“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller
I remember sitting and waiting in the cramped office, my hands holding the sheaf of yellow typed paper in my hands. The sweat of my hands wrinkled the once-crisp sheets of paper.
There weren’t many poems in that stack, but they were important to me, and I was nervous.
I’d spent an entire January in Texas, alone all day in a room, writing poems. I was trying to decide if I’d risk my hand at becoming an English major. I’d felt like a fraud at the writing “colony”: the outsider, a woman, not wearing enough black or chain smoking cigarettes like my compatriots.
After that month, I’d been given the opportunity to have my poems critiqued by a famous poet from out of town. I don’t know what compelled me to say yes – I’m not sure I’d been brave enough to actually read them to anyone before.
I don’t honestly even remember what he said about my poems, other than they were too short, and too obtuse, but I do remember this: I stopped writing after that meeting.
Not just stopped, but basically slammed the door shut: deciding I wasn’t good at writing, I stomped myself right over to the biology department to sign up for that major.
Finding the truth in criticism
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I’d ignored the poet’s feedback, and gathered up my too-short poems and tried again; or if nothing else, picked up the pen again before 20 more years passed.
Or if I’d taken his medicine as intended, as learning, rather than interpreting it as poison.
I could have used the concept then that I teach my clients now, the principle of the 2% truth: that behind any criticism or negative feedback is at least a kernel of truth for us to take in.
Instead of becoming defensive and ultimately quitting something that was important to me, accepting at least a portion of the feedback – my poems were too short, they were too obscure and really only made sense to me – would have helped me be open enough to take in the information on how to make them better, and continue to write.
It’s also true that there is a time to gather wisdom from feedback, and a time to ignore it, which points to another 2% truth buried in that experience: I love to write, and I have something to say.
Which is why you’re reading this today.
Anchor your dreams so they can fly
Instead of giving up on dreams too easily, as if they were fantastical floating bubbles, carefully tended for fear of being broken, let’s treat them like kites.
Kites are resilient flyers, but require an anchor, a strong wind and some effort to allow them to soar, dip, and stay aloft. We have to tug, pull, and run hard to keep them up and flying. And sometimes after a few crashes, they require us to amend our design and repair some tears.
The concept of 2% truth not only helps us take in important information that can help us improve, seeing the 2% in criticism helps us see what’s underneath our dreams, what tethers them to us. Understanding what’s important to us about our dreams – the
In the Comments below, I’d love to hear from you. If you have a dream, a goal, a desire that isn’t quite coming to pass (yet), what’s the 2% truth in your failure? What’s the real drive and desire underneath the dream? Where might you need to run harder, or what might you need to let go of, in order to let your dreams soar?
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for content and relevancy.
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