Lesson #339: Playing defense.


When I was given a lower grade than the rest,

I was caught off guard.

I sat down my laptop, and angrily and confusedly typed away in the “Make a Comment” section—which is completely unlike me.

“Was it one of the slides?” I asked. “Or maybe the joke I made?” I paused to think, and then typed some more. “Was it the games I incorporated into my part of the presentation? The directions told us to make it fun and engaging. I don’t quite understand if and why I’m being penalized for it.”

I was met with this response.

“Great job. I would have liked for you to focus on the content and not the performance on this assignment.”

He ended it with a smiley face.

I am all open to feedback and constructive criticism, but I just didn’t see this one coming.

I was absolutely upset—and quite honestly—a little bit hurt.

For one, it’s a summer class. Two, I worked hard on my part of the presentation, within the time frame I had. Three, I had this professor before, he knows what kind of student I am, and I did very, very well in his last class. Four…my “performance”? This hit a personal note for me.

I thought I was only being myself. Anyone who knows me knows that I am animated and energetic—and it’s not like I was a stranger to him. You can only imagine that this seriously made me question myself: how I act, how I come off to others, who I am as a person. It felt like a punch straight to the stomach.

I think it’s safe to say I was stumped, so I asked.

He answered, explaining his reasoning a tad bit more.

I was still upset, but I forced myself to step back, get out of my own head, and assess the situation realistically.

I asked to meet up with him and talk through it; I needed to understand. He is someone I value, respect, and trust—so it was important for me to do this. If what he was saying was true, I needed to know how I could do better and be better in the future.

I promised myself that I’d go into the conversation with an open mind, and I did. He told me he holds me to a high standard. He told me that compared to my last presentation, this one seemed a tad overdone; like a performance. I told him that while the purpose of my last presentation (a television episode pitch) was more professional and serious, I assumed this one (an informative group lecture on the entertainment industry during the 1910’s/20’s) was more entertaining and engaging. But I agreed with him. While I didn’t agree that the presentation was of the same caliber, I swallowed my pride and accepted that part of what he said had to be true: if the content didn’t come through clearly, at least to the guy who’s grading it, then I didn’t get the job done.

In the end, though, I realized that it didn’t matter if what he said about my “performance” was true or false: and that’s the answer I think I came into the conversation looking for. While I agreed with some things, others in my heart I knew not to be true. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be getting an answer—because only I could answer that for myself.

You have to be true to yourself, and only you can decide if you’re doing that or not.

You’ll know it in your gut when you aren’t.

Feedback is easy, when we ask for it.

But when we don’t, it’s easy to be on the defensive. In fact, it’s our natural reaction to most things when we feel caught off guard or personally attacked.

But what you can do, is take a second, open yourself up to feedback (as long as they are being constructive), be open to becoming better in whatever way you can, and be open to how you are coming off to others.

Playing defense is important; we have to protect what’s ours.

But today, I learned the best (and hardest) thing I’ve learned in a while.

You have to relax those muscles every once in a while in order to become a better player.

Day 339.


One thought on “Lesson #339: Playing defense.

  1. Pingback: Lesson #340: These are my confessions. | A Year of Lessons.

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