You Will Never Be Good Enough For At Least One Person

I've been on a stage in one form or another for most of my life. Which means I've been evaluated--both formally and informally--by big crowds of people for a long time. While getting feedback is a part of all of our lives, taking it while maintaining healthy perspective isn't always easy. Recently an entrepreneur asked for my support in marketing his work. The trigger was a small piece of feedback which was negative. While 99% of his feedback had been positive, glowing even, he was stuck on this one point. I understood his dilemma, while it was only one person, the feedback went directly against the mission of the project. At the same time, it was clear that this feedback was eating him up, a situation that wasn't good.

I can relate with this entrepreneur. For the most part I get very high marks on my talks. I remember the time when I got all 5's on a talk I gave to a very tough crowd. There was only one little note about something that I could improve. And you know what? It was that little comment that I focused all of my attention on rather than the 40 stellar scores that I received. It was clear that I cared way too much about every stinking little opinion out there and was a devout perfectionist. This was a massive turning point for me. Though I curbed the people pleasing demon long ago, it's something that I still think about from time to time.

If you want to accomplish your dreams, you're probably going to be in the public eye. And even if you don't, social media these days will make you feel like you are. All of this means that you need to develop that later of epidermis covering your body so that the comments of others don't sway you off your course.  Here are the realizations I had about this whole business of giving and receiving feedback when you choose to put yourself and your ideas out in public.

Other People's Opinions (OPO) are none of your business

Getting everuone to love you or Wanting everyone to love you is a tiny precipice upon which to put yourself. One person doesn't wholly approve and you're shoved off into the abyss of perfection.  For the control freaks OPO is utter torture. Yes, you can try to influence their opinion but you aren't in control. And their opinion of you is probably much more about them rather than about you. OPO is similar to Other People's Problems (OPP)  You have no control over either and so your only the sane choice is to let them go. Now the rule of OPO and OPP doesn't give you license to act like a 2 year old with  a perpetual tantrum. One of the best tests to ensure that you're not abusing this rule is another one: the Mirror Rule. (Yes, I'm full of rules today). If you can honestly look at yourself in the mirror, in the deepest part of your heart, all that your mama taught you and be ok with your behavior then you're good.

When you're daring to put yourself out in the public view, there's bound to be some negative feedback and this is bound to bring out scary emotions in you. When attacked the ugly emotions of being defensive, vulnerability and perfectionism will rear up from the recesses of your brain. When they show up on your emotional doorstep just welcome them in for a nice cup of tea while you calm them down. When I get caught off guard by an anonymous comment that invokes these emotions I just think to myself, "What the ef are you doing Suzan Bond letting some anonymous person get in the way of your dreams?" and I let them go so I can move forward.

What you invoke in other people is none of your business
File this under the Other People's Problems (OPP) rule. Again, it starts with the Mirror Rule. If you can easily pass the Mirror Rule knowing that you weren't honestly trying to upset someone else then you must move along. Often when we're out in public speaking on a topic we can accidentally stumble upon people's internal land mines. When you dare to stand up in front of a room, write an intriguing blog post or work on an innovative project here are a few of the emotions you're likely to invoke in others:

The diss. Inevitably for me it's the person who sees themselves as an expert in whatever it is that I'm talking about that day. In this case I think it's a matter of somehow threatening them as I hit too close to home. Perhaps they feel they should be up there on stage. While I certainly take their opinion into considerable I try not to lose sleep over their comments especially since they're usually not my main audience.

Negativity. The other person who won't like your talk is the person who is always negative, the one who always sees something wrong what you're talking about or the way you're saying it. Negative people can't be turned around and just aren't worth your energy.

Fear. Sometimes your topic or the way you phrase it is going to change the status quo, at least for one person. And this will strike fear in their little heart. So they must criticize you so that they can stay tightly wrapped in that little cocoon of theirs. You know as well as I do that there are just some people who will kick and scream into that dark night of change. When someone is gripped in fear the kindest thing you can do is to handle them like your grandma: with kindness and respect. Even if they're growling at you like a wolf, be sure to look past that into the scared little kid on the inside.

