All feedback is not valid. A big problem with feedback is that we often listen to the wrong sources.
For example, my friend Julie felt called to make handmade cards.
From an early age she crafted masterpieces. She spent hours on each card; they were true works of art. By the time she got to college, her sorority sisters were so enamored of her cards they became a status symbol.
At the encouragement of her friends and family, she decided to exhibit her cards at a gift show. Her exquisite handcrafted masterpieces had a retail price of $10.00.
A well-known buyer for a major mass market retailer took her aside to give her some advice, Honey, he said, Youre designing for a world that doesnt exist.
He told her that no one would ever pay $10.00 for a card. He said, Your sorority sisters might like them; but youll never sell them to a retailer.
She was crushed. He was a major buyer in the industry; if he didnt think she could make it, he was probably right.
So she gave up her dream and became a social worker. But she continued to make cards for family and friends, who continued to rave about them, frame them and showcase them.
Then one day, 10 years after the show where she gave up her dream, a friend introduced her to a buyer at Neiman Marcus. Six months later her cards, now priced at $15.00 each, were being sold at Neiman Marcus stores in six major markets.
Apparently, the world where people pay double digits for fabulous handmade cards did exist. The traditional buyer just didnt know about it.
So whats the lesson here?
Persevere? Follow your heart? Ignore the critics?
Actually its a bigger lesson: Listen to the true experts.
My friend made the mistake many people do; she chose to listen to the wrong authority source.
She ignored the valid feedback, from the real experts, her potential market, the sorority girls who loved her cards. Yet she made life-altering decisions based on the feedback from someone who didnt have knowledge of her market.
How many of us have done the same?
We let a well-meaning (yet unknowledgeable) parent tell us that well never make a living with our art, music, or web skills. Or a true expert gives us a critique and we ignore it.
Or the flip side, someone tells us were good, when in reality they have no knowledge of the subject.
One of the secrets of success is knowing which feedback to listen to, and which feedback to ignore.
Here are three litmus tests to determine whether your feedback-giver is a valid source:
Feedback can be helpful or crushing, choose your sources wisely.