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The Rules of Genius #34: Seek instructive criticism

When you’re working in creative mode, you’re more likely to be imaginative and intuitive. But you’re also more likely to make logic errors. Switching back and forth between creative mode and critical mode is difficult, since it requires considerable mental and emotional effort. The best cure for logic blindness is to seek regular feedback from people who can critique your ideas instructively rather than constructively.

It’s your job to be constructive—you’re the maker. What you need from them is a clear view from the outside. Ideal critics are those who will:

1. Listen to your idea, ask questions, and not react too quickly.

2. Strive to judge your idea against your specific intent.

3. Summarize your idea in a way that seems fair and even insightful.

4. Identify any aspects of your idea that they agree with or appreciate.

5. Finally, identify aspects that they question or find lacking.

In the real world, however, the feedback you get may be reactive, subjective, negative, or less than insightful. Sometimes you’ll find it possible to erase the doubts of naysayers with a slight modification to the work. Resist the temptation to argue. Try to understand your critic’s position, do your best to act on any advice, and always express your gratitude. Even off-target feedback can be instructive if you approach it objectively. What doesn’t kill your project can make it stronger.  

Next week: Fuel your passion.
Time is limited. Passion isn’t.

The Rules of Genius is now a book with a bonus section called “How can I matter?” that includes 10 essential rules.  Buy here.

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