Create Something That Critics Will Criticize

I’m reading an really awesome book right now called Tribes by Seth Godin, and I just came across a spectacular passage in a chapter talking about how the fear of failure is overrated. It says:

So the challenge, as you think about your next opportunity to be boring or remarkable, is to answer these two questions:

  • “If I get criticized for this, will I suffer any measurable impact? Will I lose my job, get hit upside the head with a softball bat, or lose important friendships?” If the only side effect of the criticism is that you will feel bad about the criticism, then you have to compare that bad feeling with the benefits you’ll get from actually doing something worth doing. Being remarkable is exciting, fun, profitable, and great for your career. Feeling bad wears off. And then, once you’ve compared the bad feelings and the benefits, and you’ve sold yourself on taking the remarkable path, answer this one:
  • How can I create something that critics will criticize? (Godin, 48)

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this is what I feel every day, every time that I pick up my bass, every time I turn on the camera or every time I press record. I can’t help thinking “What if I suck? What if I can’t do it? What if someone else on YouTube does it better? What if I stutter too much (a problem I still struggle with on occasion)? Maybe I should practice more first? I’ll probably be ready next week…”

The self doubt is never-ending, but in most cases I try to push through and do it anyway. Seth has a brilliant way of saying it, that for all of the successful people he’s met, he’s noticed that they’ve actively talked themselves out of the fear. I mean, the fear is still there, but it’s drowned out by a different story. (Godin 43)

Giving in to irrational fear, especially the fear of criticism, is perhaps the worst thing you can do to stifle your growth as an artist, a leader, a bassist, a husband, a wife, a father or mother – hell, a human being! Rather than focusing on a story (that hasn’t happened yet, by the way) where people are criticizing your words and actions, try focusing on one where you do a good job doing what you love to do, being who you want to be, sounding the way you want to sound, achieving what you want to achieve; rest assured that there will still be criticism and mistakes on your part, but like Seth said, Feeling bad wears off.

But arriving – the feeling of a job well done, and enjoying the ride – is something that won’t wear off, and at the end of the road you’ll be glad that you took the chance. Here’s something I’ve been afraid to do for months now – a Limited Edition Vinyl pressing of my first album When Will Then Be Now.

I just launched a campaign to pre-order a special limited-run vinyl of an album that I released five years ago. For months I went back and forth on this decision because I was afraid no one would buy it. I’m still afraid no one will buy it. No one has bought it yet (at the time of this writing). It could be a colossal failure and some people may scoff or laugh. But that’s ok. I’m going for it simply because I think it’ll be really cool to hold it in my hands. I’m trying to drown out my fears with a different story; one in which many people will purchase my record and enjoy it, and I won’t be stiffed with a big bill for printing them all up.

No matter what the track record for this album has been for the past five years, it’s still hard to come out with my arms open wide and say “Ok! What wants this?” when I’m fully aware that the only response I get could be from an empty room filled with the sounds of crickets.

Are you waiting to release an album this year but you’re afraid what people will say? Me too. Are you afraid of posting your videos on YouTube or your songs on Soundcloud or opening a store on Bandcamp? I am too, and have been for years. But I haven’t let it stop me so far. Slow me down? Yes. But I’m learning to ignore that story altogether, it’s consistently wrong about the outcome anyways.

By the way you can pre-order your Limited Anniversary Edition of When Will Then Be Now (including a FREE 1 month membership here at for only $20 by clicking HERE, and you can also save up to $50 of extra goodies when you buy the bundle!

End of shameless(ful) plug.

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