Thick skin = the key to creative greatness


Nearly a decade ago I brought some lyrics I had written to a friend.

She’s a wonderful songwriter whose work has always resonated with me.

It’s nice to have friends that you can also be fans of.

When I approached her I told her that I wanted her opinion.

What I was really looking for was for her to say  “amazing job Jim”.

What I got was something very different and yet a thousand times more valuable.

“Can I be honest with you?” she asked.

“Of course you can” I replied as my heart sank.

I was really thinking “please don’t”.

She went on to tell me she loved my lyrics but that I didn’t write melodies that ever made her want to listen.


You have felt ouches like that before.

How did you respond?

For most of us that’s when we become cry babies, throw tantrums and start to spin.

Some of us get so shut down from the slightest criticism that we become paralyzed.

She didn’t stop there.

“You need to slow down, think about how your melody supports the theme and consider how heavily your musical influences are influencing you.”

Easy to hear?

Nope, not even a little bit.

Was she correct, kind and courageous in service of my work?

Completely and utterly.

Did her suggestions work?


Your greatness will expand in direct proportion to the thickness of your skin.

You can be precious, protective and insecure…

You can be in search of perpetual pats on the back.

You can be insecure in a way that will forever keep you from getting good.

Not being able to get to good means having no shot at becoming great.

If you see yourself in any of this, here are a few items to consider.


  1.  Ask for what you really want.  If you are looking for critique ask for critique but if what you really want is encouragement then ask for encouragement.


  1.  Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are asking.  How many people can you imagine are asking them for advice in a typical week?  Can they do it better than you?  What is their schedule like? If they are a professional,  are you willing to pay for their time? Before you get upset about not getting a response or not getting the response you want, see your request through their eyes.


  1.  When it comes to your creative pursuits most of your friends and family will not usually be honest with you in the way you need them to be.


  1.   When it comes to your creative pursuits most of your friends and family will assure you that they are being honest.


  1. Remember, you are the artist.  In the end it is your name on the project.  Know when to stand your ground.  Part of having a thick skin is about humility but the other side of that coin is confidence.

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