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No escaping from feedback
7 June 2018

No escaping from feedback

No escaping from feedback

“Don’t fuck this up..”, words falling like arrows unexpectedly piercing the armour around my soft, sensitive core.

The comment, still vivid three years later, dropped just before a landmark business pitch. It left a mark on my confidence; my deflection strategy was not sustainable, nor deriving any lasting value. I had to make a change.

Heard about Harry Houdini? The famous escape artist claimed to be able to resist hard punches to his abdomen. Until a student named J. Gordon Whitehead caught him off guard landing multiple blows which are said to have led to Houdini’s death a few weeks later.

Harry Houdini. Illusionist and stunt performer.

This is what Harry’s tragic end taught me about receiving feedback and helped me get the sheen back on my confidence.

Harry wasn’t prepared for those punches. Receiving feedback well is a critical first step. Delivered as either evaluation, appreciation or coaching, it’s vital to understand the original intention behind the comments. The mistake I made in my personal example is that I wanted to receive; appreciation, “Thanks for the hard work, Werner”, or coaching, “We are ready to rock an roll, Werner”. Ignoring the perspective and intentions of the feedback giver, I received it as a negative evaluation of my personal abilities.

Harry refused to see a physician after the incident. In my case, the feedback festered and became inflamed. Misalignment between the feedback receiver and giver is common. Save yourself the anguish just ask what is implied by a comment if you’re not entirely sure. Looking at my situation through the eyes of my boss, I now realise that he meant the comment as locker-room coaching.

Harry made a ruckus throughout his life, and continued to do so even after he got punched. Outside of his unfortunate and untimely death, Harry was an artist. Great art will always invoke a response.

The only way to avoid feedback is to do nothing. Feedback contains growth elixir. Don’t rob yourself of it, draw attention, do work, make a noise. Invite feedback.

Harry Houdini. Illusionist and stunt performer.


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