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Success Advice

Why Judging Your Success on Criticism Won’t Get You Anywhere



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“Moby Dick” is widely considered one of the best American novels ever written. It’s a behemoth of a book, long on descriptions of the ocean and its denizens. There’s an entire chapter devoted to naming and classifying the different types of whale. It’s a tough, strange read and, like so many of the novels in its literary hemisphere, cannot be fairly defined. It’s an adventure novel rolled into a revenge narrative stuck hundreds of miles off the nearest coast, and no one knew what to make of it for decades after its release.

The critics took the path common to many of us with something unknown and strange: “Moby Dick” was initially reviled, then ignored. Melville produced another unsuccessful novel, then shifted to poetry, and eventually died penniless and forgotten, his name misprinted in the obituary.

And now, some century and a half after its initial printing, Melville is a household name, his iconic story of whales and men considered in high school and college classrooms alike. Melville never knew the success of his book, all because of a few puzzled critics. This story repeats itself through the centuries, from Emily Dickinson to Edgar Allan Poe to Vincent Van Gogh to Nick Drake. Critics don’t always get it right.

The Critics

Of course, criticism isn’t always formal, and it isn’t usually directed at the likes of Melville. As highly as you might think of your art, it’s pretty unlikely that you’re the next Dickinson or Van Gogh. In this sense, criticism has its merits — the theory is sound enough.

Criticism at its most valuable points to an effort’s faults and its merits. These faults or merits can be anything as trivial as the care you took wiping a table to the decade’s long struggle you went through to write your novel. Criticism exists in all forms and should — by definition — include a studied and neutral appraisal of the effort and quality involved in a product or service. However, that definition itself summons some problems.

For instance, who is qualified to criticize? For certain mundane, everyday tasks, a workplace superior — or even a co-worker or friend — will point out faults and merits in your work. On other, more specialized subjects, finding a fair and informed critic proves problematic. On passion projects in particular, the right critic can make or break the artist. The last thing any aspiring artist wants to hear is a misguided or hateful effort to destroy their work.

“Learn to see the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. Appreciate the constructive, ignore the destructive.” – John Douglas

Taking Criticism

There are a few things that any artist ought to consider when being criticized. First, you asked for it. When you open yourself up for criticism, which usually takes the form of asking someone to read what you’ve written, look at what you’ve painted or listen to a song you’ve composed, you’re opening yourself up for them to criticize.

Given that most people have different tastes and techniques for the field in which you’re creating and given that you’ve found someone you consider worthy of offering critical insight, it’s likely that some of what they contribute will be negative.

That said, criticism should be solicited (until after publication, etc.). If someone feels the need to approach you with comments on something you’ve written, and nothing designates them as a legitimately qualified critic within your field, you have no obligation to listen to a word they say.

A final form of criticism, self-criticism, is probably the hardest to judge. It’s easy being too hard on yourself, but it’s important to remember that compromising your art for the easy way out is never worth it and will make you feel significantly worse down the line. Riding that fine line is where the best art happens. Thus, the most critical limitation on criticism is this: It’s ultimately up to you when to listen and when to ignore. Pick the criticism that seems accurate and motivates you to improve.

Great critics are wrong sometimes, or misjudge a creative effort, or even entirely miss the point. Bad critics strike out of resentment, as do jealous contemporaries. Some percentage of the criticism any artist receives will be bad and needs to be ignored for the benefit of the work. Another portion of criticism is good and will ultimately benefit the profession. And a tremendous amount of the stuff is neutral, misguided or changes the fundamental composition of the work.

The lion’s share of taking criticism is sticking to your guns when you’re right and staying humble and thankful when you aren’t. After all, maybe you’re the next Melville, writing an epic masterpiece that will never be understood in your lifetime.

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” – Aristotle

Constructive criticism helps all artists to a degree, just as constructive criticism helps a child learn how to wipe the proverbial table. However, keep in mind that no critic is sitting at your desk writing or drawing or recording. They aren’t pouring hours into the project. Their perspective is a different one, often fresh and insightful after you’ve gotten used to your work, and worthy of your attention. But it’s not their work, and it never should be.

Sentimentality plagues all artists in some degree or another, and it’s no easy task to separate your love and hard work from the simple reality of what you’ve produced. That’s where the critics come in. Being able to pick out those who value the craft from those who relish crushed dreams and artists’ tears, takes a tremendous amount of faith in your abilities mixed with humility and self-awareness about the shortcomings of your work.

Putting your work out there is opening yourself up to criticism. It’s part of a contract you sign the moment you attend a critique session or email your work to someone. And it’s important to go through the trial of criticism to help polish your work. But getting depressed from a few bad critiques or comments is the exact opposite of what you want. Learn who speaks the truth — objectively, not favoring your work — and listen to what they have to say.

