I can get Criticism and Judgement anywhere

I was pondering Matt Scherr’s blog post about the weekly 8150 meetings as being the Juice Bar. He talks about things like “I would keep coming back for just one thing that I leave every meeting with: Energy.”

As so often, it was when I was in an unrelated meeting where this energy didn’t exist that I was able to put together some thoughts. At this unrelated meeting I was mildly pitching a new company/product that I’ve started working with to some people in a ‘this is what I’m up to” kind of way.

The unanimous response were questions and statements that were essentially criticisms or judgment (here the def. of judgment = criticisms with emotion). All of the feedback I’d either thought of, the team had thought of, or I’d been told before.  Normally I just let people bloviate away on these things. I know that in the end most people tend to project their own experience and fears when thinking about engaging in a new project/company and this projection comes out first. Nothing wrong with this. As any experienced entrepreneur or small business person will tell you, most of the feedback you get is unhelpful or negative in nature.

Ok, so this is the state of the world as it is.

However, this time I was getting frustrated because I could not get a word in edgewise to explain the pieces of the puzzle that this group kept missing. So I tried a different tact. I told them that I could get criticism anywhere but I can’t get people to tell me how things could work. Give me some yes people. No not grin-F*$K people who smile a nod, rather people who help propel an idea forward.

I recalled the first lesson I learned in improvisation on stage. You never say ‘no’ to anything. A no closes a door and stymies the conversation, even a ‘yes – but’ is preferable.

This group simply could not get their minds around the concept. The best they could do was change their language to make their “no” contain positive words (You will fail b/c XYZ —> you could succeed if you can get around XYZ).

[This next part may seem a little far afield but stick with me here] That same day I had a nice talk about abortion and the law with a friend (who is not a lawyer). I usually try to put the kibosh on topics like this since then tend to monopolize time and bring up emotions that aren’t fruitful EVEN when people are on the same side of the issue. In the end hot topics like abortion tend to follow a similar pattern to the Danger of Ideas…post. You feel like you are getting somewhere by talking about issues like this, but in the end you are not.  Frustrated by the inability to get onto a new topic I simply asked my friend to make the opposing argument with an honest heart. “If you cannot,” I said, “then I don’t trust you understand the topic and feel vilification of the other side is hypocritical.” Sadly he could not.

So how does the juice bar, a talk about an emerging product, and a discussion about abortion and the law come in to play about being able to get criticisms and judgment anywhere?

It comes from the fact that in an entrepreneur’s society the opposite view is taken. If I present an idea for an IPhone app, or a new marketing strategy for the town of Minturn, or a re-branding of me personally (lawyer becomes business consultant who also is a lawyer), I know that the first and foremost lenses that this group will take is ‘how can we get this done’ instead of ‘why you shouldn’t even try.’ This mentality, refreshing, positive, and constructive, without being rose colour glasses like, is more than refreshing, it is actually, practically, useful. And, perhaps most importantly, when a person or group primarily uses this mentality I trust them implicitly when they tell me something is simply a bad idea.

This is why we leave the juice bar of 8150 energized. It is a place where I (we) can get useful advice and feel energized – instead of non-useful advice that takes energy away.

So, the call to action, next time someone has an idea, position, thought, company, dream…whatever first pause and construct a way to get to a yes. If you can not do that re-evaluate your position and goals before giving an opinion.

But hey….what do I know?