To Hell With The Critics, Long Live Criticism

Do you remember the people who criticise you?

Or you care about just the criticism and take corrective measures if you think you can improve?

It’s a “Who Vs. What” question.

criticism

Now think about this: if you remember the people who criticise you, your natural inclination will be to win over their hearts and do the things to please them.

When you do something to “please” someone, your act gets biased. Your such act will make you stressful. Is such an act worth practicing? You know the answer.

But if you listen to just the criticism to understand the critic’s point of view, and if you are convinced, take corrective measures for improvement, the scenario changes.

When it comes to dealing with criticism, ‘What’ matters more than ‘Who.’

Don’t think of critics. Fix the act that caused criticism (or ignore it if you don’t care).

Think of people you love … your friends; your family; your kids; your spouse (if you still love her, or him) …

That’s much better use of the most scarce resource you have – your remaining time in this world.

Some people live their lives thinking that they have unlimited time in this world. That’s not true. Your time is limited. Here’re the 7 most common deathbed regrets. Not worth having for sure.

Do something that gives you happiness. Learn from the criticism but to hell with the critics. You better do it!

Zen Story: Will You Choose to Be My Coach?

A coach saw five of the interns practicing software engineering. When they took a break, the coach asked the interns, “Why do you write code?”

The first intern replied, “Coding is an in-demand, high paying career. I’m glad that I will not have to do the clerical work that some of my school friends are doing in their jobs.”

The coach praised the intern, saying, “You’re a smart engineer. When you will gain more experience, you won’t have to worry about coaching like I do.”

The second intern replied, “I love the constructs, structures and even more important, the business impact that my code would create.”

The coach praised him, “Your senses are active and you see more than many others. Good for your career.”

The third intern replied, “When I write the code, I feel so content that I am creating something useful for the people who would use the app.”

The coach gave praise to the third intern, “Your mind will easily grasp the programming techniques of today and future and make you a competent programmer.”

The fourth intern answered, “As I write the code, I create a systematic something that will make people’s lives better.”

The coach was pleased and said, “You are riding on the golden path which will offer you win-win and favorable situations in your life.”

The fifth intern replied, “I write code to write code.”

The coach went and sat at the feet of the fifth intern and said,  “I am your student. Will you choose to be my coach?”

Do Things That Might Not Work

Huh? Are you insane?

Certainly everyone wants this … assurance.

do-things-that-might-not-work

  • When a wedding event is planned then the head of the family wants the assurance that the event will go well.
  • When a new project is about to begin, the sponsor wants the assurance that it will be successful.
  • When a new product line is launched, the Executives, VPs and Sr. Managers need assurance that it will work.
  • When a startup is hiring a freelancer, they want certainty that the work freelancer would carry out will be extremely useful  to them (and since the freelancer is supposed to be needing the work, she should offer the money-back guarantee too!).

Assurance.

Everyone wants assurance.

The problem with assurance is that we get to know about it when the exact same experience has happened.

Whatever has happened once can be predicted. Whatever has happened once can be estimated. Whatever has happened once can contribute in giving assurance.

Creation is different kind of path. It is based on the ambit of “not sure.”

If the creator is asked, “Can you show me a case study about how you’d go from A to B,” he might not have a definite answer.

The world gets better by the stuff that comes from doing the things that might not work.

Are you doing anything that might not work?

Will You Miss Me If I’m Gone?

Recently read this news on TechCrunch: Secret App Shuts Down. Details here.

It raises some questions and the answers to those questions come with an opportunity to reflect on important something. Here’re the questions:

  • How would your app users react if you take the app down?
  • How would your clients react if you stop providing your consulting services?
  • How would your employer react if you put up your resignation?

If you stop doing your work, will that be a setback for them?

If your app is a clone of a popular app then no one would ever bother to notice if it is taken down.

If the quality of your consulting services is like just another consulting provider available next door then your client’s reaction might be, “Hmm, let’s hire another one!”

If you are like just another worker, it might be better for your employer to let you go and hire a new one for a less price although it sounds counter-intuitive at first.

But when the “who” becomes more important than “what,” the scenario changes.

Your work matters. Your app is missed if it is gone. Your consulting services is missed if someone else is providing that. You’re offered premium to stay and do what you’re doing.

Become the “who” that is missed and success might never miss you. This thought connects me with the Paul Graham’s classic article – Do things that don’t scale.

Perhaps being the “who,” who is missed if he’s gone is the most effective mean of getting your next gig.

Being the 'who', who is missed if he's gone is the most effective mean of getting your next gig. Click To Tweet

Here’ gig does not mean just a job, it means live performance :).

So, what would you do so you’re missed when you’re gone?

Mediocrity Is Not an Option

Few days ago, one of my newly hired designers came to me to show a design that was not even mediocre at its best.

He didn’t say anything but got back to his drawing board when I asked, “Is this your best work?”

If I would have measured my blood pressure at that time, I’m sure it would be much higher.

Not because the deadline was about to miss. Not because my designer’s capabilities was any less. It was because the premise that the designer operated from: mediocrity might work this time.

No. Mediocrity won’t work. Not this time. Not anytime. If it works for someone, it is a fluke.

No. Mediocrity won't work. Not this time. Not anytime. If it works for someone, it is a fluke.… Click To Tweet

I wish the designer was taught to tell his past leaders on face: Raise your standards for me. I deserve more than what mediocrity may produce in my life.

The designer’s life would be much different if he had worked for a leader who would push him to his limits and bring his excellence out.

