If you want to improve, don’t get tired of criticism

How mad do you get when people criticize you?

My tenth grade year of high school taught me a great lesson for life – how to deal with criticism.  Everyone was required to write a term paper and it determined whether or not we passed tenth grade.  I couldn’t tell you what I wrote about, but I can tell you how mad I would get every time I turned in my revisions.  Here’s how the process went:

  1. Create an outline with a purpose statement
  2. Write the paper and submit for critique
  3. Receive the paper back with corrections
  4. Rewrite the paper and resubmit for critique
  5. Receive the paper back with corrections
  6. Rewrite the paper and resubmit for critique
  7. Repeat
  8. Repeat
  9. Repeat
  10. Repeat

It drove us mad.  The biggest complaint from everyone was, “But I made ALL the corrections that you told me to make!  Why do I have more to correct?!”.

That was the lesson.  There was no finish line for the paper.  The journey of refinement was what we needed to learn.  Some of us got better at writing, some of us just hated the teacher because of the continual criticism.

You can ALWAYS become better

The people that are at the top of their profession never seem to get tired of the criticism.  They learn from it and make adjustments to get better.  When you’re just starting out, those adjustments can be pretty big.  As you improve, the adjustments become smaller.

ALWAYS be teachable

You have to stay teachable in life – even from the most unlikely sources.  Look at other disciplined people and learn from them.  Don’t be afraid to listen to people who complain about you.  Ask for feedback from people that are good at what they do and keep a positive attitude when you receive it.

ALWAYS stay focused on your standard

Some criticism isn’t going to make you better.  Decide which criticism is valid and be content with your decision.

Some people ask, “Will I ever achieve excellence?”.  That’s the wrong question.

The right question is, “How will I achieve excellence?”.  One of my mentors gave me the best definition of excellence I’ve ever heard:

“Excellence is doing your very best… all the time.”

By the way, it took ten minutes to write this post and fifty minutes to revise it…  and yes, I eventually passed tenth grade.

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