To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.
— Elbert Hubbard
If you don’t want to be criticized, don’t be a [presidential debate] moderator. There’s no way to do it without being criticized.
— Jim Lehrer (retired PBS news anchor and veteran of 12 presidential debates)
When it comes to doing work that matters, criticism is a cost of doing business.
The more our work is in the public eye or affects the lives of others, the more we can expect to be criticized. And while some criticism is honest, well-meant, and useful, some of it is just nasty.
So we’re going to get criticized, and it won’t all be helpful. Is there any way to avoid it? What if our work gets lots better?
Peter Drucker’s one-star review
Peter Drucker was arguably the greatest management thinker of the 20th century, and his book The Effective Executive is a classic of the leadership genre.
If you journey to Amazon’s customer reviews page for The Effective Executive, you will find a few one-star reviews. One of them begins with the words “I have not read this book yet, but. . . .”
Some people post one-star reviews of books they haven’t read. It’s tempting to be frustrated by this kind of feedback, but such frustration is not productive. Better to expect this kind of useless criticism—to expect it, and ignore it.
And here’s the good news (because there’s always good news): there’s plenty of good criticism, too. Seth Godin calls it “generous skepticism,” and while it’s rare, it’s also invaluable.
Yes, there are people who post one-star reviews of books they haven’t read. But there are also people who take time out of their own busy lives to show us how to make our work better.
Our job is to know the difference.