First off, I have a recommendation: I think you guys should read this post while listening to The Gorillaz “Feel Good Inc” because I’m about to talk about math and you might get bored.
So this week, I got kind of bummed out by some negative feedback the internet gave me on my eBook. It was a totally unexpected feeling, partially because I think I have a pretty thick skin but mainly because I’d set my personal expectations so low in the process of making it that I had literally not imagined a world in which strangers would purchase (and review!) something I made.
I mainly feel disappointed in myself for caring. After all, the past three years of working in customer/client services has me used to being criticized on a daily basis. My first public review was actually from an angry drag queen on Yelp, who called me out personally for giving him the excuse that his flowers arrived late due to traffic (if for some reason you have found my blog, angry drag queen, I was not lying. Traffic was really bad that day). In general, criticism, even outright rage, hits an area of my brain that triggers an auto response –
Thank you for your feedback. I’m terribly sorry for any inconvenience and 100% understand your frustration. I am working tirelessly to remedy the situation. All the best, Tiffany.
So I was surprised when a couple hours after I happened upon the first piece of negative feedback that my Google searches started to match a pattern that is usually reserved for thinking I have AIDS or something.
God, I really hope Hannah deals with this on the next season of Girls so I can get some answers.
Obviously I know that this happens to anyone with even the smallest level of exposure (ie – me) and that means I’m lucky to have that level of exposure, blah blah blah all the things you can say to feel better. I also decided that I’m just going to stay away from that part of the internet for awhile.
All of these things are good ways of dealing with criticism, disappointment, whathaveyou. But you know what’s a better way? METRICS. So, I don’t think I talk about work much, but working in business has taught me a lot of valuable lessons. Most of them are related to numbers, planning and all other things that make me go “OMG CAN I PLEASE GO BACK TO LOOKING AT PICTURES OF PUPPIES OR CAN YOU AT LEAST PUT SOME GLITTER ON THE NEXT MEMO?” but that’s exactly why they’re helpful.
If you don’t know what metrics are, don’t worry, you can look at this really boring wikipedia link or you can just go with it because I’m going to very loosely (and possibly incorrectly) define them. Basically, if you’re a business and you are trying to show someone whether or not you’re doing well, you tell them “we are trying to succeed in X, Y and Z areas. Here are our target goals.” Then whenever it’s time to define whether or not you’re winning, you measure what you’ve done against what you expected to accomplish.
Learning about metrics (or at least creating my own reductionist version of them) has helped me accomplish several really important goals in the past two years. So this morning, when I was walking to work all cranky and self-doubty, repeating all the matras and telling myself PEOPLE HATED TWILIGHT TOO (I don’t know what Twilight was my go-to, because I’ve never read/seen it but whatever), I started thinking about how silly I was in departing from my own personal metrics.
So I created this method for defining how I should feel about a particular event in my life. I think that it should be applicable to all of you, whether it’s in relation to planning your weekend, looking back at your college experience or judging how you’re doing on your diet.
Define your metrics. What’s more important? What’s less important, but still significant? Also, you can’t have like a million metrics, let’s say you can pick no more than 5.
For me, when I found out I was going to have the opportunity to do an eBook, here were the top five things I cared about (in no specific order, yet):
- Approval from a group of people that I see as an authority figure in the (online) conversation in which I want to be engaged
- Opportunity to get new blog visitors
- Getting to tell people I did something cool in 2013
- Learning from doing something that seems really overwhelming
- The approval of my blog readers / bffs
I then assigned a certain percentage to each of these metrics to weigh how much each one would matter in case one or more things fell short of my expectations. I’ve added money in there, because I found out I’d get a little bit of that at a certain point and obvi I always want new shoes/ more seamless web food.
Based off my criteria above, things are going pretty well! Above all else, I didn’t collapse into a heap of self-hatred and decided not to create my cool thing (I did this in college with a music thing, so I am painfully aware of my ability to self-destruct) and all other things have flowed from there.
So, why did I spend the first half of my week feeling like everything I’d done suddenly hinged on this thing I hadn’t even anticipated happening? It’s like my metrics were turned upside down and suddenly my criteria for judging my own personal success looked like this –
If I were a business and I went into a meeting with my investors, even if things were going well, I couldn’t be like, “HEY GUYS. Fuck all the things I told you I’d do! Look at this one thing I did!” Unless that one thing happened to be turn my company into a legal money printing machine, the investors would pull out. Or at least fire me and appoint a new CEO. Additionally, if I went into a business meeting and an investor was like, “HEY THIS ONE THING YOU DIDN’T DO.” I would have the ability to say, “Um, that’s not what I said I would do. Remember all these other goals I had that I hit?” Unless I was doing something illegal (and again losing all money), I’d probably get another quarter out of those dudes/dudettes.
So, when I’m (we’re) thinking about our goals in addition to the unexpected consequences of said goals, it’s important to adjust them according to our initial intentions. I like to think of it like this:
That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t take this new information into account. Like I said, I’m gonna hide from certain parts of the internet for awhile because it’s not particularly beneficial to deconstruct comments left by strangers in a public forum to the extent that it makes me never want to write anything ever again, BUT I have now for future projects that there are other factors (metrics!) to consider. Like, how will strangers perceive this thing I make? Will people comment on editing/ writing/ subject matter/ what they think of me as a human being? Do I care?
I suggest you try using (very simple) numbers the next time you’re feeling all in your head about something. By the way, the tool I use to make all my graphs is here: http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph/. I think it’s like a kid’s math program, but I’ll take it.
In the meanwhile, here’s another example of my metrics theory. This is how I’m going to rank my weekend success. If I’m not too hungover, I may even report back on Monday.
Oh, one last mushy gushy thing – all of you guys are the best and your liking, sharing, positive texts/FB messages/ Gchats/ etc mean more to me than anything else ever. If I were a rich person, I’d buy all of you a puppy (or kitty, if that’s your preference).
Peace, love and CINCO DE MAYO,