Your Baby’s Ugly

That’s what I heard two days ago. And it’s just what I needed to hear. 

OK. I'm paraphrasing. Of course I’m not talking about an actual baby. I’m talking about the first draft of a writing project I’ve been working on.

I didn’t seek out this feedback from a friend or family member. I actively sought the feedback from a professional editor who I knew would not only offer a thorough critique of a sample of my work but who would offer the type of guidance that would help me materially improve my work. And, by doing so, she would also give me what I need to communicate thoughts and ideas to others more effectively.

I found her, met with her, and boy did she deliver. She was to the point in her critiques and offered actionable suggestions to address the many shortcomings she'd identified. It was both crushing and empowering at the same time. Wow.

Only A Trusted Advisor Will Do

p. 20 - The best way to get past any barrier is to come at it from a different direction, which is one reason it is useful to work with a teacher or coach. Someone who is already familiar with the sorts of obstacles you’re likely to encounter can suggest ways to overcome them.

p. 108 - [A] good teacher can give you valuable feedback you couldn’t get any other way. Effective feedback is about more than whether you did something right or wrong.
— Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, Peak (2016), p. 20 & 108.

We need to seek out the advice or feedback of those who aren’t scared to tell us what needs to be said. We need those trusted advisors in our lives to tell us constructively—and tactfully—what it is that we need to work on to ensure we put the best of ourselves out into the world. 

Friends and family can rarely do that. They’re too close to us. They may fear our relationship could be at stake if they say the wrong thing. They may also know us so well that they know what we’re trying to achieve in our work and that limits the benefits of the feedback they can offer compared to that of a stranger. Their feedback on a project can be a great asset when we’re 95% there—especially when they’re really wanting to be of assistance—but not when we’re still doing much of the heavy lifting. 

The heavy lifting stage requires brutal honesty and actionable feedback. We need a coach who challenges us to produce our best. Someone who will push us to new levels of ability we didn’t even know we had while helping us avoid the pitfalls of putting our focus and energy on the wrong things. Someone who’s in our corner to support us but not to coddle us. 

Family and friends? They’re great to help us celebrate minor and major victories. They’re also godsends when we need to lick our wounds. And it’s wonderful to have our support system there to share in those moments. 

Still, as wonderful as this support system is, it doesn’t change the fact that behind each one of our successes, there are those who cared enough to tell us what we needed to hear to help us strive for more. That, along with our readiness to put the feedback into action, is what we needed to suceed.

Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you?

Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?
— Walt Whitman

It’s with trusted advisors in mind that I say:

To everyone I’ve ever worked with who has had the courage to tell me my baby is ugly, thank you. You’ve helped me become a better version of myself. 

And to those who are still challenging me today, thank you for helping me continue to grow.

Image credit/copyright:  imagerymajestic/

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