In Ryan Holiday’s new book, Ego is the Enemy, he writes about the importance of criticism and humility, stating, “The art of taking feedback is such a critical skill in life, particularly harsh and critical feedback. We not only need to take this harsh feedback, but actively solicit it, labor to seek out the negative precisely when our friends and family and brain are telling us that we’re doing great.”
At first, I thought this quote was a bit extreme. Actively solicit it? Seek it out? Ignore the support and encouragement of those closest to us and who know us best? But the more I thought about it, I agreed with him. It takes courage to do this, to be vulnerable, to have others – especially those you admire and respect – go to town on your work. But it is precisely this willingness to put yourself out there that will make your work stand out and reach the next level of excellence.
My good friend and co-author, Josh Gottry, and I have written a new book called, The Classic Vibe: A Foundational Method for Vibraphone, coming in 2017. It is a vibraphone method book, written for students learning to play the vibraphone in a concert percussion setting, rather than jazz. If you are not a percussionist, or have no interest in playing the vibraphone, that’s OK and hope you will stay with me.
We are happy to say we have finished a complete first draft. Josh and I collaborated with each other for nine months, mostly via email, and bounced around many ideas from our combined experiences as percussion performers and educators. We also did extensive research on what has come before, and although we are not reinventing the wheel, we are trying to fill a void in the pedagogy. With dozens of revisions and iterations already under our belts, we could have stopped, been satisfied, and sent it to a publisher. But we chose a different path.
Feeling good about what we created, we decided to send the book to six reviewers for their feedback. These six individuals are big names in our field – heavyweights – and in some cases former teachers and mentors of ours who are credible, admired, and respected performers, educators, composers, and pedagogues. Our official request was for “feedback, comments, suggestions, criticisms, quotes, and/or testimonials you are willing to offer regarding The Classic Vibe.”
Pressing “send” on a PDF of the book was exciting, scary, and took us out of our comfort zone. The confidence, pride, and belief we had in our work was immediately challenged by doubt, judgement, and uncertainty in what they had to say. But we knew if we wanted to write the best book we were capable of, we needed more eyes on the project, similar to inviting colleagues to sit in the audience and listen to your dress rehearsal. We had to stay humble. We had to hear criticism, even if it “stung” a little.
As the Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “It is impossible to learn that which one thinks one already knows.” What we know is that our book will be better as a result.