When to Ignore and Pay Attention to both Criticism and Praise – Shifting to the Innovator’s Mindset, Part 3

Last week, I posted the second part of this series on Shifting to the Innovator’s Mindset” and discussed how we deal with obstacles in a way to get better.

The focus of that post was going beyond going through something and learning to grow through adversity.

Today, I wanted to share the third part of the series based on the image from “Innovate Inside the Box,” which is a build-on from the table shared in the book “The Growth Mindset Coach” by Annie Brock and Heather Hundley.



For the next five weeks (this is week 3), I will write a blog post and share a podcast with insights on each “situation” and what it looks like when we move from a Growth Mindset to an Innovator’s Mindset.  Moving from a growth mindset to an Innovator’s Mindset is going beyond “knowing” and shifting to what we can do with what we know.

Today’s focus is on criticism (and a bit on praise as well!) and how we use it to our advantage instead of ignoring it and staying in the same place we are currently.

After recording the podcast, I am writing each of these blog posts, so the ideas shared in each will be similar but with some differences. 🙂

Here is a link to the podcast you can listen to on Spotify, Soundcloud, or Apple Podcasts or watch on YouTube




When to Ignore and Pay Attention to both Criticism and Praise


When I shared the idea of criticism in the table above, I stated the following:



“Criticism provides important feedback which creates the
o implement new and better ideas for learning from others.”



I bolded and highlighted the word “opportunity” above because not all criticism, even when it comes from a good place, needs to be acted upon.

Here is an example…

Have you ever received criticism from someone very close to you when deciding to move toward a particular choice or action and ignored it to go with your gut, and you ended up being right?

I know I have.

Often, when people provide criticism while moving in a new direction, they are concerned that you will fail in your pursuits and don’t want to see you hurt. 

I can honestly say that there are times when I have ignored that type of criticism, and I have also been ignored in providing it to people I love. The person that comes to my mind first is my daughter, Kallea. My nervousness about seeing her hurt or getting upset with failure sometimes inhibits my advice, not from a place of hate or indifference but a place of love. We want those closest to us to not deal with pain, but only through the risk of being hurt and rejected do people ever achieve great things or greatness as a whole.

Sometimes, the criticism we need to ignore most comes from the people who care about us in the deepest of ways.

Hard to do, but sometimes necessary if we want to grow.

On the other hand, the criticism we sometimes need to pay the most attention to is from the people who have no stake in our lives. They offer it not because they want to see you fail or even succeed but because they see something you might have missed and want to share their experience.

I love this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote:



Not all criticism is valid, nor is it necessarily illegitimate. 

But check out the above sentence with a one-word difference.

Not all praise is valid, nor is it necessarily illegitimate. 

If we can pay attention to or ignore criticism, the same should be true of praise.

Sometimes, when speaking to a group, I can have a fantastic reception to my message and delivery. Still, I have learned not to get caught up in the criticism or applause of others but to pay the most attention to my own self-expectations. 

If the highest expectations set upon you are your own, you are more likely to be successful.

I have also learned (and am still learning) not to let the voice of others become the voice in my head.

When Katie Novak and I wrote the book, “Innovate Inside the Box,” the reception to it overall was great, but I was also very proud of the finished product. I didn’t think it was perfect by any stretch, but I really liked how it eventually turned out. Through the editing process, I reached out to people I trusted to give me honest feedback and asked them to rip apart anything they struggled with in my writing. My philosophy is that I would rather get the criticism of the book before it is published than after. This has been the same mentality I have shared with the authors we have published with the IMPress label.

Some of the criticism received led to immediate revisions, and honestly, some of it was ignored. It was important to me to write what I believed and cared about and not shift to any one person’s hopes for our book. If someone is passionate that I write about their area of interest, I think they should write that book, not me. I don’t say things because someone wants me to; I share things I know and am passionate about. 

We often hear educators say, “We want students to share their voice.” Sometimes, what is meant by that statement (often unintentionally, but it is still there) is that we want students to share what we are passionate about through their voices. If we are passionate about student voice, we must be comfortable when students share things we don’t necessarily agree with. It still doesn’t mean that we agree, but that students are empowered to share their thinking in a way that matters to them, not us.

But one criticism that I received of the book was the following four-word statement that has bugged me since it was delivered; “More Katie, less George.”

That was it.

A couple of things about this comment.

One of the reasons Katie and I wrote together was specifically because we had different writing styles, ideas, and types of delivery. My writing would resonate with some more than others, and Katie’s would do the same. And vice-versa. I knew that coming in, and it was the point of writing the book together. 

But what would delivering that type of comment do in the future? Get me not to write again? Was that the point?

Now, if you said, “In the parts where George wrote, I struggled with…” that could be some actionable feedback that could help me grow.

Yet some criticism is delivered not to lift others but to crush them totally.

Or, some comments are delivered harshly, not because of the person they are offering it to, but the person who is making the delivery. When I see comments and things like that, I often think (I am getting better at this), “This is probably just a moment that someone is going through, and it has more to do with them than me.” Maybe this is not the best mentality, but I would rather give the benefit of the doubt to someone and be right than think the worst of someone and be wrong.

Unfortunately, I am stubborn and have been the lead author of two books since I wrote “Innovate Inside the Box” with a third book currently in the works.

In a post I wrote years ago, titled “3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Challenging Others,” I wrote the following and still believe it to this day:



“These are some things I think about when I want to challenge the thinking of someone online as well as in person:

  1. Do I have any connection to this person besides this initial interaction, and do they know their contributions are valued?
  2. Do I ever connect with this person to say something positive, or do I only share feedback with others (or specific people) when it is negative?
  3. Am I open to being challenged and critiqued in the same manner in which I am ready to deliver?

The above three questions are ONLY valid if the answers are genuine and authentic. For example, throwing in an arbitrary and inauthentic compliment with the sole focus of delivering criticism but to “soften the blow” probably won’t lead to growth in the person or the idea.

I focus on relationships so often in my work not because I am only focused on the positive but because I know that if you build the relationship, how challenge and criticism are perceived is more likely to aid in the development of others.  Yes, you can learn from people you don’t have a positive relationship with, but I feel that growth is extremely limited.”


When dealing with criticism (or praise) from others, we can use it to grow and get better.

Or we can ignore it and get better because, ultimately, we have a different vision of where we want to go than they might understand at the moment.

Learning is messy, and at the end of the day, I have to stand by my work and decisions.

Either way, the focus is on how we use these moments to be better tomorrow than we are today. 

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