.
I do think it’s important to push ourselves a little bit to uplevel our skills in whatever way we need or want to. Not everything comes easy. Now it becomes a question of whether we really want to improve our skills in certain areas. I’ll give you a couple of examples from my own life.
When I was 12 or 13 years old, my parents signed me up for guitar lessons. I took lessons for less than a year. I enjoyed them, and I liked my teacher, but there were some things I didn’t really care about learning. I learned quite a few things, like all the different first fret chords, several different strums and some finger picking styles, but honestly, I wasn’t planning to become a guitar virtuoso, or do studio session work. I mainly wanted to learn enough to be able to accompany myself as a singer. After several months, when my guitar teacher said he couldn’t teach me any longer because he was moving away, I wasn’t super upset about it. I had learned what I thought I wanted to learn. Heck, by then, I could sing and play “I Fought the Law and the Law Won” and that’s all I really wanted to know how to do at that time. That basic skill took me pretty far too, as I became a fairly well-known folk singer and guitar player around my hometown as a teenager. I was world famous in Brea, California!
Another thing I used to spend a fair amount of time with as a kid and a young teenager, was art. Specifically, I liked to draw portraits of people. By the time I was in junior high, I was pretty good at it. In High School, I took almost every art class offered, including drawing & painting, calligraphy, and numerous other classes. It didn’t take me long to notice that on the bell curve of artists, I was pretty far behind the curve. I thought I was doing pretty well on my own, but when compared to other kids in my classes, my drawing and painting skills were nascent, at best. Not long after that, I gave up drawing and painting altogether and focused my attention on other art forms, including music and fabric arts. Eventually, I became involved with photography.
Now that I’m retired, I find my interest in portraiture returning, but I’ll have to re-learn how to draw a face, and all the parts of it, before I can make a portrait that looks anything like the person I’m trying to portray. Do I regret giving this up? Well, yes and no. I think as a young person I knew instinctively where to put my attention to achieve the results I wanted, and where the time it would take to advance my skills would be lengthy and not likely to reward me sufficiently. The bottom line here is that there is only so much time in life, and we need to choose how we wish to spend it accordingly. Everything is not for everyone. This, by the way, is the basis for the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths.”
I think this is true in business as well. I’ve known people who have chased a business dream for decades and never saw their plan truly come together for them. It depends on what you want to achieve of course, but if making money is your reason for being in business, and you can’t make any money in a particular business, it’s not unreasonable to close that business, stop putting your energy there, and start something else you might like to do. That doesn’t make you a failure. I know we’ve always heard about people who started something and never gave up on it until it finally produced. I think there is something to that, within reason. We’ve all heard the stories about how Edison stuck with his idea of the light bulb, and his famous quote “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Still, I’m guessing that he was getting SOME kind of feedback that encouraged him to keep going with it.
On the other hand, it’s possible that what Edison was learning was as much about Edison as it was about the lightbulb, so even if he had died before making one that worked, he would still have been successful within himself. When looked at in this way, our activities become lessons in self-discovery more than in what the world considers success or failure.
Only we can decide whether it’s worth it to continue going in the same direction in life, but I’m suggesting here that we learn to throw off the disappointments of having things not turn out as planned, in favor of embracing the things that make us feel happier and more accomplished. I’ll never be a famous mathematician. I’m OK with that.
One reply to “The Art and Science of Self-Discovery”
This is so true. I love everything about your post! Great insight. ❤
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