I’m sitting in my tiny, light-filled office about to push ‘send’ on the email I think is going to change my professional life.
It’s 2013 and I’ve spent the last two months rewriting, redesigning, and revamping an old ecourse. I’m ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED that this time around it’s going to sell like gym memberships on January 2nd. I’ve done everything I know how to do. When you work hard and do your best, success is imminent, right?
Reader, would you like to guess how many seats I sold in that ecourse? What sort of response I got?
Four spots sold and one of them went to a student who clearly bought it as market research. I got six snarky emails or blog comments about the price ($75 for 6 weeks of classes) and earned $300 from two months of work.
My reaction to this was a deep and abiding conviction that
- I was a failure
- everybody hated me
- clearly I wasn’t cut out for self-employment
- this sort of thing only happens to me and nobody else
So when I happened upon this Seth Godin quote it was salve to my emotional wounds.
“You can take things seriously but not personally. When something doesn’t work, it’s nothing personal. It might feel personal, that’s what our lizard brain wants, but is it really? Does it have to be?”
Whaaaaaat? Every failure and misstep is not a commentary on my value as a human? Sometimes I might try my hardest and things don’t work out and that doesn’t have to ruin my self-esteem for three months? I can look at my ‘unsubscribe’ numbers without hating myself?
THIS. IS. REVOLUTIONARY.
3 ways to take things seriously without taking them personally
Really, actually try
We’ve talked about this before. ‘Really Actually Trying’ does not look like half-reading one blog post. It does not look like listening to two podcasts about the topic while you cook.
It looks like:
- Reading, researching, taking notes, and taking action
- Talking to people who have successfully accomplished what you’re trying to accomplish
- Asking friends, peers, and mentors for feedback on your idea
- Proofing it backwards and forwards. Letting it rest for a few days and then proofing it again
- Giving yourself enough time to accomplish what you want – no all-nighters or last-minute changes
- Beta-testing your idea so you can tweak and improve it before you start
I’ve noticed that when I really, actually try, my end results are almost beside the point. I did LITERALLY EVERYTHING I KNOW HOW TO DO. If I didn’t hold anything back and I can’t think of any ways I could improve it, I’m much less likely to take feedback personally.
Consider the source
When we make our work public, we’re opening ourselves to public feedback. Some of that feedback will come from intelligent, accomplished, professional peers.
Some of it will come from unhappy people who have an infinite amount of free time to write unkind, unhelpful comments and emails.
It will shock you know that I don’t think we should give these types of feedback equal weight in our hearts and minds.
Some questions to ask yourself before you take that feedback into account:
- Does this person have more experience in this realm than I do?
- Has this person successfully accomplished the thing I’m trying to do?
- Does it feel ‘true’?
- Is this person happier than I am?
- Is this person my ‘ideal client’?
Notes on those last two questions. Someone can be a miserable grump and give you great professional feedback, but I do think it’s worth taking that feedback with the tiniest grain of salt. Do you want a balanced, happy life? Then perhaps the person who works 75 hours a week and just got a divorce isn’t the source of advice for you.
Similarly, someone who isn’t your ideal client might be a great source of feedback. They might be able to give you all sorts of helpful suggestions about typos, the flow of your ecourse, or your font choices. But if they make $200k and your ideal client makes $45k, maaaaaybe don’t take their advice about how to price your offerings.
Take your work seriously
If you’re a) a woman b) a creative, you’ve probably encountered 1,648,785 well-intentioned people who think your work is a hobby. You’ve probably heard “Soooo, that’s your whole job?” more times than you can count. Maybe people have asked what your partner does because they don’t believe you can make living running an Etsy shop/taking photos/making art.
If we’re not careful, it’s easy to internalize these comments and downplay our hard work. For yeaaaaars I said I “wasn’t a capital W writer.” I know lots of authors and journalists and I felt like they were ‘serious’ writers and I was just throwing words at the internet. When we don’t take our own work seriously, it’s hard to take feedback seriously.
Is it easy to choose not to take things personally? Is working hard and then releasing expectations a walk in the park? No. Suuuuuuper no.
But most of us aren’t even aware it’s an option! We’ve never considered putting months of effort into a project without tucking our ego in there, too.
I can acknowledge that you’re right – I probably should have read that email more thoroughly. I can do that without viewing your suggestion as a commentary on my intrinsic value.
I can read your constructive criticism and incorporate it without self-flagellating for the next three days.
I can research the best way to do something and put lots of time and effort into my work. We can put work into the world without viewing its success /failure as OUR success/failure. Click To Tweet
Truly, it’s just business. It’s not personal.
Have you been able to stop taking feedback personally? If you have – tell us about it in the comments so we can learn from you!