Rather than confining the blog strictly to grief topics, I've decided to broaden it. I'm quite an introspective person, perhaps too much so at times. I get in my own way with all this sitting around thinking and don't get as much done as I should.
Well, tough shit. Or as Popeye would say, "I yam what I yam."
I need a place to grapple with all this annoying thinking. Ah-ah-ah, don't even start with, "Why don't you just keep a journal, Chuck, rather than subjecting us to your inner musings?"
I already did that, and here's the problem. Some of these thoughts I write down rise above mere journal entries, at least in my not-so-humble opinion of myself. They're not really articles either though. Or if they are, I don't know who would run them.
So this is the new space in which my blog will operate. If I think it's better than a journal entry in that it has some shareable value, but it also doesn't quite rise to the level of a full-blown article, at least not one with a market, then it goes here.
You're certainly free to skip on past if the words don't speak to you, but hopefully, some of them will speak to some of you some of the time. I welcome any comments, and while I may not respond to all of them, it'll be nice knowing a few people are reading.
Now that logistics are out of the way, let's get to it. Thoughts on criticism, per the clever title above, is the topic of my first entry in the new format.
Criticism stinks!... the TLDR version of my post.
I suppose if someone is being paid to be a critic, then they must do their job. Bosses, teachers, and parents can also rightly criticize from time to time in order to help someone live up to their potential but should do so judiciously, as we should also do our best to accept well-intentioned criticism graciously. Most other forms of criticism, to me anyway, are just jealousy.
Here’s Tom Brady’s pre-NFL draft criticism, written by a scout who was being paid to be critical, so I won’t, in turn, criticize him for writing it. I’m just sharing it as food for thought, and would also caution you to leave your own particular feelings about polarizing Brady out of your reading, lest you miss my point altogether.
"Poor build. Skinny. Lacks great physical stature and arm strength. Lacks mobility and the ability to avoid the rush. Can’t drive the ball downfield. Does not throw a really tight spiral. System-type player who can get exposed if forced to ad-lib. Gets knocked down easily."
Washington Post reporter, Sally Jenkins, shared that evaluation in a recent column and concluded with her own perceptive take on those aspects of character and will that are so much harder to measure: “From the outside, that is.”
For me, a few thoughts came to mind related not so much to this sort of institutional criticism (talent evaluators, film and book critics, etc.) that offers some clear value but more to our self-criticism and criticism of each other. It's the latter that sticks in my craw and that I mostly rebuke.
Don’t tell yourself you can’t do something. Push the negative self-talk aside and just do whatever it is you want to do as hard as you can do it and let the outcome tell you whether it was possible or not. Even then, you may not want to give up after one or two unsuccessful runs at a goal. Regroup, learn from your mistakes, and make another push. Brady himself once went nearly a decade between championships.
Even more important than whatever you tell yourself, don’t tell your kids or significant other they can’t do something. You may think you’re protecting the ones you love, but you’re only handicapping their efforts right from the start and doing irreparable damage both to their psyche and to the relationship itself. Be a source of encouragement or at least shut the hell up. Let them find out for themselves what is and isn’t possible.
Before you open your hateful mouth to criticize a friend, coworker, or even someone you don’t know, do the thing better yourself. The hypercritical person is usually dissatisfied with something in their own life and takes some morose pleasure in bringing others down with them. They’re too scared to risk failure themselves, so they sit on the sidelines and criticize others.
Most of us are perceptive enough to see that sort of pettiness exactly for what it is anyway, so don’t be that person. Live your own life, drawing inspiration from others’ often-unlikely triumphs that can help you achieve your own goals, and don’t dwell so much on their failures.
In many ways, I’m not a very positive person. I even wrote a list of over fifty things I hate that got a few laughs. I prefer unvarnished truth and try not to sugarcoat much of anything I say or write. Overly positive-sounding social media influencers sicken me, because I know they’re frauds who simply want to build fake images in order to sell something. I also openly criticize politicians and systems I think aren’t working, sometimes even changing my mind and looking dumb later.
Despite my negative predilection, I try to walk my talk with the advice I’m giving here. If I see someone trying to accomplish something, I try to be a positive voice of encouragement. If someone brings a project to my attention they’re considering undertaking, I certainly don’t rain all over their parade with all the reasons why I think it will fail. I’ve been disappointed too many times in my own life by people who I thought would be in my corner taking a dump on my ideas that I don’t want to be that crushing blow to anyone else. I may point out something to consider or even that they might do better, but I do so in a spirit of wanting to see them succeed and hopefully they recognize the difference.
We have enough people who never put themselves out there to try to accomplish anything. We should stop tearing those down who are taking on difficult challenges and start building them up. And if we can’t find it in ourselves to do that, then at least do as an old saying my mom used to repeat often advises: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”