Criticism is a Badge of Honor

People leave impressions on us as we interact with them. Parts of who they are or what they said can cling to us long after they’ve walked away. The same is true for books. We walk around with impressions and ideas clinging to us.

With this in mind, I asked my students to reflect upon what from one book you read this summer has stuck with you until now? 

I feel like the oddball in our department, but I didn’t read any fiction this summer. It was all nonfiction, and I’m not even sure what genre they all really fall into. One book I read is called Tribes by Seth Godin. Godin is a professional blogger and also a marketing expert. This book is about the tribal mentality that we can use to look at people. 

People want to be led. They want to get excited alongside other people who are excited about the same things. The trick, then, is to be a leader around something that is interesting, worthwhile, and something you care about and then build some sort of structure that lets others get interested and excited right along with you.

It can be scary being a leader, though. When someone becomes a leader for a tribe, she steps up to play a bigger game, and in playing a bigger game she is more visible. This means she is also more vulnerable to criticism.

Godin writes about criticism and how he views it. One thing  he said that stuck with me was that he views his challenge when creating a product of some kind–whether it’s a book, a website, or whatever–is to ask himself, “How can I create something that critics will criticize?” He says that if he doesn’t receive criticism once he reveals his product, he believes that he has then simply produced something that is unremarkable, mainstream, and did not confound anyone’s expectations. Things that are not normal to us do not get criticized, and the way to actually be a leader is to change the status quo. Leaders should receive criticism, and they should see it as a badge of honor.

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