Category Archives: Professional Development

What to do about negative feedback.

Are you hungry enough?

So I'm at home on a Saturday night, and I'm watching America's Next Top Model, one of my guilty pleasures and trashy TV shows that I sometimes tune into (it's that, Project Runway, and Suits that make me curl up with a bowl of popcorn after a long day).

While you can hold your comments about my show preferences, I noticed something about people in competition — and in life — that's critically important.

Three models are competing to book a show. They've got their fierce looks on, they have to show their chops, demonstrate what they've learned, and show their skill in posing and/or walking. Two of them get booked — and one of them doesn't.

Sometimes, after a competition, the TV cuts to a scene of the competitor in a corner, crying. "I don't know what I did wrong," they wail, teary-eyed. "I just don't get it! I thought I was totally going to get this job!"

In two cases, however, I watched as one of the contestants got cut — and she walked up to the judge and asked,

How can I be better?

The judge gave a few remarks about confidence, etc, and the model continued to drill him:

"I'd really love your feedback because I want to get this right. I know it's fiercely competitive, and I'm interested in upping my game."

Both times, the contestants that took the exact moment where they got feedback that told them they weren't as good as their peers, taking that opportunity to learn, grow, and build — the contestants transformed the most week over week.

Granted, this is ANTM. I'm blushing just writing about this.

But I see this happen all the time in real life, too.

My friends who are building programs on the internet, making projects, delivering results, starting companies — the most successful people I know are insanely curious about making things better. They take their project, put it in the world, and ask for feedback.

They know that life is a continuous game of learning, one that started when we were born. As toddlers, we might fall a hundred times while learning to walk, but very few of us sat pouting in a corner after we fell down a couple of times. We wanted to walk.

Not all feedback is the same, however.

Great feedback you can use. Great feedback is specific, clear, and something that you can work on. Negative comments for the sake of being mean should be ignored. (That's called a troll). When someone has something to say that's constructive, file it away. Store it — because it's valuable. We wanted to explore, to move.

The hunger to learn is innate.

When life gets a little rough, we can cry. (I do that sometimes. And it often involves trashy TV and a bowl of popcorn in my bed).

And we can also ask,

How can I be better?

Are you in love with the product? Or the process?

“My job is to do, not to judge.” — Dani Shapiro Sometimes, as writers or as makers, we become obsessed with the outcome. The work itself as object, as product — not as process. We judge, criticize, and refuse to do the work when we see the outcome as one great failure. Push publish anyways, IContinue Reading

Pandering — and 9 other things great writers refuse to do.

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words. — Mark Twain I don’t often publish guest posts here on It Starts With, but occasionally I meet a fellow writer with a story and a message that matches our audience. Today, I’m delighted to share the work of Isaiah Hankel. Isaiah isContinue Reading

The Writer’s Workshop is now open for our summer session! Join us for the next class—and kickstart your writing into high gear.

It’s baaaaack! The Writer’s Workshop will open up again this summer for a brand-new six-week session beginning June 30th. The Writer’s Workshop is a live course focused on improving your storytelling, writing, and narrative abilities through eight masterful lectures and exercises — together with a community of co-writers to share the journey. We interview experts across the industry inContinue Reading

Want to be a better storyteller? Two new online workshops, April 24th and 29th.

Humans are born storytellers. The way we tell and share our stories about who we are, what we do, and what we want affects who sees us, hears about us, and whether or not the right people connect with us. If you want to learn how to describe yourself or your business (or both), joinContinue Reading

Creating your own weekly review: Robert Cooper on finding ways to be exceptional.

Living up to your potential sounds pretty fancy. It’s something we all want, right? Live up to your potential. Maximize your potential. Be all that you can be.  But how, exactly, do you do it? How does an intangible life objective become manifest into your daily routine? For Robert Cooper, author of The Other 90%: HowContinue Reading

Want to stand out?

In a recent conversation with Daniel Epstein (founder of the Unreasonable Institute and more recently Unreasonable Media), we started talking about what people do to stand out. And we agreed–it’s not that complicated: Ask for what you want. Follow up on that ask. And then follow through. In the following example, all of my numbers are made up. But let’s play with aContinue Reading

How do you combat loneliness? A brand new talk at ALIVE in Berlin + an epic scholarship opportunity worth $400.

How do you deal with loneliness? The problem with my first job wasn’t the job itself—it was how few people I knew at the company. In most structures throughout my life—family, school, college, sports—we bonded as teammates and community members because of shared goals, ideas, and dreams. Yet at work, I barely had friends. PerhapsContinue Reading

The problem with thinking too big…

“Dream big. Reach for the stars. The only limit is in your mind.” How often do you hear these words? We’re filled with the power of positive mantras in motivational texts, books, and seminars. The problem with expansive thinking, however, is that too big can be just as much of a problem. The problem of thinkingContinue Reading

The Write Life’s bundle: massive sale for writers!

Writing is powerful stuff. I teach several writing courses as a tool to gain insight into your inner wisdom, access your inner soul, and pen your own stories. If you’ve been itching to write, yesterday I shared several of my favorite resources in the March edition of my behind-the-scenes newsletter. Today, I’m excited to share aContinue Reading