“It is not the critic who counts.”
– Theodore Roosevelt
Recently, a friend recently released a book with the disclaimer, “If you don’t like it, write your own book.” I love that.
We live in an age when criticism is easy. It’s expected. But is it necessary?
One of my favorite things on the Internet lately is a clip from the Howard Stern Show when a listener calls in to offer some “constructive criticism.”
Howard politely interrupts the critique saying, “not necessary.”
The listener is flabbergasted. He’s offended, insisting that Howard needs his feedback.
The seasoned shock jock curtly replies,
If I listened to feedback, I’d have quit on Day 1.
I used to say that feedback is always a gift, but is it always? I’m not so sure anymore.
Lesson 5: Seek feedback, ignore criticism
Less than a month ago, I issued a challenge to some friends to make and share one new thing per day for 30 days. We called it the “practice in public” challenge based on an idea in one of my books.
The idea was this: Professionals make things every day and then they share them. That’s how they get better — by making things.
Amateurs, on the other hand, wait for their big break and hide in the shadows until someone discovers them. Incidentally, they are the ones who are quick to criticize those making things.
Which one would you rather be: the brave creator, or the cowering critic?
The only question that counts
As part of this challenge, I ask one simple question on a daily basis: “What have you made today?” It’s an important question, one we get to ask twice:
First, we ask this question to ourselves because before we do anything, before we attempt to lead or offer advice or criticize, we must first get in the game.
Second, we can ask this of others. Everyone, in fact.
You don’t actually have to confront these people, though sometimes that may be necessary. But you should at least be asking this on the inside.
- That critic?
- That rude neighbor?
- That argumentative in-law who has an opinion about everything?
What have they made lately?
Are they doing the work? Are they braving the abyss, facing the fear of creation, and making something? Are they enduring the years it takes to bridge the Taste-Talent Gap and finally be as good as they hope?
Or are they just dispensing feedback for the sake of being heard? Are they offering empty advice without having earned the right to share that advice? Are they a critic, not a creator?
If so, I dare you to kindly reply, “not necessary.”
It’s not necessary to say you didn’t like my book.
It’s not necessary to tell me what you think I should be doing differently.
It’s just not necessary.
I have resources for that, people whose opinions I trust and value, those I know have my best interests in mind.
These days, we live in an age where virtually anyone can share their opinion with anyone. And so, we tend to treat all opinions as equal. But they are not. In fact, some opinions should matter to you very little.
And when you hear someone voice one of those opinions, you can just say, “not necessary.”
Or even better: Ignore them entirely and just keep doing your work.
This article first appeared on Goins, Writer.