I was about to vomit, I was sure of it. And that was going to be really embarrassing. Here I was, attending my first formal critique. It was my freshman year of art school, and I was in my Visual Communications I class.
To make matters worse, our assignment that first week was to make our own names into artwork. So it was me pinned up on the wall there, there was no denying it. My soul, my self worth and my name were on a piece of paper pinned on a board with 25 others.
My stomach churned. What would they say? How was I going to survive four years of sitting through these critiques? And what was the point, anyway?
Four Thumbtacks Through my Soul
The waves of nausea first hit me as I tacked the corners of my piece to the wall. Well, this was embarrassing, I thought. I was used to working on my art in the privacy of my room, and to have it on display in a room full of fellow artists was disconcerting. Some of them were blessed with a lot more natural talent than I was, and that made me uncomfortable.
Critique Time Looms
We perched on our stools, and the professor began speaking. He went down the line, piece by piece, and asked for feedback from the group. People spoke about what worked and what didn’t for each creation on the wall.
In the end it wasn’t that bad. Sitting there, I realized that both the naturally talented students and the beginners all wanted the same thing. We wanted to improve our work. That’s why we were there.
I made it through that first critique. My piece was one of the few the professor actually liked, but it wasn’t always so easy. In the three years that followed, there were many uncomfortable public critique sessions. But I learned, I pushed myself, and something happened.
Over time, I realized something important about the critique process. The lesson has stayed with me throughout my career as a small business owner, and it’s part of who I am today.
It’s Not You Pinned Up There
I realized it wasn’t me pinned up on that board. It was just something I’d made. The reason for the critique sessions was to improve the quality of what we made, and nothing more. The critiques weren’t comments about us as people.
The secret to improving your ideas is to get them out there and ask for feedback. It is one of the most courageous things you can do. Don’t hide your ideas away and hope they’re good. Find out.
Create your Own Critiques
It’s not difficult to find ways to put your business ideas in front of people who can give you feedback. Join a Mastermind group (and follow that link if you’re not sure what they are). Take advantage of forums you belong to and get your questions answered. Put together an informal Board of Directors for your business and feed them a meal every few months in exchange for their feedback.
The payoff for your willingness to expose your ideas to a critique will be stronger products, tighter writing or better design.
Feedback Doesn’t Have to Hurt
Before you ask for feedback, though, remember that what you do isn’t who you are. Before you share your ideas, disconnect from them. Your ideas aren’t you, and they aren’t your baby. Your work isn’t related to you in any way. It’s just something you do. And if the feedback is especially helpful, tomorrow you’ll do something else, and you’ll do it better than ever before.
How about you? Do you enjoy receiving feedback about your work, or do you find it painful? Do you have any advice about giving or receiving feedback? Let’s talk about it in the comments.