End game? You will never be good enough, smart enough or anything enough for at least one person. Succumbing to people pleasing is a creativity killer.

So. How do you keep your creativity intact in the face of criticism? How do you get feedback and improve without being lured to the people pleasing demons like a ship to the rocks?

Going Lean in Everyday Life (Or How to Write a Blog Post in 10 Minutes)

I’m a creative type. There I said it. If you know anything about this type you know that they love to be left alone for long hours huddled in their creative den, perfectly their art whether it be a painting, website or in my case--writing. Like the stereotype often goes--my work area can become super messy and even though it bugs me I just dive deeper into my work. Lately my work has been off the charts busy with a full-time client and two part-time ones. Pretty sure that doesn’t equal a balanced life. But it does equal a messy house, a neglected personal blog and too many thing too do.

I am ready to try new things--not because a big number ticked over a few weeks ago but because I have been trying to do things different since I got sick this past summer. This sickness was an indication that the way I was doing things just wasn’t working and since I’m not insane that meant that I needed to do things a different way.

So, for the past few weeks I’ve been trying something a bit different. Rather than allocating a full day to a project like I’d like to I am now getting work in very small micro bursts. I’ve started with 10 minutes on a timer for each iteration. 10 minutes to clean off my desk. 10 minutes to plow through my email. I even did it for this blog post. I didn't futz over it or spend hours trying to get the perfect phrasing. I published. a.k.a. Committing or Shipping in the tech world. I largely think it worked.  (Though I did add 5 minutes for the actual posting because wordpress can be a rascal sometimes) Sometimes I need to add another 10 minutes because I’ve gotten into the task and I want to get just a bit more done. I did this last night. I cleaned off my desk (which meant sorting my bills and receipts and other nonsense) and then in the last 3 minutes of the second iteration I paid off 3 bills and took care of another billing issue. I went to bed feeling quite pleased. I got the inspiration from the world of lean startups and small iterations and my mom who has done a similar approach which she probably got from a woman's magazine.

What I love about my lean approach

1) Feels very doable

2) I get something done which is better than nothing

3) I get very focused on the task at hand

4) I feel good about it so I inch up a few notches on happiness meter.

Now certainly everything may not fit into this lean approach and that quality doesn't matter because it does and there are times I will certainly want to luxuriate in a project. That said, so far it's really helping me to stay focused and get an enormous amount done especially in things I dread because I don't think I have time. Wondering how you might be able to put this concept into your life and what you discover.

Break the Rules But Do It On Purpose

Growing up the daughter of an advanced composition teacher words were a big part of our household. Our board games mostly consisted of boggle, scrabble and the like. My father, although an engineer, also cared about the use of words and grammar. I vividly remember him at the kitchen table, dictionary and thesaurus next to him, while he wrote a report or speech. Whenever he got stumped he'd yell to my mother to ensure he was using a word in the correct context. He once scolded me at length for answering the phone "This is she." rather than "This is she speaking." While I hated the correction I am grateful now that he cared that I knew how to speak properly.

Creating content calendars, writing blog posts and communicating on social media is just a part of my everyday life so it's pretty safe to say I feel most at home when surrounded by words.  That's right I'm a word nerd. I care about it so much that this is one place in my life I become a bit judgmental. I'll admit I have a hard time dating a man who can't spell and poor grammar in a blog post instantly turns me off to a business. There's a particularly well known blogger (nope--not going to give their moniker away) who has good content that I'm very interested in but the writing is so amateur that I only read about a quarter of the posts. It's such a shame. Don't even get me started on people who use cliches way too liberally. A post for another day.

As content quickly becomes a key differentiator for businesses on the social web understanding how to write well is critical. It's ok to break traditional grammar rules especially when writing for a digital landscape. Just be sure to know the rules first and to do it purposefully. Otherwise you might just look like a fool rather than a cool, smart business person who stands out for all the right reasons. Here are a few particularly vexing grammar blackholes:

One space or Two?