Take ownership of your life. Find a leader who does not accept mediocrity. Find a leader who pushes his people to the limits. Find a leader who makes you uncomfortable for all good reasons.

And work for him. Even if you get less salary than what you will get working for a mediocre leader. It’s a very small cost to pay.

Will it make you feel comfortable?

Hell no.

Will it make your life better over the long run?

You guess.

This applies to you even if the leader is you.

Learning Techniques Vs. Learning Ownership

Jack puts in a lot of time to learn the techniques.

He’s a technique-biased learner. If you access his Dropbox folder called “To Learn,” you will see notes like this:

  • Top 7 ways to Write an Internal Office Memo That’s Not Boring
  • Top 10 SureFire Techniques to Lose Weight and Gain Muscles
  • What Everyone is Missing When Raising Their First Girl Child (and how not to)
  • Top 50 Tips to Make Money From Pharma Stocks From Day-Trading

Lots of how-tos …

The problem with this approach is that they are good to read but don’t always work as-is.

They need to be contextually modified to suit the specific needs.

Focusing merely on techniques is a great waste because it is not difficult to be good at a subject if we really choose to be.

We can be good at ANY subject if we choose to deal with an uncertain next and failures and frustration and the mess.

The problem is, we don’t want to take ownership to be good at something unless we find out that it is possible to for us to be good at that thing.

We expect others to coach us to be good at something while we do other stuff like updating facebook status, playing mobile games, attending a friend’s sister’s husband’s uncle’s daughter’s neighbour’s birthday party … or doing something else.

We want to be good at something while doing other stuff. Doing other stuff means our attention is divided and we are not 100% committed to be good at something.

What if we create a culture where the focus is on buying and selling ownership.
What if we create a culture where the focus is on buying and selling #ownership. Click To TweetWhen we buy ownership, we hold ourselves accountable to produce the results.

When we sell ownership, we have delegated a specific project or a task to a dependable person and that person has owned it.

Such a trade of ownership actually makes people choosing themselves.

A learner who chooses herself is unstoppable.

A learner who chooses herself is unstoppable. #habits Click To Tweet

Sure, it takes some time to get used to the uncomfortable situations that the trade of ownership puts you in but once got, it works as an extremely powerful tool.

Successful cultures practice trading of ownership. Successful individuals too.

Successful cultures practice trading of ownership. Successful individuals too. #success #habits Click To Tweet

What do you want to do?

A Lion in Search of a Circus

When Simba, the Lion, didn’t know that a circus was a possible home for him, his life was different.

He had so much freedom, many opportunities, and so much choice.

He was wired to lead. He was wired to roar. He was wired to kill.

Kill like a Lion.

A-Lion-in-Search-of-a-Circus

Then came circus. And the ringmaster.

Initially, Simba didn’t like the circus but eventually he compromised and surrendered himself.

If he would do exactly as the ringmaster asked him to do, he would get a piece of meat.

If he would refuse to do as the ringmaster asked him to do, he will have to sleep hungry.

If he’d do what the ringmaster wanted even without asking, he would get one more piece of meat.

Following the ringmaster’s orders was a better deal.

So he rewired himself to listen to and follow the ringmaster’s orders.

He was now an integral part of the circus.

His life became easy. Follow the orders and get the food. On some days, he would be allowed to have sex with the lioness who used to stay in a nearby cage.

Simba thought to himself, “Life at circus is not bad at all. I get the food without having to kill anyone and I get to spend some good time with the lioness I developed a crush on.”

As the years passed, Simba thought that the ringmaster was his “true” master and if he would please him, his life would continue to be easy.

Everything worked well for several years, but one day, for some reason, the circus owner decided to close the circus down.

The circus owner was happy with Simba. He thought at this point, rather than selling him to another circus, he would send him back to his real home, into the wild.

And he did it.

That day was difficult for Simba. There was no ringmaster. No shows. No noise of people applauding Simba’s performance. There was no food at his fingertips.

Simba was hungry and he had to arrange for his food on his own.

But he didn’t feel like home. The wild was perhaps too wild for him. He didn’t want to stay there anymore. He needed to be with a circus. Any circus.

He sat under a tree thinking, “It would be great if I find another circus. I want someone to come and take me to the circus again …”

He was the Lion. The King. Yet he needed a place to hold him, a spot where he didn’t have to assume the responsibility.

If he would work with a circus, he’d get food, sex and sense of safety.

Simba was no longer a Lion. His habits were changed. Sure, he looked like a Lion but didn’t remain one. He could roar, but he could not choose.

Why wasn’t he a Lion anymore? Did he forget hunting?

No.

But after living a passive life with the circus and after following orders from the ringmaster, he forgot to choose himself.

Simba hadn’t read James Altucher‘s book – Choose Yourself . Especially the page #4 which goes as below:

“That’s when it clicked. When everything changed. When I realized that nobody else was going to do it for me. If I was going to thrive, to survive, I had to choose myself. In every way.”

~James Altucher, Choose Yourself, pg #4

If you don't choose yourself, you don't remain Lion even though you were born as a Lion. Click To Tweet

If you are a Lion, then you hunt. You don’t ridicule yourself by following orders of the ringmasters.

If you are a programmer, then you program. You don’t fool yourself by copy/pasting code from stakeoverflow.com and call yourself a Programmer.

You are not what's available to you. You're not what happens to you. You are what you choose to… Click To Tweet

Hunt every day. Program every day. Keep your reflexes sharpened. Read Choose Yourself from James Altucher today and be a real Lion who leads the wild, not just Simba. 

Or go in search of a circus.