Kindnesses and Criticisms
I got the nicest note from Ganesh Dahal. He’s a long-time contributor to CSS-Tricks and we’ve worked on a bunch of articles together over the past couple of years. There’s nothing magic in there — just kind words — but it hit me at just the right time.
What you have to know is that I’m awfully sensitive when it comes to editing. I know the work it takes to put a technical article together and the personal attachment that often comes with it. I also know that every one of my keystrokes is a form of criticism that can hurt that personal attachment.
It would be so easy for someone like Ganesh to react defensively to my edits. Again, I know because it’s happened before. Heck, I’ve been defensive in the past with edits to my writing too! But what Ganesh did — and what has taken me a long time to learn — is that he demonstrated the other side of criticism; the positive. Instead of treating me as a roadblock, I’ve become his partner and our combined efforts add up to a better piece.
I can’t do it without him. He can’t do it without me. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
And it makes me think: what would it look like if all criticism could be given and taken like that? We have all these tools to encourage and streamline collaborative processes but rarely do I see them improve that give and take. Sure, Jira can capture a bunch of notes and show the progress of a task while providing transparency for all members of a team, but that’s informative, not emotive. And we all know how things get lost in translation.
It’s less about the tools, though, I think. It’d be great if productivity tools could handle the human element of work, but I honestly wouldn’t really want to go there when we can make the change in ourselves as people.
I’ve learned (and continue to learn) that my work is not what defines me. I can take a punch and respond with a high five. But I know not everyone is wired like that. Maybe all we need, though, is to come to the work table with a different lens, one that acknowledges defensiveness in ourselves when it’s there and asks “why” we feel that way before pushing back.
I dunno. That’s a pretty tall ask, I guess. But here are some things that have helped me in my own personal journey of letting go:
- The 5 Love Languages (Gary Chapman) — Yes, its aim is healthy romantic relationships, but the concepts hold true for any kind of relationship.
- The Phoenix Project (Kim, Behr, and Spafford) — This is more of a book on complex project management and resourcing, but it also shows that there’s always a context behind the work that’s happening.
- “Fault Lines” (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) — This song has helped me recognize my own faults and how to let them go.
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck (Mark Manson) — This could have been written in fewer chapters, but still got a lot out of it.
- “Englighten Me” (Grouplove) — Another great song on letting go that’s in my most played list.