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When Feedback Collides

Because you are purposefully seeking out feedback from different sources, some of that feedback is bound to contradict other feedback. When that happens, it’s time to filter your many sources of feedback through self-assessment.

There’s an old saying that someone with one watch knows what time it is, while someone with two watches is never sure. What the saying doesn’t cover is that the person who isn’t sure is actually better informed.

No one source of information is going to be right about everything all the time. Even an atomic clock needs occasional repair. A laboratory experiment is truly successful only if it’s repeatable. A truly demonstrable fact means everyone with sufficient resources can demonstrate it.

And let’s face it, we’re not living in a lab. Life is much more complicated, and everyone’s experience, however valuable, includes chance, unique circumstances, and personal bias. Professional advice becomes more authoritative with every independent source providing it, and the most useful feedback has several sources so you can triangulate your own best practices, not blindly follow a guru.

For example, in Scenario 1, you read a book about how to turn the trash in your attic to treasure. It gets you excited to plunder your old stuff. You follow the specific steps in the book, but you don’t find anything valuable. You figure the book must be telling the truth, so this means you didn’t follow the advice correctly. Suddenly, you’re paying to shift through other people’s junk.

A wiser approach, in Scenario 2, is to take that excitement after reading the first book and then read some more books. Sure, go ahead and explore your own attic for free just for fun, but before you lay out real time and money, get more opinions. For example, just how old are the houses in your neighborhood, and how old should they be before you can reasonably expect to find treasure in their attics?

No single book should be your Bible (unless it’s actually your Bible, or the equivalent). Rather, gather a number of good books with various information on the topic to help you lay out your plans.


By the same token, rather than taking one feedback source as gospel, use all your sources to ask yourself questions for your self-assessment. (A downloadable worksheet is available at disciplinestrategy.com.)

The goal is to use different viewpoints to gauge your work with the help of outside opinions. It is not to judge yourself as a success or failure. You’re specifically measuring the distance between where you are and where you want to be on your action plan and to see if you need to correct your course. Consider self-assessment as something that may mean tweaking or repairing your plan, not changing yourself or your goals. 

Going through this self-assessment is a step-by-step process, just like all the others, as I address in a separate blog post.