Brace for Feedback

The greatest gift you can receive is the gift of honest feedback. It may not feel great and hell it can downright hurt sometimes, but it is a gift and it is worth remembering that.

Feedback gives you a point of view on your blindspots and gives you the opportunity to improve, but you have to be ready and open to it. I’ve spent a lot of time this year getting comfortable with myself and constantly checking my ego.

After all, I have accomplished a lot in my few short years. From surviving BYU to leading comms for an LGBT non-profit. From being invited as a guest lecturer to debating at the Oxford Union. From helping a documentary get to Sundance, being recognized on the earnings call for Google, fencing at the Junior Olympics and performing at the Kennedy Center. To getting into Oxford and interning in London.

On the other hand throughout my life I have been fired, expelled (twice), rejected again and again and again. I’ve been called names and lost friendships. I’ve bailed on commitments to others and to myself. I constantly find myself in a position of doubt, of feeling like an impostor.

Feedback gives you the lens by which you can really see how you are doing. Last night I got some feedback on an evening call with my manager. It was something small and was really a misunderstanding on my part. What was interesting is that my manager told me, essentially “Don’t worry David, I’m not being critical.” The subtext being don’t think this means you aren’t going to get hired at the end of this internship, I’m just trying to redirect the work.

I had to tell my manager “You don’t know me that well yet, but once you get to know me you’ll see that this is exactly what I needed.”

This wasn’t always the case, but because I was in a position to receive feedback and be open to actioning it I was able to apply her feedback on something specific and apply it to a different piece of work entirely helping to improve what we were doing.

The only reason I was able to be so open to this feedback was because I’ve spent time constantly riding the balance between the under-qualified and the over-confident versions of myself. And that was because of the amount I’ve been reading in order to learn from others. In one book a quote from Anne Lamott was included that stood out so much that I have a simple note alongside the passage that reads “Shit this is accurate.” In keeping the imagery she evokes in the front of my mind I have remained open to feedback and learning without being paralyzed by fear. I’ll leave you with the passage because shit, it is accurate.

“If you are not careful, station KFKD (K-Fucked) will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo. Out of the right speaker in your inner ear will come the endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything that one touches turns to shit, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one had no talent or insight, and on and on and on.”