10/28/21: How to make criticism constructive

Sent 10/28/21


  • Our Fueling the Pursuit episode with Greg McMillan is out! My previous two newsletters covered aspects of his book. 
  • I had the pleasure to speak with the team at Orange Lutheran High School last week and I was incredibly impressed by their questions! Thank you Coach Goossens and Lancers! 

This week's Think Better Newsletter is how to make criticism constructive

The Idea

Reality: Criticism sucks. Nobody wants to receive it.

Also reality: We need criticism. It's the only way we can get better.

I've had a long week. To summarize it way too much, I own a forecast and I hit a point of disagreement with a key colleague on both process and the final numbers. We ended up talking past each other because what we wanted were fundamentally different things.

The feedback from my team was if I'd been more proactive I could have identified the problems earlier and worked through them. But I got caught off guard, deadlines were missed, meetings were held. I was called out for not being on top of it.

The feedback from my colleague was that I was unclear and trying to be too controlling. I was called out on both counts. 

And here's what stinks: all the criticism is fair. But it still stings and it's still hard not to get stuck in a cycle of "coulda woulda shoulda" and "if only" thinking.

The reality is, it's my first time doing this, I got stuck in a tough spot, and my results weren't good enough. My intentions were good and I didn't make any egregious mistakes, but I was far from perfect. So it goes.

It's not unlike how I feel after a bad race or workout. Why wasn't I more prepared? Why didn't I see that coming? How did I get in this position?!

It stings. It always will. But it can and should make us better...if we make sure the criticism is constructive.

The System

My strategy, which I write about in Make the Leap, is to convert all criticism into effort-based terms. Effort and preparation are the only things we can control, so they are the lens through which we need to consider all criticism.

So, for example, if someone says your race was "gawdawful," you can feel bad about it for a moment. But then you should convert that to "poorly executed." Now you can focus on the effort-based solution.

In my case, my "not communicating clearly" means I needed to prepare more. And my "not knowing what's going on" means I need to put more effort into reaching out to my colleagues.

Make sure criticism is a reflection of what you did, not who you are. Don't rely on the person providing the criticism to do that for you.

The Question

How much better will you feel if you stop taking criticism personally?


Go Be More,

Bryan Green
Author of Make the Leap: Think Better, Train Better, Run Faster and the companion Think Better Workbook
Co-host of the Go Be More Podcast
Co-host of the Fueling the Pursuit Podcast

"To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing."
- Elbert Hubbard



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