Advice, Feedback, & Criticism

personal development Jan 24, 2024
Scott Perry Promoting a Blog Post About Advice, Feedback, & Criticism

Part I of today’s post comes from my book, The Stoic Creative.

Feedback Vs. Criticism

“Receive without pride, let go without attachment.” - Marcus Aurelius

Creating is merely the act of making something new. However, simple doesn’t mean easy. The creative process can be lonely, intimidating, and fraught with self-doubt. Then, if we want to become an Artist, the hard part is sharing what you made with others.

Do I Have to Share?

That depends. We’re all creatives. We make things, right? We make conversation. We make plans. We make promises, and we make babies. We have no problem making or sharing these creations. However, if we intentionally create something that evokes a reaction or transformation in others, we act like an artist, and things change.

Therein lies the rub. All artists are creatives, but not all creatives are artists. Artists create with specific intention and motivation. They put their creation out into the world. They ship, and they deliver the goods.

Artists must share their creations. It’s required. Shipping your work is the only way they will get the feedback necessary to develop and improve their art. Aspiring and advancing artists must hold their work out to an audience. “Here, I made this. I hope you like it.” And when they do, all bets are off.

What Happens Next

“A thing is neither better nor worse for having been praised.” – Marcus Aurelius

Sure, they may love what you do. Hopefully, they’ll at least like it. If not, perhaps they’ll say, “That’s nice.” But they may say, “I don’t get it.” Or, “What’s the point?” Maybe even, “I hate it!” How does that feel? Depending on how much you’ve invested in your art, it could hurt a little or be devastating!

Tips On Turning Pro

So you made it. You were clear on your intention and motivation. You invested every bit of your talent and emotional labor. You held it out to others and said, “Here, I made this.” And, to yourself, quietly said, “I hope you like it.” And they didn’t. Not a bit. “What the hell is that? 

It sucks!”

It’s time to separate the dilettantes from the real artists, the amateurs from the pros. Here’s how:

  • Make sure you’re clear on what it’s for. “Art for art’s sake” is an amateur’s hustle. Art has a purpose. If you don’t know what your art is for, you didn’t make art.

  • Make sure you’re clear on who it’s for. Art must have an audience. It is your job to find it. If you think your art is for everybody, it’s actually for nobody, and it’s not art.

  • Make sure you’re clear on the change you’re trying to make. If your creation is made solely for attention or to make a buck, it’s not art. Art connects, communicates, and changes those who come into contact with it.

Okay, Now What?

You’re clear on what it’s for, who it’s for, and the change you seek to make. You put it in front of the right people and...?

They didn’t love your work. They didn’t like it. They didn’t even get it! Is that their fault or yours? It’s easy to say, “Heathens! You don’t know art when you see it!” But, likely, you didn’t do your job thoroughly.

Did you do all the work? Did you do it well, or at least well enough? Are you sure this is your audience? Did you share it properly? Did you need to deliver something else?

Don’t let these questions swirl around in your head. Ask your audience! Remember, it’s for them! If you’re looking for recognition or praise, hoping to get picked, or perhaps even making a little filthy lucre, you did not have the right intention or motivation!

Mean People Suck

Just in case you weren’t aware, haters gonna hate. There are trolls, hacks, cranks, and critics out there. They don’t like themselves, and they sure as sh*t ain’t going to like you or anything you share. They’ll go out of their way to make you aware of their disdain. Unsolicited criticism is not helpful and not worth your time or emotional labor.

Being a hater is its own karmic consequence. If you can, empathize. If you can’t, smile and say, “Sorry, but if you didn’t like it, I guess I didn’t make it for you.”

Get Back to Work

What to do next? Take a step back. Hold it out before you and take a long, objective look. Should you scrap it and start over? If not, what’s worth keeping? What should you eliminate? What needs refining? Decide. Then, get back to work. That’s what artists do.

An artist who is a pro understands that quitting is not an option. Artists pick themselves up, dust themselves off, gird their loins, and get back in the arena. It’s an infinite, not a finite, game. It requires patience, practice, and persistence. Shun the fixed mindset. Adopt a growth mindset.

Here are a few more parting thoughts. A sense of humor doesn’t hurt. Humility is essential. Purpose is required.

Feedback Vs. Criticism - Relevant Anecdote

Social media provides plenty of opportunities for practicing how to identify and discern the difference between meaningful feedback and worthless criticism. Look to your favorite social media outlet for examples of struggling creatives and thriving artists’ posts, but how do they respond to insightful feedback? How about uninformed criticism?  

Look at your social media feed. How are you processing feedback and handling criticism?