In a 140 character world every character matters. So. Much. In a character limited world it's perfectly fine to use one space between sentences rather than the traditional two.

Real estate is valuable on the web.

It's ok to abbreviate a word-just be sure it connotes the right thing. For example, using Assn. for Association rather than Ass. (a real example used by a former boss before I corrected him).

Writing for social

When writing for social media make sure to know the proper usage of a hashtag before using it. For example, FTW means For The Win not For the Whales. Or Finish The Wine. Although you should always finish tasty wine.

The Oxford Comma Dilemma

The good old oxford comma is an unnecessary extravagance when writing for the web. Don't know what an oxford comma is? It is a serial comma, the name of a song, and something that is no longer needed for proper grammar but of course you can use it if you'd like. By the way, the last comma in that sentence is an example of an oxford comma. Here's a great little ditty about the modern use of the oxford comma by Grammar Girl.

I hope this has helped you treat words better. They're like my children. Please don't mangle them. And? You will be judged.  But only because I love you and I love words.

Is Boredom Necessary for Creativity?

Even though I'm not Catholic I grew up in a neighborhood full of 'em. My friends always seem to feel better when they came home from confession so I thought maybe I'd try it. Here goes.

I'm bored. You know--like when you were a kid and you walked around the house moping and whining about how "boooooored" you were. Oh, I have plenty of work to keep me busy. It's just doing something that is creatively fulfilling has been well, largely missing lately. When I was a teenager my older brother predicted that I would have many boyfriends and even more jobs in my lifetime. At the time this was a very unconventional and upsetting thought. People were supposed to have one job and settle down early! When I asked him why he said simply, "You get bored easily."

Creativity is a Way of Life

Although I've tried to twist and turn away from this reality throughout the ensuing years I finally admitted that he was right. At heart I'm a curious creative who needs lots of ideas, stimulation, people and travel to keep me fresh, happy and productive. I'm one of those people who always has 50 things going at once and has a hard time falling asleep at night because of good old fear of missing out and of course--to many ideas streaming through the old synapses.

In the midst of a recent spate of boredom, I found this little ditty about the idea that being bored is good for your creativity. It and many other articles that subsequently came across my digital space advocate the idea of having your butt in the chair. That is, simply doing the work. Writing when you don't want to. Having a routine.

As a devout creative who often creates best when in flow this was an idea I had difficulty embracing. But rather than wait for inspiration to hit me I decided to do a bit of an experiment--to write about my boredom.

Here are a few hypotheses about my boredom:

1. I've had the same clients for a long time. It offer stability and allows me to really have an impact on my client's business. And yet...mixing and matching clients and work seems to give just the kind of creative juice I need.  So, I'm on the lookout for a new client or two to shake things up.

2. I haven't been out of my immediate surroundings since late April. That's 3 whole months! Way to long for this woman with a strong wanderlust. I'm remedying this with a quick out of town trip in the near future and planning a trip to Europe or another faraway land where I can go to museums, wander strange streets and sit in a cafe writing my book.

3. Lying on the couch is boring. I got whooping cough about 4 weeks ago so I've watched every movie ever made about 4 times.  With an average recovery time of 6-8 weeks I still have a bit more to go. On this one I think I just have to succumb to lying still. Hopefully I get enlightened by the end of my convalescence. Or at least see a new movie.

4. Birthdays can cause ambivalence. I recently had one. While I truly love the age I am it's also made me realize that I'm pretty solidly in middle age somehow. This is the point when people have seen and done alot. I guess this is when people run off with people way younger than them, get a facelift or buy that hot car. Um, I'm not interested in any of these but I do relate with the need to shake things up. See #2.

Creative Conclusions

I'm not sure I've completely licked this round of boredom yet. I'm still wondering if it's a necessary thing for my creativity or whether I should be actively running away from it as fast I can hightailing it to more passionate pastures.

When do you get bored?  What do you do about it?