Kayla Matthews is a productivity and self-improvement writer whose writing has been featured on Dumb Little Man, Skills You Need, FinerMinds, Lifehacker, and others. To see more of Kayla's work, visit her productivity blog Productivity Theory or follow her on Twitter.

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Success Advice

How to Ignite the Spark Within for Future Success

All of us come to this world with our own reserve of magic unfortunately, not everyone can unleash it



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How Your Beliefs Can Supercharge or Sabotage Your Success

Your life is dictated by beliefs and biases that drive your thinking, behaviors, and decisions



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How to Break the Cycles of Mediocrity and Manifest Your Greatness

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity



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In just a few weeks, we will be wrapping up 2023. Can you believe it? This year has been absolutely incredible for me.

I have seen amazing doors opened, new relationships formed and I am seeing dreams realized in my life. While this seems like the hallmarks of a great year, this has also been the most challenging year of my life. With all of the change happening in my life, I have been forced out of my comfort zone and challenged to grow in every area of my life.

I can truly say that I have made the most of my moments this year and I have used everything as a catalyst for maximizing my greatest potential.

As a revolutionary leader, I have the pleasure of consulting and advising leaders around the world to fulfill purpose, realize their greatest potential and make an impact.

I want to share some insights with you that will help you to break cycles of mediocrity and manifest your greatness

Everything legal must come through the matrix

I am sure that some of you are wondering why I am using the term matrix. However, what you have to understand is that I am trying to make a highly complex spiritual principle practical to understand.

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, every life has an origin and I believe that origin is divine and begins with eternity. You are birthed from eternity and into time to fulfill a unique purpose and assignment in your lifetime and generation.

The matrix is simply the portal or vehicle that brings something out of the invisible realm and into tangible form. The problem with much of the teaching today is that it excludes the matrix. We are told to believe that success is instantaneous and overnight.

Nobody talks about how a dream progresses through stages beginning with visualization and ultimately culminating in manifestation. Without a matrix or portal then everything that you attempt to birth and build will be illegal.

The matrix not only makes you legal but it gives you the authority and power to function as the greatest expression of who you were created to be. 

Every matrix has an incubation process

While many people admire and respect me today, I remember a time when nobody knew who I was or the significance of my message. How did I get to where I am today? I got here through an incubation process.

In other words, everything that has been destined for your life is incubating and awaiting a set time of manifestation. The problem is that most people live their entire lives idle and never initiate the incubation process.

What do I meany by that? Most people are living reckless and very few people are living intentionally. I am amazed at the number of people I have conversations with that have no vision, goals or strategies for their lives. They show great promise and they have undeniable potential.

However, without development they will die with their dreams still in them.

Everything that has been destined for your life must be incubated and converted to become realities born to time. 

“Visualize this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin to build.” – Robert Collier

You must give expression to that which is not yet born to time

When you think about a matrix or a prophetic incubation process, you have to understand that potential is often unrealized and untapped. In other words, your potential is in raw form and your potential cannot serve you as long as it is untapped.

The thing that makes me valuable is that I have the ability to convert potential into power. I have done it in my own life and I have empowered leaders around the world to do the same. How do you convert potential into power?

First, it is important to note that you have to perceive potential. If you cannot perceive your potential then you can never cultivate your potential. In addition, you must take the time to cultivate your potential. We often get excited about our capabilities; however, we never expand our capacity in order to realize our greatest potential.

In other words, the strength of your potential is only discovered through your willingness to stretch. The more we are challenged the more we are empowered to expand our capacity for greatness. Most of all, you must begin to express your potential. The expression of potential is different for every person.

For example, the expression of my potential is best demonstrated through the thoughts, ideas, products, services, books, etc.

For another person the expression of potential may look like a screenplay, artwork, sports, scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, etc.

Regardless of the form of expression, I know that you will live empty and unfulfilled until you make the decision to express your potential. The expression of your potential gives voice to your dreams, life to your vision, significance to your moments and activates your true power.

You must manifest your greatness

As a revolutionary thinker and leader, my work has impacted people around the world. I am grateful that my life is a source of empowerment to so many people. However, before anyone could ever benefit from my life, I had to make a non-negotiable decision to become who I was born to be.

I wish I could tell you that this journey is easy and that you will get there overnight. However, in a world that celebrates us for doing we are often criticized for being. As a result, I wasted a lot of time trying to be who other people wanted me to be instead of being who I was born to be.

There is no greatness without becoming and there is no becoming with authenticity. It is through our bravery to be vulnerable that we ultimately manifest our greatness. We do not bless the world by being a duplicate. We bless the world when we honor our difference. When you honor your difference you honor your potential.

Ultimately, your difference is how you manifest your greatness.

When you present anything but your authentic self to the world, you are playing small and you are robbing the world of your significance. Manifesting your greatness requires you to master your gifts.

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Here’s a Young Man’s Antidote for the Uncertainty of the Modern World

Why do a lot of young guys lack confidence in today’s world? 



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