Key Takeaway

Before art can be significant, it must have a proper motivation and intent. What’s it for? It must be created with skill, emotional labor, and a clear purpose. What is the change you seek to make? Finally, art must be performed or placed in front of the right people. Who is it for? You then must take note of the response.

Art is always a collaborative activity because there is always an audience. Learn to love feedback and shun criticism. Develop your ability to discern the difference.

An Exercise

Epictetus famously stated, “It is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows.” Feedback reveals the elements of our art that have missed the mark, need further development, or should be discarded.

Unhelpful criticism is, well, unhelpful! I encourage the memorization of short maxims to have on hand for challenging moments. “They are nothing to me” was a line Epictetus urged his students to use when confronted with something unpleasant but unimportant.

So, when the critic delivers mean-spirited venom, smile and say, “Your opinion is nothing to me,” or, “I didn’t do it for you.” Even better? Smile sweetly and say nothing. This drives trolls crazy! All they really wanted was to watch you cry.

Pursuing excellence in your craft takes courage but begins with a healthy dose of humility. Take your craft and your art seriously, but not yourself.

Go Further

When you receive well-intended feedback, say “Thank you,” even when it hurts or isn’t helpful or useful.

When you receive hurtful criticism, take Epictetus’s advice to “endure and renounce” and forgive (more on this in the next chapter). People are not intentionally mean; they are ignorant and incompatible with virtue. Remember Marcus Aurelius’s reminder to himself, “Tolerate ignorant persons and those who form opinions without consideration.”

Fail often, fail fast, and fail forward. We need your art.

Ready to elevate your craft with next-level feedback? Keep reading.

Advice: Antidote to the Feedback Trap 

When you have enough clarity about who your work is for and the change it’s intended to make, it’s easier to ask for and process feedback and even criticism. 

But here’s the thing. There’s an inherent weakness to feedback and criticism.

Feedback and criticism focus on past actions and accomplishments. 

Sure, it might be helpful to think about what you could have done better. But you can’t go back in time to revise what you did. This can encourage an inner dialogue of

”woulda, coulda, shoulda’s”1 that leads to a doom loop of self-doubt and criticism.

What to do?

Consider asking for advice instead.


Well, first of all, advice is more forward-facing and often more constructive and instructive.

Advice allows you to tap into the wisdom and experience of others, offering fresh perspectives and insights that can lead to improved decision-making and performance going forward.

To be sure, advice is a next-level amplifier to your progress if you have done the work of embracing discomfort, keeping open loops, learning by doing,2 and being receptive.3

Requesting, receiving, and leveraging advice requires a commitment to excellence, intellectual security, and the will to embrace challenges and uncertainty.

As a coach, I initially fell into “the feedback trap.” This is the dynamic of providing endless reflections and questions and expecting the recipient to process them and find worthwhile insights.

The danger in the feedback trap is that it feels like you’re being helpful, but you’re only encouraging further confusion and inertia.

When someone is ready to level up their game in work that matters, they’re looking for solutions to specific problems or skills for achieving a particular aspiration.

Advice that’s specific and intentional creates empathetic antagonism.4 It gets under the recipient’s skin and makes them uncomfortable enough to do what needs to be done next to make their desired progress.

And here’s a secret side-benefit of advice. It helps the advice giver as much as it does the advice receiver.

People perform better themselves after they have advised others. Why? They’re more likely to follow the advice they have shared. 

This suggests that the act of advice-giving is not only beneficial for the advisee but also enhances the advisee’s own performance.

Advice Asking & Receiving Tips


If you’re ready to seek advice, here are some suggestions for optimizing your efforts.

Advice For Seeking Advice

  • Be Clear - Know what advice you want and why you want it.

  • Be Specific - “What’s the number one thing you think I could improve next time?” provides better and more actionable advice than “What could be better?”

  • Be Intentional - Who in your network is most knowledgeable or experienced in the area you’re seeking advice on? Who will give you the most relevant and valuable information?

Advice For Advice Receiving

  • Start With Gratitude - Giving advice requires at least as much vulnerability and courage as asking for it. Begin with “Thank you.”

  • Reflect What You Heard - Between intention and impact lies interpretation.5 “Here’s what I heard you say. Did I get that right? is a great way to make sure you heard the advice that was actually given.

  • Evaluate And Execute - Take the time to assess advice and, if it makes sense, then implement it. Learning that does not lead to action is useless.



Meaningful learning requires stepping out of your comfort zone. Mastery requires a willingness to engage with challenges and discomfort.

Learning is most effective when it is active, and one of the biggest levers for embodying learning is to pay it forward by resharing and teaching it.

Seeking frequent, specific feedback for improvement and teaching as you learn keeps things interesting and catalyzes personal and professional growth.

 5.The Intention Impact Gap

Scott Perry, Chief Difference-Maker at Creative on Purpose

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