Direct and Indirect Feedback | Foundation 2 – Lesson 5

Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.

Here are some questions for you to consider: (1) Why is it so easy to hold ourselves accountable to certain goals but not to others? (2) How come sometimes when we find ourselves in a new situation, it’s easy to figure out what to do, while other times it’s difficult?

During a job search, these questions are not just interesting, they’re critical. Figuring out the answers to these questions can be the difference between working and asking Dad to help with the rent!

The answers to these questions have a lot to do with the amount and the type of *feedback* we get while trying to achieve a given goal. (Remember objectives from the other day? And how good objectives provide progress feedback?) Situations in which we can discern clear and quick feedback are the ones in which we typically excel.

Notice, I didn’t say, “situations that provide clear feedback.” It’s not up to the situation to provide the feedback. It’s up to us to find it. Now sometimes we get lucky, and someone pulls us aside with a comment like, “OK, see, that right there is what I’m talking about. Let me give you some feedback…” But that’s rare.

Usually, feedback falls into one of two other categories: (1) feedback that is indirect and ambiguous, and (2) feedback that seems clear but turns out not to be. Ambiguous feedback is easy to spot. The breakup line, “It’s not you, it’s me,” is a classic example: is it *really* you? Or are you trying to let me down easy? I can’t tell!

But sometimes, feedback seems clear, and it’s not until you try to act on it (and subsequently run into roadblocks) that you realize maybe the feedback you got was bad. An example would be the following conversation:

You: “Are you coming over?”
Friend: “I’m at Michael’s, so… how’s seven?”
You: “Seven’s good.”
Friend: “Cool. I’ll see you at seven.”

You end the conversation expecting the friend to come over at seven. Your friend didn’t say it, but it was clearly implied by the pause after “I’m at Michael’s,” right? Obviously, the friend was calculating the time it would take to get from Michael’s to your place. Right?


Of course that’s right. Not until you call your friend at 7:15 and the person is *still* at Michael’s, waiting for you, do you discover the ambiguity. And usually, at that point, you blame the other party for being an idiot and causing you aggravation.

But in your job search, there is no space for blame. It’s irrelevant. You have to take ownership over everything, because it’s *your* job.

So to help make sure you are reading feedback correctly, here are 3 points to keep in mind when trying to read a situation.


  • Don’t fall in love with your own ideas. Getting too attached to what you want can blind you to feedback that tries to indicate what “is.” When Marie Antoinette fell in love with her idea that the peasants had enough to eat if they just got more creative with their use of bread crusts, she failed to interpret the feedback she was seeing outside Versailles, and she lost her head as a result. The consequences for you might not be quite as extreme, but don’t lose your head.
  • Get curious. How do you not fall in love with your idea? Ask “What if?” “Why?” “How come?” and other, similar questions. I know it was a good idea, and part of you still loves it. But you know what? Good ideas are a dime a dozen. Get over it. There is a word often used for a person who can emotionally detach from an idea and guide a group through a critical conversation about it. The word is “leader.”
  • Treat the process of figuring out feedback as a game. It’s always there. You just need to look. When I wrote How to Self-Destruct, I got very good at distinguishing, “I loved it!!” from “Huh? Oh, I loved it.” But I wasn’t good at first. It took time. I had to separate myself from the book, get curious about others’ opinions, and then play the game of trying to get them to open up. It took some practice.
  • “No big deal.” You can’t win the game without a scoreboard, so get over your fear of it. Feedback stings, no doubt about it. But perpetually stinking stings worse. Afraid or not, go find out where you stand. Then you can move forward, because you’ll know what direction “forward” is! In HtSD, I talk at one point about my daughter, who loves the phrase, “no big deal.” Her philosophy: the first time I try something, I’m probably going to be quite bad at it!

Feedback is an integral part of so many things that we do: speedometers, thermostats, scoreboards, exams, hugs, smiles, second dates… all provide feedback to let us know how we’re doing. Without feedback, stress levels grow, as we complain about “throwing darts in the dark,” “grasping at straws,” or “flying blind.” Without clear feedback, we fail and then blame others. We lose control over our problems.

On the other hand, remaining open to feedback—whatever its form—will keep you in control. It will allow you to make critical adjustments in what you are doing and experience Quality Events at will.

It will help you succeed at whatever you are doing.


You probably could have guessed it. The homework for this lesson is to track Quality Events as they happen with regard to the direct and indirect feedback that you get through those events. Don’t forget to take the same approach to looking at Quality Events that you may have missed out on.

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3 responses to “Direct and Indirect Feedback | Foundation 2 – Lesson 5”

  1. annamonster says:

    Writing down quality events actually makes me feel more positive. Writing one down, even though they are small events, feels like checking an item off a list. It feels like a little accomplishment.

    Don’t fall in love with your own ideas. Getting too attached to what you want can blind you to feedback that tries to indicate what “is.”

    This point reminds me of something that was brought up in my art classes. To be a successful artist we must learn to ‘let go’ of our artwork and allow it to be judged. When others are viewing our work we will not be there to explain it; it must be able to ‘speak for itself.’

    Is this similar to sending out a cover letter and resume and perhaps a portfolio that has a lot of time invested in it to a prospective employer? Should our resume explain who we are to an employer?

  2. samanthabrie says:

    This assignment is the most challenging so far. I’m going to make sure to have a notepad on me at all times so I can write down quality events as they happen and analyze my notes to uncover the feedback I’m getting. It will also be beneficial to return to the job search outline I made earlier, as it provides ample opportunities for feedback.

  3. Joanne Giarrusso says:

    I am not sure if I understood this lesson but I think I do. I get all hung up on the “big” picture, and say things like “well I will be going to grad school at night because …”
    Also, I put more effort into fantascizing about the job than acing the interview.

    Is this all because I think interviews are a waste of time?

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