Amongst the more negative things that millennials have become renowned for, a reluctance to take in honest feedback is certainly one of them, and it’s a true shame what it’s done to the reputation of a generation that has so much going for it.
Generation-Y is producing more entrepreneurs heading multimillion-dollar companies than any other generation did at this age. Gen-Y entrepreneurs are the driving force behind many of the revolutionary ideas that we find most impressive today.
There should be no room for a questionable work ethic and lack of tough skin to shine a light away from that narrative. Yet, when the opportunity presents itself, that is exactly what happens, particularly when it came to a recent article published by the New York Times.
The piece featured a brief profiling of Elite Daily, an obvious bright spot on this end, but it also made alarming and, unfortunately, legitimate claims about all 20-somethings these days.
“I feel like their work ethic is a legitimate concern, even though it sounds like you're a whiny old person complaining about the youth,” the Times’ Sheila Marikar was told by Jared Neumark, producer of the popular “Millenials in the workplace” parody video on YouTube.
There are also “unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback,” according Dr. Paul Harvey, associate professor of management at the University of New Hampshire.
No matter the amount of truth that can be found in such statements — you’d be hard pressed to quantify, anyway — even the slightest bit of reluctance to take in constructive criticism is cause for concern, simply because feedback is so crucial to success.
Consider the following.
The 42-year-old serial entrepreneur Elon Musk was at the forefront of online payment company PayPal as a founder. He’s also the CEO of electric car company Tesla, the CEO of solar energy company Solar City and the CEO of space exploration company Space X. All of those companies are driven by a desire for extraordinary innovation, so you might think the man credited with leading the charge would have ideas a plenty and would seldom be at a loss for words.
But when asked by a TED Talks curator how exactly he’s done these things, Musk offers, in flustered manner, a stuttering, “I dunno.” That is, before he highlights the one thing he could concretely put his finger on as being important to his success.
“Really pay attention to negative feedback and solicit it particularly from friends,” he said. “This may sound like sort of simple advice but hardly anyone does that and it’s incredibly helpful.
Taking in negative feedback is especially important at the entrepreneurial level says David Cohen, who’s founded a few ventures of his own.
“Even if you can't turn around every unhappy customer, negative reviews provide you with huge opportunities to learn, so whatever you do, don't ignore them,” the entrepreneur said in a piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal. “Always keep in mind that the most critical customers who post the most awful reviews can sometimes present you with your biggest opportunities.”
The words “easier said than done” have usually carried along with them a negative connotation. People can’t tell you what to do because they don’t know how hard it is to execute that action in your shoes, right? However, the cliché should, rather, be viewed in a positive light.
It’s always more difficult to view your own actions as errors, accept them as such and correct them yourself. Therefore, it’s important that we embrace criticism from our peers and turn their advice into something beneficial.
After all, above everything else — above all hurt feelings, above all desires to hear only positive words, above the inclination to reply “why can’t you just be supportive?” — the improvement of the self is the most important thing on the path to success.
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