PJ is an artist with dreams of gaining notoriety on a grand scale. Though his work is outstanding, his skill level stellar, he wasn’t finding the prestige he believed he deserved. Remembering he had connected at a gallery opening with the editor of a major print publication, he reached out to the woman seeking a meeting to present his work. To his great excitement, she readily accepted the meeting and told him she looked forward to seeing his portfolio.
The appointed day arrived. PJ gathered together his best designs and headed down to her office filled with confidence and excited to take on work for the magazine. He knew his stuff was good – no, great!
Sitting in the woman’s office, he boldly handed over his portfolio and watched as she perused each piece. The silence made him uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as what came next.
“PJ,” she said, “your work is good, but I think you can do better.” She then proceeded to, from his perspective, lecture him for a full 15 minutes about ways to improve his skills before dismissing him without so much as a project to work on for the magazine.
He was furious! “How dare she,” he thought, “I can’t believe she brushed me off like that!”
It’s been several years since that fateful meeting. As PJ was recalling the story to me last week, he told me he is still furious, but not with the magazine editor. Now, PJ is simply furious with himself. Call it maturity level, call it the healing effect time seems to have, but rather than viewing the editor’s words as a brush off, he wishes he would have heeded her advice and taken time to brush up on his skill level. Instead of being responding in an arrogant and prideful manner, feeling offended to receive unexpected feedback, he wishes he would have thanked her, taken the opportunity to improve and gone back to her for a second try which she, in retrospect, clearly offered to him.
Indeed, feedback can be painful. In the moment, it can really sting. But as I’m often reminded, our critics are really our best friends. They point out for us where we have blind spots and potential derailers. Sure, we can choose which shortcomings or deficiencies to strengthen and which to ignore, but we should at least take in the input, consider our options and work to better ourselves and our circumstances. The good news for PJ and the rest of us is that he is still an artist, still working on perfecting his craft. Now, however, rather than think he has all the answers or has risen to his pinnacle level, he constantly seeks to improve and do things in new and better ways.
What will you take time to brush up on today? Your masterpiece awaits.