Two of them, actually.
Well, make that one of them in the end.
The first comes from a guy named C. "Coffee Man" Reich on Amazon.com. Holy jeez, he didn’t just critique me and the book; he reamed me with an industrial-strength roto-rooter. I found it hard to walk for two days. At least he liked the cover...
Such is life, though. I learned two tough lessons while running a live entertainment event and producing its TV shows for 15 years and running a mobile media company for 10:
Unless you’re comatose and hermetically sealed inside some bubble, bad reviews are part of the terrain (even then, someone may make some crack about the way you are sleeping). They may sting, but bad reviews are as natural an occurrence as the sun rising.
To comfort some of the younger, nervous, first-time show producers working for me at Just For Laughs, I would tell them that even if they cured cancer, someone somewhere will complain that you are contributing to the world’s over-population. There's no such thing as a 100% unanimous win.
The other review story had an intriguing twist. One afternoon a couple
of weeks ago, my phone rang. At the other end was a man named Jeff Sexton,
who opened up the conversation with:
Sexton went on to explain that he, too, had laced into me on Amazon…but did so after reading only the book’s first 100 pages or so.
Continuing through it (a curious yet appreciated action, considering how many times I have given up on books that disappoint 100 pages in), Sexton ended up digging Pow! A lot. “I’ll change my review on Amazon if I can,” he pledged…and true to his word, eventually did.
I’ll take that. But even if he didn’t, I would’ve taken it, too. What choice do I have...other than copping out by blocking my ears and covering my eyes?
So, as a hardened vet of lobbing goods and services into the whims of the public arena, here’s some advice to those who will (and face it, these days, with access to information and outlets for opinion so omnipresent, EVERYTHING we do will be subject to public whims sooner or later):
you should listen to them
...but you don’t necessarily
have to hear them.
What that means is that you need to establish your own acceptable level of signal-to-noise ratio. Even the most mean-spirited disembowelment of your work contains a grain of something you can learn from. The tough part is to not let the crap overtake said grain, thus the discipline of listening to what to improve while shutting out the noise.
Yeah, I wish everyone loved everything that I did. At Airborne, with Pow!, in all walks of my life.
I also wish I were a 6-foot-three, 24 year old, independently wealthy, academic athletic rock star.
The chances of both happening right now are the same.
But if I want people to learn from me, I have to be willing to learn from them.
No matter how they deliver the news.