The ugly Truth about Feedback

►Shipping unfinished work

Artists are never satisfied with their work.
Feedback…not always easy to take.

Recently I published a book chapter to a circle of clients before official publication mainly to help one or two people in the group for whom I thought it could be helpful. What happened next is that I got a message from an old friend. He offered his feedback on the chapter.

I immediately felt discouraged, knew that everything was wrong and wished I had never put the document out there. I quickly skimmed through the document. “What has he found? Structure, spelling, grammar, meaningless content, wrong entry into the topic…” I had the full horror scenario in my mind. I was about to hit reply “Thank you but the document was already edited professionally. I did not ask for feedback.” I was angry and emotional.

Then I read the comment again with which I published the document and noticed that I might have solicited the feedback. Was I even fishing for compliments? Did I not ask people to tell me if they found the chapter helpful?

I muttered that my friend should not have given me feedback on my work. I did not ask him for a proofread. I did not want to have a Skype conversation with him.

Then I remembered my words from a training I recently gave. Most people give feedback and advice without permission. I advise clients to assume positive intentions. I thanked my friend for the offer and pushed the date for the Skype conversation. I wanted to hear his ideas but only when I feel secure, professional and ready. I almost asked him to send the feedback in writing. Then I remembered that he was not paid for it. I remembered that he is in fact a great logical thinker and proofreader and that I might be able to get a perspective that only he can provide.

►Ignoring critical feedback or waiting until you are ready

Being ready for critical feedback is the key. I am a sensitive person. I have a very high standard for my work. I do not like criticism. I only like appreciation. I do not like to read seminar feedbacks. Even if the feedback is positive I “hear” the negative feedback more. Most of it is positive and constructive. I get great advice from clients and seminar participants.

However, my own insecurities get in my way.

Recently I heard a podcast. One very successful writer said he never reads reviews from readers because all that does is asking for permission. He says, that critical reviews often gives you a reason to procrastinate. It is one of the most common reasons not to ship your work. As an artist or writer it is essential though that you ship. You have to publish in order to be heard and in order for your products to be recognized as your work.

It’s one reason why I keep postponing the publication of my workbook for Global Mobility Professionals. I am genuinely worried that the content is not good enough.

I already procrastinated the reviews for months. The feedback I received is generally positive and appreciative. The suggestions for improvement were helping me to put a better structure to my work. Writing a book is humbling already but self-publishing a book gets me close to wanting to live in a psychiatric clinic (i.e. it drives me nuts). As a publisher you have to consider everything from layout to editing to the right pricing.

►Maybe it is time to let go of an old belief

In  order to make progress I needed to hear what my friend had to say. So, a few weeks later we finally had a call. I tried to keep calm and professional but I also told him that I was quite anxious about what he had to say. At the end of the call I seem to have looked shattered and tired. It was tough to listen. I knew I could do better. I knew I had to improve the work but I felt sincerely demotivated.

►Taking the lessons from feedback

The feedback actually was helpful but it also reinforced my belief that nothing I will ever do will be good enough for the world to see. I will always find a flaw or a chapter that could be written better. Also it is a lot easier to use a handout in a coaching session and give a lot of background information orally than it is to write a workbook where all the instruction should be self-explanatory. Keeping a reader engaged in self-study in our current times of constant distraction is near to impossible. I believe I will go back to classroom training. I want to be old-fashioned about everything I do. I want to stay in my comfort zone.

Assuming positive intentions...
Assuming positive intentions…

►Feeling the fear, staying humble and doing it anyway

As I am writing this I am one month away from publishing the workbook without the help of a big publishing company. While I feel that we did well there is still a doubt about the project. But then I read an article about how great artists were and are never happy with their work. Some were even poor during their lifetime. I guess it’s the way it is with art.


Does this resonate with you? Are you procrastinating to show your art out of fear of failure? Tell us about it in the comments.

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