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A YEAR AGO: The Dangers and Rewards of Criticism, Part 3: The Ducks

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and does not accept criticism like a duck, then it’s a Duck.

A duck has several types of feathers, but the outermost layer is made up of “contour feathers”. These feathers effectively lock together and overlap one another, much like shingles on a roof. Wind and moisture have no chance of penetrating this outer layer, so water flows off it effortlessly. That’s why the phrase “like water off a duck’s back” has come to mean when a statement has absolutely no effect on someone. When it comes to the Ducks, they are impervious to critiques, but it is important to remember that not all criticism is negative.

Being a duck is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, there is great utility in being able to ignore the naysayers. Many people in this world tear others down without much constructive purpose. Continuing animal metaphors, these people are referred to as “crabs in a bucket”. That’s because fishermen long ago noticed a strange pattern of behaviour with this animal. When trapped in a bucket, crabs will not let other crabs escape. As soon as one crab nears the top, another crab will reach up, grab it, and pull it back down, thwarting its escape. As such, the crab-bucket mentality has come to mean when others hold others back for no other reason than to keep them nearby. It is a deeply selfish mentality. Others are less nefarious with their bad critiques. Simply put, many people are out there giving advice who have no business giving it at all. They feel compelled to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences with others. This internal compulsion is more about the person giving the advice than the person receiving it, and all too often, the advice is misguided or inapplicable. No matter the source of this feedback, and no matter the intentions behind it, Ducks are especially adept at ignoring it. Therefore, they can develop independently without the interference of those who would otherwise hold them back.

On the other hand, being able to wave off critiques means it is tough to develop. Without the help of others, these people end up marching to the beat of their own drum. If that beat goes against society’s tempo, these people can have immense trouble fitting in and learning from others. As aforementioned, not all criticism is negative; critiques can be positive as well. That’s what the phrase “constructive criticism” exists: to build up the person receiving it. Imagine how hard it must be to develop when you are left entirely to your own devices. Granted, no one is truly impervious to feedback; it would be extremely hard for them to fit into any society or business culture without adjusting themselves a little bit. But the Ducks are those among us who are exceptionally talented at ignoring the input of others. Whether or not this is an advantage depends entirely on the personality, EQ, and IQ of the person at hand. Some people can make it very far on their own. Others flounder much sooner. But one thing is for sure: without openness to constructive criticism, everyone eventually fails.

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The Dangers and Rewards of Criticism, Part 2: The Chewers