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Toilet with closed lid
The stuff nightmares are made of

I’m scared of toilet seats. Well, not toilet seats exactly, it is approaching toilets when the lid is down. It triggers a sense of apprehension. My heart rate rises, I get tense, I think about looking for another toilet. I’m scared that when I lift up that lid I’m going to find something I don’t want to find.

My irrational brain feels the same about opening feedback on my work. Or doing real user research that involves talking to people.

This week I received a critique of a landing page I developed. A critique I asked my business coach to do. She’s good at them, is knowledgable, and kind. I wanted her take on how it could be improved. She sent me a video review. It took me two days to be brave enough to press the play button.

I’m a true believer in getting regular and early feedback on my work. I have no problem doing it for my professional clients. 

Yet it is different when it is personal to me rather than for a client. The more important it is to me the more scared I am of seeking feedback. Exactly when validation, feedback and improvement is most important I shy away from it.

Logically I know to separate my work from my self worth. That constructive feedback is a gift. Yet the more personal my work is the more likely I’m going to feel an emotional wave to any feedback. There is a part of me that tries to hear any feedback as ‘you suck’. 

That part of my mind is my chimp, the primal and emotive part of my mind. As described beautifully in Professor Steven Peters’ book The Chimp Paradox. The other parts being the human as the logical and thinking part, and the computer as the autopilot. 

I delayed opening the feedback as it is like the closed toilet lid to me. The chimp mistakenly trying to protect me.

The first pass through the feedback is different from the second. On the first pass there is a near certainty that I haven’t fully understood the points they were making. My chimp has been too noisy for me to pay proper attention.

The second pass comes after I take a break, possibly overnight. At this point my chimp has gone back to sleep and my human can get to work.

Professor Stevens calls this process of letting the emotional aspect happen as ‘exercising your chimp’. It can run around for a bit, in private, calm down, and then your human can take back control.

The delay means my human is in control now, but I want to handcuff it to the wheel.

I’m conscious that the feedback I’m getting is a gift. You can’t give meaningful feedback quickly. The person who has done this for me is someone I respect, that is why I asked them for feedback. They have put in the effort to properly think about my work and then carefully constructed their response.

I feel a duty to give this gift the attention it deserves. To not squander it. That is why I write a reflection summary. This summary is something I first encountered when doing Seth Godin’s altMBA. You write a summary of all the feedback and discussion on your work, what you feel about it, and how your perspective and learning has changed.

In the altMBA you shared this summary within your learning group. Outside of the altMBA I do this for myself, in writing. I go through each point made and reflect on it. Has it changed my perspective? Would I change anything based off it? Have I learnt something?

In going through this process I pay respect to the feedback I’ve received. Every point is properly considered and dealt with.

It isn’t emotional, and I wring every last drop of value out of the feedback.

My coach’s comments on my landing page were amazing. She said it was good, but could be a lot better. She’d seen things that I would never had seen, and made useful suggestions for improving it.

That feedback has made the work stronger, and given me confidence in it as well.

I need to be brave. To open the lid, accept the emotional reaction, then move on to do the work. To accept this gift of feedback, grow from it, and make my work stronger.