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Embrace Feedback Like Harper Lee

Do you value constructive criticism?
Do you see feedback as a growth opportunity?

Luckily for us, Harper Lee did. With her passing this month, many poignant stories are being retold in the media. One that intrigued me was her positive take with constructive criticism.
When Harper Lee sold her first manuscript, Set a Watchman, the publisher thought it was disjointed and not fully developed. But it had potential. The publisher recommended to Lee to tell the story from the perspective of twenty years earlier, when Scout was a child.
At that moment in her life, Harper Lee could have believed that the publisher was incompetent and did not understand her vision as an artist. But instead, she listened and incorporated that new viewpoint into a new story. It took another two years of hard work, but it was well worth the wait. Harper Lee’s new manuscript, To Kill a Mockingbird, became an instant bestseller and a modern day masterpiece, and placed her onto the pinnacle of the greatest American writers.
Be honest. If you were in Lee’s shoes, would you have blown off the publisher and sought out a different person to publish your work?
Constructive Criticism is painful. It stings as it pierces your ego and makes you doubt your abilities. But what is painful, is essential to your growth.
In her groundbreaking book, Mindset, Carol Dweck speaks about the importance of possessing a growth mindset. Put simply, those individuals that see failure and mistakes as an opportunity for growth will be more successful in life. People with a growth mindset see criticism as positive fuel to achieve their potential. It is obvious now that Harper Lee had a growth mindset
Here are a few tips to develop a growth mindset and embrace criticism:
1) Become aware when you are being defensive. When you act and think defensively, you are protecting your ego. When this happens, you block any opportunity for growth.
2) Allow the criticism to settle. Instead of reacting to the criticism, allow it to settle and evaluate it when your emotions have cooled down. Look at this criticism with an objective eye without emotion.
3) Flip the switch. It is your choice to embrace the feedback or disregard it. Choose to develop a growth mindset, and you will be on way to reaching your potential.
By embracing her feedback, Harper Lee created a masterpiece and gave us a timeless piece of wisdom.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a professor of human performance at APSU. He is an inspirational and motivational speaker in Nashville Tennessee. He is the author of the Washington Post bestselling business book, “Full Throttle.” Steinberg speaks about emotional toughness to Fortune 500 companies. Visit and see his TED talk about super-resilience at

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About Gregg Steinberg

Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a performance psychology expert, best selling author, and inspirational keynote speaker on the various topics relating to individual and team performance. Google+ Profile Get in touch with Dr. Gregg

1 Awesome Comments So Far

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  1. Hazel Adams
    April 6, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    It is important to learn how to embrace feedback when you are a professional speaker. I have a friend who wants to do public speaking as his degree. I think that it will really work for him.

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