How to React to Tough Feedback According to John Mayer


You have to be able not to get your way. Cry a little bit. Take a bump. ¬†And let it send you back to the lab. Even if you have to say “I’ll show him!” It’s all gonna be better for it – John Mayer.

I watched an inspiring video today with one of my musical heroes, John Mayer. He’s doing a Q&A at Oxford and there are some insightful bits in the 50-minute long interview. You can watch it here. If you’re pressed for time, this outtake about his friendship with Steve Jobs really resonated with me.

I really like the part about tough feedback where John describes how Steve Jobs or any good manager could kill off bad ideas down with just one rhetoric question. That’s how a great leader acts, he doesn’t say NO! – he poses a question that lets you find “no” yourself, which strengthens you and your ideas immensely.

John then talks about how the “independent” artist world can be too soft, where the artists have too much say and that’s why the end product is poorer. You can obviously argue this back and forth, but even as an independent author I have to admit that there’s something there. To develop as an artist/individual/employee/whatever you need feedback, you need to hear when your stuff’s not up to par. And when you have the power to cut out that vital criticism and just go ahead and do what you want anyway, there’s a risk that the art/you/everybody suffers.

Everyone needs a filter. Or like John says:

“I miss bosses in general, I miss editors, I miss people who tell me – don’t do that! We wanted it and we got it and I don’t think it’s that great for an artist to have a manager whose job is to filter out all of the ideas and then meet them out accordingly with patience and grace.”

That’s not the way to do it. Take criticism for what it is, and be honest, then go back to the lab and improve.

Remember: everybody benefits from that.