Audience of ONE – staying alive in the world of appraisals

If you remember me, then I don’t care if everyone else forgets. – Haruki Murakami


Painting by 10 yr old RK

Do you like me?
My worst enemy is not my critic. But myself. Today, anyone can appraise you. Not just your boss.

As news of the suicide of a top chef from the “world’s best restaurant” hit and stories of other Michelin starred chefs remind us of the double edged sword of feedback. I’m reminded of the words of author Murakami.

“Even when I ran my bar I followed the same policy. A lot of customers came to the bar. If one out of ten enjoyed the place and said he’d come again, that was enough. If one out of ten was a repeat customer, then the business would survive. … it didnt matter if nine out of ten didnt like my bar.

This realisation lifted a weight off my shoulders. Still I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it.

… I continued to write with the same attitude I’d developed as a business owner. ”

Haruki Murakami, What I talk about when I talk about Running

As an adjunct lecturer, I face bi-monthly appraisals from my students. My contract renewal is dependent on that. Sometimes, the negative appraisal of a few students can dampen my day even if the silent majority were satisfied.

Focus on your audience of one.

Vincent van Gogh suffered from depression, biographers say because his works couldn’t sell during his lifetime. But he had then only been painting for 10 years before his suicide. Compare that with Chinese painter Qi Baishi who couldn’t sell his paintings in his forties and had to live in a temple because of his abject poverty but went on to become a famous painter in his 90s and outsold Picasso. Famous artists like Zhang Daqian, Picasso, Joan Miro, Dali and Monet lived till their late 80s and working on their craft. Perhaps Van Gogh was too impatient with himself. Consider what he could have created if he gave himself another 40 years to improve.

My lesson of the day:

Adopt the art of the long view. Take a twenty year perspective of your career.

Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be. – Robert Frost

“I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” – Rumi

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