August 23, 2019
I’m so honored to be invited back as a second-time guest speaker on my favorite business podcast: So, Here’s the Thing with Laylee Emadi. In this episode, Laylee and I are diving into some tough-love topics: the importance of healthy criticism in your work and the importance of practicing your craft.
Many coaches and mentors will equip you with business tools and marketing strategies to help you succeed. But sometimes it isn’t your marketing game that’s the problem.
No amount of business savvy can replace good work. I believe providing an excellent client experience begins with providing an excellent product. And how often do we actually take a step back and evaluate our work critically? Or seek out industry peers or mentors who are willing to give us honest feedback about our work?
Our creative industry is so kind. Perhaps too kind. We gush over each other’s work and sign our comments with emoji hearts. The encouragement in this industry is a wonderful thing… but on the other hand, we do ourselves a disservice if we do not seek out honest critical feedback.
I say this from a compassionate place—not because I think my work is better than anyone else’s. In fact, quite the opposite: I, more than anyone, desire to improve my own skillset. I see so much room for growth in what I do. And the path to growth is critical evaluation of our work.
It’s not personal. This is something I learned through years of formal design education: your work is just your work. It is not a reflection of you as a human being. And there is always room for growth.
If we can take a step back and set the emotion aside, we can look at our work clearly and critically. Where is there room for growth? What could be better? What other skills could you develop to improve your work?
Again, this shouldn’t come from a place of personal emotion. It’s not about comparison or jealousy or self-doubt. It’s about an honest, practical look at the current level of your work. It’s the only way prevent stagnation… it’s the only way to grow.
If you’re hearing this right now and feel like your work isn’t at the level you want it to be… I hear you. You’re doing great exactly where you are.
The self-awareness to see the gap between where you are and where you want to be is the foundation to growth.
If you recognize the gap, you’re already a step ahead of the rest. Your work is valuable now, just as it is. Constructive criticism and honest feedback will only take it to new heights.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” ― Ira Glass
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