“The real enemy is the man who tries to mold the human spirit so that it will not dare to spread its wings.”
Sharing things online makes criticism inevitable. The only way to ensure you will never be criticized is by saying nothing and doing nothing. So, if you share any of your work, you make criticism possible. This criticism is the harshest when it comes from the most uninspired people, from people that lack any originality or drive or interest. In other words, from people that you shouldn’t be listening to if you want to create something valuable.
I think engineers are more prone to this kind of behavior, perhaps because they have to be nit-picky in their day jobs, so that spills over to their personality. I am 90% sure that the guy in this clip is an engineer. The meticulousness he shows in picking apart this product is the same meticulousness he has to apply to his day job, in order to prevent catastrophic problems from occurring.
At risk of sounding rude I’m going to say that I bet this guy keeps all of his ideas to himself, as people who like to criticize often do. Perhaps because they are afraid that they will get mocked by someone else, like how they mock everyone. That’s why they are reluctant to share anything. Another reason might be ensuring survival of the myth of their own greatness. Believing you’re great is the easiest when you live in your own illusion without testing it in the real world.
“It’s easy to find an excuse for not pursuing your dreams. Sometimes the reason is the lack of courage to put up your work for criticism. There’s another reason of keeping the possibility open, believing that one is great without having the proof.“
The Courage to be Disliked
These critics will spot flaws in your ideas. They will nitpick your articles. They are the reason why you need to put fences on the windows1. They will skim your essay and then argue about the most malicious interpretation of your words. If it becomes popular, don’t worry about people arguing with something you said, but worry about people misunderstanding what you said and then arguing with that.2
I don’t know what causes this. Envy? Jealousy? Fear? Mocking people that don’t fit in? Maybe it’s ingrained in society which embraces conformism and rejects the misfits. Maybe the thousands of years of evolution have taught us to make fun of those that don’t behave like everybody else, because the clan is stronger if we all behave uniformly. If we don’t have the outcasts that do their own thing, while others are preparing for war. 3
“Haters gonna hate” is easy to say but harder to internalize. On some level some criticism will always reach one’s inner depths. If not consciously, then subconsciously. I think (not sure I remember correctly) Sandy Metz said that she doesn’t take compliments seriously, which is great because then it's a lot easier to not take outside criticism seriously either.
I, on the other hand, cherish compliments for months on end, sometimes never forgetting a good thing a friend said to me, which probably makes me more vulnerable to criticism as well. In a way letting the compliments in is like putting down your guard which then opens the door to criticism from trolls you don’t care about.
“How does the creative impulse die in us? The English teacher who wrote fiercely on the margin of your theme in blue pencil: “Trite, rewrite,” helped to kill it. Critics kill it, your family. Families are great murderers of the creative impulse, particularly husbands. Older brothers sneer at younger brothers and kill it.”
Perhaps the right way to deal with criticism is only caring about opinions from people that care about you. Why would I care about opinions from someone who couldn’t care less about my well-being?
Constructive criticism is a proof of closeness. If you hear constructive criticism coming from a friend, know that you are listening to a very close friend. Self-suppression of criticism can be seen as a combination of fear and carelessness towards the other person. If you care enough about them, prove it by telling them what you think, without sounding arrogant. I think the best way to do that is to follow Naval’s advice of praising specifically, while criticizing generally.
This kind of criticism can be a tool for growth, so I think it’s important not to ignore all criticism offhand. It’s helpful to consider it, doing your best at trying to understand it and then deciding what to do with it. Being completely deaf to any form of criticism is a trait of ignorant people, who can’t learn anything from others. Having an immediate visceral response to any criticism is a very annoying form of defensiveness and a mark of insecurity.
“He only moves toward the perfection of his art whose criticism surpasses his achievement.”
Leonardo da Vinci
Good self-criticism is essential for becoming better at the craft, but one needs to be careful in letting in excess criticism from outsiders, which can stifle any progress and even ensure stagnation. This jives well with Buffett’s idea of “the inner scorecard” as I see knowing one’s own intrinsic worth, knowing one’s own flaws, makes one less susceptible and less vulnerable to malicious criticism from outsiders.
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In the form of disclaimers in the footnotes.
As Paul Graham wrote:“One of the most surprising things you'll discover, if you start writing essays, is that people who disagree with you rarely disagree with what you've actually written. Instead they make up something you said and disagree with that.“
It’s interesting to compare continental Europe to the States when it comes to this. I’m under the impression that in Europe, the outcasts are mocked, while in the States they are celebrated more often. There it’s not unusual for industries to be run by oddballs and they don’t have problems finding investors. Musk is probably a prime example of this, but many other prominent American tech people come to mind. In Europe it’s another story and it has been like that for hundreds of years, which is why European oddballs like to emigrate to other places. Tesla is one example of this. Marconi another.
“While Italian society’s de facto top concern had been to keep Marconi in his place in order to avoid rocking the boat, in Britain the culture and institutions threw their weight behind his rise, even at the risk of rendering obsolete British interests in the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable, which had been the most advanced method of communication for 40 years before Marconi’s trans-Atlantic radio transmissions. Once Marconi had achieved fame and fortune in Britain, Italy was happy to welcome him back as a hero.”
Perhaps the reason for such celebration of conformity is because, contrary to the States that emphasize individualism to the extreme level, continental Europe has been emphasizing collectivism, as David Deutsch argues. The EU is just the latest example of that. European states usually optimize for what’s better for the collective overall, while the States can often be seen optimizing for the individual.
The example for this is the quality of public transportation system in Europe, while seeing Loop tunnel built in the States to solve the transportation problem. One-lane tunnels for Teslas only? That thing would never get approved in Europe, but on the other hand, launching rockets to space by a private company wouldn’t get approved either, which in my opinion is one of the most amazing features of the United States.