Feedback on Feedback
Is Feedback Reassurance?
It was a warm Autumn evening and I had promised my kids that they could go for one of their last swims in the pool before we close it down for the season. The kids dressed themselves in their bathing suits and were ready to splash in except for some reason 70 degrees in Fall seems to be colder than 70 degrees in the Summer. Is it just me who feels that way?
With their sullen faces full of disappointment, the kids started looking for other outlets to not let their bathing suits go to waste. They found water balloons in one of the drawers I had prepared for them during the summer. That drawer has not shifted to Fall activities yet. (Note to self: Autumnize my house)
Since it was Friday evening, I decided to entertain the kids’ thought of playing with water balloons, but we had to do it responsibly. The water balloons come in a bunch with an attachment that hooks to an outside hose for easy filling up of water. I decided to fill the balloons up with warm water, so the kids won’t feel cold. It wasn’t going to happen with the outside hose, so we went inside the house with a bucket and water balloons ready to be filled up.
Apparently, the kitchen faucet attachment did not fit on the nozzle for the balloons. Taking off the attachment, I was able to fit the nozzle to the kitchen tap, but it wasn’t a perfect fit. With the hot water on, I cupped the nozzle to the faucet and held on. Water splashed everywhere yet I was determined to make it work. Another issue I faced was the difference in the pressure of water was considerably less than the outdoor hose water. Where the balloons only took a mere five seconds to fill up, it was taking a long time for the balloons to fill up inside the house.
“Mom, make the water go all the way. Put more pressure on it.” Rihab instructed as she bit her nails.
“You made a mess. Why aren’t you holding on tight?” Rania flailed her arms up in the air.
“Why aren’t they filling up faster?” Haya jumped up and down.
The incessant interruptions coupled with the hot water dripping down my hands inspired me to shout, “Stop with your feedback. I don’t need it right now.”
“What’s feedback?” They all asked with curiosity.
A long pause followed as I was trying to find the proper words to define feedback to the under 10 crowd.
“You are telling me what to do and you don’t even know what it’s like to fill these balloons,” I answered unsure if they understood.
Just about ready to give up and my hands heating up, I decided to lower the temperature of the water and tightened my grip around where the nozzle and tap met.
My mind couldn’t help but wander to the numerous conversations I’ve had about feedback in Seth Godin’s Creative’s Workshop. I’ve learned that the best feedback comes from a person who is in the arena with you. Bystanders like family members who are not in the field may be biased. Feedback from them is usually not helpful.
“Can you do it a little faster? It’s taking a long time.” Rihab asked after a few seconds.
“You know what I need at this point? Encouragement.” I declared as I shook my head.
Is this what Seth Godin refers to as reassurance? He states in his book, The Practice, “Reassurance is futile.” My cheeks were on fire as this thought crossed my mind. Do I seek reassurance in the creative work that I put out? (Not a good look for a Creative’s Workshop Coach)
Seth says in The Practice, “There’s never enough reassurance to make up for a lack of commitment to the practice. We have no choice other than to trust ourselves enough to lead the way. Reassurance is simply a short-term effort to feel good about the likely outcome. Reassurance amplifies attachment. It shifts our focus from how we persistently and generously pursue the practice to how we maneuver to make sure that we’re successful.” (The Practice, page 61)
This truth makes me want to run and jump in my cold pool on a chilly Autumn evening. Embarking on uncharted territory with a new creative endeavor means that we are willing to own that it might not work. The book might not become a bestseller. The music might flop. The painting might not be appreciated. This calls for embracing uncertainties. The water balloons might not be filled with warm water through a kitchen faucet.
Maybe I was seeking a glimmer of hope when I meant encouragement. Seth continues, “Hope is not the same as reassurance. Hope is trusting yourself to have a shot to make things better. But we can hope without reassurance. We can hope at the same time that we accept that what we’re working on right now might not work.” (The Practice, page 62)
Eventually, my hands ached and only six out of the thirty balloons were filled.
“Mom, we’ll be OK. Just fill it with the water from outside,” Rihab said.
At this point, I realized that these kids are my audience and why wouldn’t I give my audience what they asked for? Eager to serve my audience, I carried the bucket outside and filled the water balloons in a matter of five seconds. The kids enjoyed their last water balloon fight of the season while I read a few pages from The Practice. I got another iteration of what effective feedback means. It’s definitely not reassurance, which is an external seeking of validation. Hope, on the other hand, is internally generated. Someone might inspire hope in us, but our agency plays an important role in harboring hope.
The feedback itself is a practice; The more I give it and get it, the more I learn about how to receive it and present it. If you receive feedback in the form of a playful water balloon on your face, be kind and generous enough to give it back!