Do not seek praise.

The easiest way to see me turn into a dragon lady is to say the following: “Your stories jump around a lot, to me at least. They don’t flow in a linear path. It can make them hard to follow.”

That feedback came from a college friend in response to several of my recent posts, which, by the way, were absolutely perfect.

The most mature response I could muster was, “Yes, they do. They’re not for everybody.”

It’s true. I know that I don’t have mass appeal and I won’t delude myself into thinking that I can manufacture it.

But I also know this: I have my own style. When you read my posts, you can hear me in them. And if we’ve ever met, you know it’s real.

As much as I’d like to shrug off his comments and assure myself that it’s his loss he doesn’t get it, I know better.

Because I also happen to know that criticism creates more value than praise.

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That good advice is brought to you from Paul Arden, the advertising executive (genius!) who founded Saatchi & Saatchi.

Here’s the full explanation from his book:

“It is quite easy to get approval if we ask enough people, or if we ask those who tell us what we want to hear…If you have produced  a pleasantly acceptable piece of work, you will have proved to yourself that it is good simply because others have said so. It’s probably ok. But then it’s probably not great either.

“If, instead of seeking approval, you ask, ‘What’s wrong with it? How can I make it better?’, you are more likely to get a truthful, critical answer. You may even get an improvement on your idea.”

So simple – and yet so amazing. Five sentences to make the case for not just listening to critics but actually seeking them out. If that isn’t the most helpful thing you’ve read today, please tell me what was. Because I have a hard time believing anyone could do more with less.

So, with those words in mind, I reconsidered my friend’s feedback as I read the posts. I’ll admit it: they do jump around. And, at times, they’re overpacked, as though I’ll never get the chance to tell every amusing anecdote from my past and need to smash them all into one 600 word essay.

In fact, in the “Make It Work for You” post, there were so many jumps from lunch to Vegas to my old job and back again that I decided to take one out. My apologies to the stranger sitting next to me in a teahouse who was mildly concerned by my choking. You will have to go, even if you did demonstrate how disruptive and obnoxious my coughing was. That’s really a given at this point, but thank you for your efforts.

At the same time, I know the pitfalls of writing by committee. Start applying every note and comment, and you’ll end up with something that isn’t yours at all.

You can’t please everyone. But the difference is being able to tell which parts make you better and which take you offtrack.

That leads us to the final word on the subject by Mr. Arden: “You are in a position to reject the criticism if you think it’s wrong.”

Thank you for that. Don’t mind if I do.

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