Feedback is a big reason I did well in my career.
These days, I love hearing how I am doing, even when it's bad news. I seek it out. And I am open to completely changing my mind, especially, if those I trust say something contrary to what I am doing or contradict my personal beliefs.
But, years ago, it was the opposite. A defense mechanism would go off; I viewed it as an attack when someone gave me feedback that I wasn't doing something right.
Coming from where I come from and growing up the way I grew up, in The Bronx and in poverty, and with lots of insecurities, it's easy to see how I'd view feedback as an attack.
But the truth is unless we seek out feedback, we will never improve at the rate that someone who seeks feedback improves.
As David Foster Wallace said in his famous commencement speech:
"...everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us.
It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real."
It is tough to see outside of this default setting and lens of the self if we don't seek out feedback.
But when should we ask for feedback?
My opinion now is that for it to be really valuable, we need to ask for it at a very particular times.
In the last session of The Minimalist Entrepreneur Course (which I am a mentor in), Sahil Lavingia (the founder of Gumroad) said something profound to us about getting feedback.
Sahil has recently picked up painting, and he has a lot of painter friends who are incredible at the craft, and he can reach out to for feedback. But if he goes to them for feedback with a half-finished painting, they will just give him obvious advice about how to finish it. But if he has exhausted all of his own abilities, finished everything he can finish, they advise him in ways that make the painting ten times better.
Another example of this is my own writing; if I go to my writer friends for feedback with a crappy first draft, their focus is on grammar and other minor details. But if I've taken care of all the grammar, they'll only give feedback on the core and help me make my writing ten times better.
One other place I have found taking feedback to be helpful is in the very beginning, at the idea stage. This seems to uncover things I hadn't thought of before I embark on the execution of the idea. It is also immensely helpful to see how people react to the idea. But at this stage feedback has two downsides. One, because we can overly on it as validation or lack thereof. In a world full of randomness it's far too hard to predict ahead of time if it will work. And two, it can make us feel like we accomplished something by sharing it, when really we haven't done much. But, with that in mind it is still a worthwhile undertaking because of what it can uncover before we execute.
So what is my opinion now on when we should ask for feedback?
At the very beginning when there is only an idea and when we've exhausted your own personal lens. Then it's time to solicit feedback and never take it as an attack.
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