Rules for Intrepid Living: Rule #12

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Rule #12. Learn to accept criticism.

Leading an intrepid life puts you in the position to try new things have have exciting new experiences. It’s awesome, but it also means that you’re going to spend a lot of time as a beginner. It also means that you’re going to make mistakes along the way. We all do. If you read the posts about my adventures on this blog, you’ll see that I make a lot of them. The important thing to do when you make a mistake is to learn from it. One of the best ways to learn from it comes in the form of constructive criticism. There will always be people that know more than you. That seems daunting, but there will always be people that know less than you as well. Ideally, we’ll all be helping those that know less than us grow, while those that know more will help us grow. But in practice, it doesn’t always work, because we fear criticism. We fear being wrong. We fear that if we have one element wrong it means that we are bad at what we’re doing. This fear gets in the way of our growth, so let’s smash through it together right now.

You are going to mess up. Sometimes it will be embarrassing. Sometimes it will hurt. But it’s going to happen, and once we accept it, it’s going to be a lot easier to learn from. Learning from your mistakes is beneficial, and sometimes it’s the only way to figure things out. When you have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others, however, you’ll improve more expeditiously. That’s the opportunity that constructive criticism provides.

Often when we receive criticism, we think that the person giving it thinks less of us. While this does happen, I think it’s rarer than we expect. I think more often people are trying to help when they suggest that we’re doing something improperly and another method will be safer, more efficient, or more effective. They’re usually trying to elevate our experience, not ridicule us. Even knowing that, it can be hard to take the criticism and advice gracefully because doing so means that you must accept the notion that you could be wrong. Embrace the idea that you’re not infallible. An adventurous life is full of things that you do not yet know. Since you don’t know everything, you can’t always be right. But the important thing to remember is that this is the same for all of us. Even the people giving the criticism and advice are wrong sometimes.

This of course assumes that the criticism is constructive. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes criticism is a way for people to try to cut you down to make themselves look and feel better. These people assume that there is only so much success to go around, and they want to make sure that you know they’re the alpha; they want you to know that they are your superior, and you should know your place. Except you won’t, because you know better. You’re hiking your own hike, so you already know there is more than one right way to do things. You know that success isn’t a bucket that can be emptied, it’s a spring that constantly bubbles up, with enough for us all to have a drink. You don’t follow an alpha, because you follow your own path. Still, you can learn from negative criticism. You have to dig out any useful lessons and abandon the negativity. You’re simply too busy doing your own thing to let criticism bring you down, because that isn’t its purpose. Criticism is supposed to be educational, uplifting, motivating, and constructive. When it’s not, move on.

Even when criticism is constructive, it can be difficult to accept gracefully. I’m very guilty of getting defensive when faced with criticism, but I’m learning to take time to let it soak in, then come back and calmly ask questions later. I recommend you do the same. We’re all doing the best we can, trying to follow our paths to whatever adventures await us next, and trying to help fellow travelers along the way. If you’re trying to help someone improve, try to make your criticism as positive and constructive as possible. And if you’re learning new skills or trying new experiences, learn to accept criticism. When you can accept criticism with a smile, and implement the lessons gleaned from it, you’ll improve faster than you thought possible!

So as you lead your intrepid life, don’t let the fear of making mistakes stop you from trying new ventures. When you make mistakes, as we all do, learn from them, and accept any constructive criticism graciously. Get stronger because of it, don’t let it bring you down. Learn to accept criticism and soon you’ll be improving faster than you could have imagined!

“Rules for Intrepid Living” is an ongoing weekly article that gives potential guidelines for how we can all live a bit more of an intrepid life. 

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