Bossy Lobster

A blog by Danny Hermes; musing on tech, mathematics, etc.

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Constantly Seek Criticism

I was recently catching up on articles and videos I'd been putting off and came across a great quote from Elon Musk:

A well thought out critique ... is as valuable as gold. And you should seek that from everyone you can, but particularly your friends ... It doesn't mean your friends are right ... you at least want to listen very carefully to what they say, and to everyone ... Basically, you should take the approach that you're wrong ... Your goal is to be less wrong.

Many close to me can attest that I greatly admire Elon both as an entrepreneur and as a scientist. He has proven as a founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla that his talent, technical breadth, and sheer persistence are unparalleled.

But this man — more prepared than most on this earth to tackle such grand challenges — still seeks out criticism.

The Feedback Mindset

Elon's quote "Constantly Seek Criticism" resonates with me in a real way. I've been trying to live this for several years. It's a mindset I feel I had always known, but could never put my fingers on.

The concept became fully clear while visiting family a few years ago. A cousin described to me how he and his coworkers would pitch business ideas to each other. The main point of the exercise was to tear every single idea apart. They entered already aware that most ideas are not good enough. However, by identifying the weak points, they gained deeper insight into "good ideas" and learned from each other's prior experience.

It is crucial to have people in our lives to remind us when our ideas are broken, to call us out when we overstep, or to pull us down to earth when our aspirations are not rooted here.

The continued supply of criticism and feedback is a fundamental part of sustained growth and a key ingredient to success. It is simple, but simple things can be hard to articulate.