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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

19 Common Characteristics All Visionary Leaders Have



visionary leadership qualities

When you look at business leaders like Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Sir Richard Branson, and philosophers like Bertrand Russell, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, David Bohm,  C. S. Peirce and inventors like Nikola Tesla, Paolo Soleri, Harvey W. Bailey, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Wright brothers and political leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Aung San Suu Kyi, it becomes very clear that they are all connected through one leadership—visionary leadership. (more…)

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Wealth Lessons Everyone Should Hear for Every Stage of Your Life

Do you have the courage to rewrite your story?



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How to Choose the Best Affiliate Programs for Your Blog

If you follow these steps, you can create an affiliate marketing plan that makes money, fits well with your content, and connects with your readers



how to choose the best affiliate programs for your blog

Picking the right affiliate programs for your blog is really important. It can make a big difference in how much money you can make and how much your readers get out of your blog. With so many choices out there, deciding which ones to go with can be tricky. 

This guide is here to make it easier for you. It will give you clear steps and helpful tips to choose affiliate programs that fit well with what your blog is about, what your readers like, and what you stand for. 

For more articles on this theme, please head over to this blog

Understanding Affiliate Marketing

Before you start picking affiliate programs, it’s important to really understand what affiliate marketing is and how it works. 

Basically, affiliate marketing is when you promote a product or service on your blog, and then you get paid a little bit every time someone buys something or does something because you recommended it. 

It’s great for both the person selling the product and the blogger, because the seller gets more sales with low risk, and the blogger can make money from their blog.

How to Choose the Right Affiliate Programs for Your Blog

1. Assess Your Niche and Audience

The key to doing well in affiliate marketing starts with really knowing what your blog is about and who reads it. Consider the following:

  • Your blog’s content: What topics do you cover? Ensure the products or services you promote are relevant.
  • Your audience’s interests and needs: What solutions are they seeking? Choose affiliate programs that offer products or services that solve their problems or enhance their lives.

2. Research Potential Affiliate Programs

Once you know what your blog is about and what your readers want, start looking for affiliate programs. Choose ones that are well-known for good products, great customer service, and helpful support for affiliates. Resources to find these programs include:

  • Affiliate networks like ShareASale, Commission Junction, and ClickBank.
  • Direct searches for “[Your Niche] affiliate programs” in search engines.
  • Recommendations from other bloggers in your niche.

3. Evaluate the Commission Structure

The commission structure is a critical factor to consider. Look for programs that offer competitive rates that make your efforts worthwhile. Consider:

  • The percentage of commission per sale.
  • Whether the program offers a flat rate per action (e.g., per sign-up).
  • The cookie duration, which affects how long after a click you can earn commissions on sales.

4. Consider the Program’s Reputation and Sureness

Join affiliate programs with a solid reputation for quality and sureness. This not only ensures that you’re promoting good products but also that you’ll be paid on time. You can:

  • Read reviews from other affiliates.
  • Check the program’s history and background.
  • Look for any complaints or issues reported online.

5. Analyze the Support and Resources Offered

A good affiliate program gives you things like ads to use, training on their products, and helpful managers. Having access to these resources can really help you do a better job at promoting their products.

6. Understand the Terms and Conditions

Before signing up, thoroughly review the program’s terms and conditions. Pay close attention to:

  • Payment thresholds and methods.
  • Any restrictions on how you can promote their products.
  • The program’s policy on affiliate marketing on social media platforms.

7. Test the Product or Service

If possible, test the product or service before promoting it. This firsthand experience allows you to offer genuine charge and build trust with your audience.

8. Look for Recurring Commission Opportunities

Some affiliate programs pay you again and again for subscriptions or services that charge fees regularly. These can provide a more stable income compared to one-time sales commissions.

Implementing Your Choice

After choosing the best affiliate programs, the next step is to smoothly include your affiliate marketing in your content plan. This includes:

  • Creating valuable content that naturally incorporates affiliate links.
  • Disclosing your affiliate affairs transparently to maintain trust with your audience.
  • Tracking your results to understand what works best for your audience and adjusting your strategy accordingly.

Picking the best affiliate programs for your blog involves careful planning, research, and making sure they match what your audience likes and needs. 

If you follow these steps, you can create an affiliate marketing plan that makes money, fits well with your content, and connects with your readers. 

The real key to doing well with affiliate marketing isn’t just about the products you talk about, but also how much your audience trusts and values your advice. 

With enough time, patience, and hard work, your blog can grow into a successful space that earns a good amount of affiliate money and helps your readers choose the right products.

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The Power of Ethical Leadership: How Integrity Drives Success

By leading with integrity and ethics, leaders create an environment where employees feel excited to come to work



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What differentiates a positive organizational culture that enjoys a clean reputation and long-term success from a toxic culture drowning in scandals, mistrust, and legal fines?  (more…)

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