The Science of Achievement

For creative people with big, gutsy goals

Crushed by Negative Feedback? Here’s the First Step You Need to Take.

Nothing kills enthusiasm quite like negative feedback. It can come from friends or from failure, and many success stories die young because people don’t know how to handle it.

woman who looks sad

Consider this example.

You wake up an hour earlier every morning for a month and use the time to write your first short story. You push past the writer’s block, get your thoughts on paper, and edit away all the mistakes you can find. Finally, you’re ready to reveal your masterpiece, so you share a copy with your friend, a book editor.

The next day, your friend calls. You’re tingling with anticipation, preparing for the praise that’s surely on its way. Instead you’re dealt a crushing blow. “This isn’t very good. It’s bad really.”

What do you do next?

Many people would find a new dream. They gave writing their best shot, right? They did the work, poured themselves into the story. It just wasn’t good enough. They just weren’t good enough.

While this reaction is common, it’s also absurd. Who in their right mind would expect their first attempt at fiction to impress a professional editor? When was your first try at anything a success?

To maintain your enthusiasm in the face of negative feedback, you must distinguish between your performance and your potential.

Bad performances say very little about your potential. Usually all they say is you need more practice.

On the surface, this is obvious. Walking, talking, reading, driving a car—these are all learned skills. And isn’t the point of school to help you improve at subjects such as math, English, science, and history?

But when it comes to our big meaningful goals, the ones we long to achieve, we often forget about the empowering effect of practice.

The truth is everyone is naturally bad at everything, and in the pursuit of big goals, your current level of skill will be quickly proven insufficient.

So if you worry you might not be skilled enough, relax. You aren’t skilled enough. No one is naturally. And that’s okay. You have the power to improve.

The question isn’t “What are you good at?”

It’s “What do you want to be good at?”


This is a modified excerpt from QuitterProof: The 5 Beliefs of Highly Successful People.

Click here to download the full book for free.

About Kyle Young

Kyle lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Haley and their two puppies, Ralph and Nora. He's a writer, speaker, and consultant for online businesses that are committed to growth.

2 Replies

  1. Pedro Cotilla

    All you write in this post is quite true!!! We quite often think we are not good at things we’ve never done before. So, how could we be? Sometimes we need to look at what we do from a different point of view and it results in our minds being “crushed” with the “view”. Wow! Thanks Kyle for this short but great sample of wisdom.

    1. Kyle Young

      Glad it was helpful, Pedro! Learning this has made a real difference in my life. I’m now more willing to try new things and more patient with myself when I start slow.

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