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Why Criticism Can Help More Than Compliments

You know what’s funny? The way we humans can so easily see all the stupid things other people do—but have absolute trouble seeing our own stupid errors. Even if our errors are right smack in front of our nose. Or right smack on our nose … or cheek.

For example, if you have a problem with a smear of ink being on your nose or cheek, you won’t be able to see it yourself. The only way you’ll know about it is if someone else tells you. Ditto if you have a problem with being too damned cheeky at meetings. You won’t know unless someone tells you.

The harsh facts of life: you must be willing to face the truth about how you must grow as a person if you hope to grow your income! In the very same way Jim Collins says facing harsh truths helps a company go from good to great—from Tandy to Apple, say, or from Commodore to Microsoft—you will go from a good moneymaker to a great moneymaker if you face your personal harsh truths. Because being great makes more money than being good does. This brings us to a very important Golden Touch Rule:

Always Seek Criticism as Much as Compliments
Success is not just about recognizing what you’re fabulous at and doing more of it. It’s also important to recognize your weaknesses—your blind spots—and do less of them.

Madeleine L. Van Hecke, PhD, author of Blind Spots: Why Smart People Do Dumb Things, explains that for the very same reasons you can read this gobbledygook below, you will also be destined to repeatedly do dumb things.

Readable gobbledygook: Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. the rset cn be a taotl mses and you can siltl raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and i awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!if yuo can raed tihs psas tihs bolg on.

Could you read that? Most people can. An adult’s brain has built-in beliefs about how words should be—and so the human brain fills in the gaps with what it already knows. Similarly, an adult’s brain has built-in beliefs on a great many subjects—and tends to quickly fill in missing gaps of knowledge with what it already knows—naturally seeking to find a familiar order in all chaos, thereby seeing known spots of information instead of blind spots of information.

The solution to seeing your blind spots? You must consciously harness what’s known as “Beginner’s Mind,” which involves being open to looking at new ways of seeing who you are and the problems you attract. If you’re having trouble using your mind to see your blind spots, you can always borrow other people’s minds—as mega-bestselling author Ken Blanchard loves to do.

Back in 2008, I enjoyed a breakfast with this champion, who is famous for the book One-Minute Manager. Over coffee, Blanchard revealed one of his biggest secrets to speedy success.

Blanchard’s famous bestseller might be quick to read, but writing it was a slow, thoughtful, well-researched process. Blanchard and his co-writer went through more than eight drafts, giving the book to friends and family—even staging a fancy feast of dinner—asking folks to offer up any blind-spots they might be missing about the book.

Specifically, they asked these four questions:

1. What are the three things you like best about the book?
2. What are the three things you want changed about the book?
3. What are some of your favorite ideas for the best title?
4. Who would you give copies to? What’s the best market for this book?

The result: a fast-reading and fast-selling book that become a huge, hot seller because it was raked through the coals!

Which Brings Us to an Important Golden Touch Rule ...
Develop a Power Posse to cure your patterns of failure, scarcity, and disappointment. One of my favorite expressions is: “A friend is someone who stabs you in the front.” I want you to collect a nice group of “front stabbers” and turn them into your Power Posse.

Seek out people you respect and feel “safe” hearing harsh, truthful criticisms from. These chosen people can be from other professions. Just make sure the people are honest, insightful, and good-natured.

Pick one night a week for the next three months to share your career problems and ask for honest feedback. Promise yourself that you will listen closely and be open to feedback. Recognize that if more than one person tells you that you’ve been walking around with the equivalent of “career ink on your nose,” chances are it’s time to come clean!

The power of a Power Posse, speedily explained: If a group of people each gives one another $1, they each get nothing monetarily by this exchange. But if a group of people gives each other an idea or insight, they can literally make millions together. The exchange of ideas is super powerful, because each of our lenses on the world is so very different. By merging our lenses we create a powerful magnifying lens and telescope through which to see the world!

Keith Ferrazzi, best-selling author of Who’s Got Your Back, is the ultimate expert on people-powering your business. He is always strongly recommending getting a little help from your friends—creating what he calls “peer-to-peer pressure.” Ferrazzi offers these wonderful Power Posse tips:

1. Continuously define and redefine goals.
2. Ensure you are all maintaining a balanced “Personal Success Wheel” that includes: 1. Health and Wellness, 2. Spirituality, 3. Job and Career, 4. Intellectual and Cultural, 5. Financial, 6. Deep Relationships and 7. Giving Back.
3. Make sure your goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
4. Cheer each other on, sending inspirational songs, helpful website links, whatever it takes.

(I personally recommend Ferrazzi’s site for more info on this topic.)

One Quick Warning

At first you might have a difficult time hearing your Power Posse telling you the harsh truths about how you need to change your evil-ish ways. This aversion to criticism is normal. Humans as a species don’t like to be told we’re weak or wrong. As Aristotle once said, “To perceive is to suffer.”

When you feel yourself wincing at the sound of criticism, remember how true happiness, big bucks, and extreme success always come when you finally stop avoiding the necessary short-term pain of change and instead re-focus on the joys of snagging a long-term better future! 

By Karen Salmansohn for Minyanville

Updated on Dec 28, 2010