The trap of early feedback

We skew our thinking based on the first feedback we get. That’s the moment of maximum fragility, and so our radar is on high alert.

But the math doesn’t hold up, and this high alert can destroy our most important work.

All salt is the same. If you add a cup of salt to your soup recipe, it’s going to ruin it. Continuing to add salt in this quantity to soup is always going to ruin it in the same way, because all salt is alike.

But all people are not alike.

If you’ve created something that will delight and astound 10% of the marketplace, there’s a 90% chance that the first person who encounters your work will dislike it. He might even hate it. In fact, if you do the math, you’ll see that there’s more than a 70% chance that the first THREE people will hate it. And if you give up then, you’ve just walked away from serving the people you set out to serve.

[Consider how much more resilient you might be if the first three people loved it. You might then persist in the face of 100 critics after that, simply because the early reviews were so positive. The order of feedback doesn’t change the ratio, but it certainly feels that way.]

Listening to the right people is a gift, a chance to learn about how to do better. Listening to the wrong people, particularly the early critics, is a trap. If you’re not careful, it can become a place to hide.


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