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Whose opinion matters?

Current ‘wisdom’ says we’re meant to seek out others’ opinion, to be open to criticism of our work, to gather everyone’s thoughts and learn from them.

But is everyone’s opinion valuable?

Surely our first responsibility is to determine whose opinion is worth listening to?

Opinion / saxophonistImagine you’re a musician.

One evening, at the end of your gig, an audience member comes to thank you, and then adds, “by they way, I really do think you should play more ballads.”

“Hmm”, you think, “maybe I should.”

Then another well-meaning audience member suggests that you “really should do more up-tempo tunes.”

Yet another thinks it would be great if you took longer solos; the next says, “make them shorter.”

You listen to them all.

And without realising it

you start to bend yourself

You read comments on your blog – some people says you were better with a bigger band.

Others recommend you play in a trio.

Maybe they’re right.

You bend this way and then that.

Your agent suggests you play louder; your friends like it more mellow.

Your manager thinks bravado is the way to go; your partner recommends a more laid back approach.

This isn’t the sort of criticism that says you’re bad at what you do.

But it’s the sort of criticism that makes you bend what you do.

And keep on bending…

Until you’ve bent yourself completely out of shape

And you’ve nothing original to say

To stop bending you have to learn to ignore opinions.

Then you can put your energies into getting closer to the place that is authentically ‘you’.

And when you do want an opinion, you choose carefully where you find it.

You ask people who are truly wise,

those whom you respect and who respect you,

 and those who tread with care, so they don’t crush your spirit.

Most critics have a self-serving agenda

(often self-aggrandisement).

Find one who doesn’t,

and you find an opinion worth listening to.


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