The Critic

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I must love criticism; otherwise, why would I give myself so much of it?

Like many imperfectionists, I seize on any and all critiques, even though I cringe to hear (or read) them. You could call it a kind of self-schadenfreude psychosis. Or maybe it’s more appropriate to think about it as navel-gazing, only without being able to see past the fuzz in one’s belly button.

Recently a good friend gave me some guidance on the content of this blog, which I am attempting to take to heart. I would be foolish not to; my friend has a high IQ and an even higher EQ, and thus has rarely if ever steered me wrong.

Many of the comments I was given were fairly straightforward and easy to implement: provide more detail (for example, on the uses and effects of criticism), loosen up and have fun (hence “belly-button fuzz”), and share some personal stories and anecdotes (like ones involving nosy and well-meaning friends). Check, check, and check.

One piece of advice, really more of a question, stopped me in my tracks, however: What, my friend wondered, is the purpose of all this? Whither the RBMC blog, in other words?

There’s a wonderful book called Clarity First that I reviewed last year. The author is Karen Martin, an absolutely brilliant strategic thinker whom everyone should read, because her views transcend the world of business. She can help anyone who wants to achieve better structure and insight into the processes of achieving goals. And, as you might guess from the title of Martin’s most recent book, it all starts with getting clear about why you do the things you do, and why that’s important.

What’s become clear to me, helped along mightily by this process of friendly criticism, is that I write this blog to show myself to the world. That means friends and family, but also clients and potential clients. I want to give loved ones and strangers alike a sense for Mike Richman as a human being, one who wants to learn more about you and your priorities. I can’t do that through trying to teach some abstract lesson, or pretending I’m smarter than I am, or sounding off about the big issues of the day. I can only do that through being humble and curious and authentic, and helping you see me so that I can see you.

That’s the work of this blog, the work of this business, the work of this life. I doubt I’ll get even most of it right, and when I fall short the critics will certainly be there with gentle reminders and helpful insights. And even if the reminders aren’t always gentle or the insights particularly helpful, that’s OK, too. Just knowing that you’re out there, seeing me in my willingness to be seen, is a comforting and central part of my mission. We learn, and teach, each other, together.

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