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Mind Your Business: The Truth Hurts

Mark Simon discusses the importance of constructive criticism.



Moms, you're not going to like this. We love you, but you're not good for us.

Let me explain: Moms who coddle us and make us feel good about anything we do, even if it sucks, are not good for us. In fact, anyone who is a people-pleaser is not good for someone looking for honest feedback in order to improve.

While honest feedback can sometimes hurt, the real pain comes from, however well-meaning, misplaced praise which usually leads to lost opportunities and a waste of tens of thousands of dollars.

The only way to improve is to be told when something is not good. In the case of a poorly produced concept and someone tells you, "Oh, that's great honey. You are so talented," it may feel great but it won't help you.

I remember the art teachers who coddled me and made me feel great for the moment, but I'm forever appreciative and better off because of those who kicked my ass and pushed me to be a better artist.

I review the portfolios and TV concepts of a lot of creative people. When I review TV concepts in what we call one on one breakthrough sessions (consult), clients are paying for my time and my expertise. They deserve my honesty, even if it stings.

I had a consult yesterday with a client I'll call Mr. M. (I have changed his name to protect the bleeding). He asked me to review his TV series concept. I don't need to get into all the details here, but let's just say his concept lacked defined characters, plots, relationships, designs and proper pitch materials. In other words, he didn't have anything resembling a show.

I did not hold back in any of my comments or suggestions. At one point he asked me a question, "Mark, do you study martial arts?" I answered "yes" and wondered why he asked. "Because you're fearless in your comments and you hit me right in the solar plexus."

Wasted Money

Mr. M. was smart enough to get professional advice on his project before he wasted tens of thousands on a pilot, pitch package and trips to pitch his show.

We've had a number of creators come to us after they had already spent everything they had on a concept that wasn't ready and ended up with an empty bank account and a project they can't show to anyone.

I've also seen far too many people who pitch projects that weren't ready. Besides being a waste of time and money, you seldom get a second chance at a network if your project is ill-prepared and your pitch is poor. A poor pitch closes future doors.

You know those friends and family members of yours who don't really care what you think of them and will be brutally honest with you? (You know, the ones you sometimes call an asshole.) Those are the people you want to review your work if you truly want honest feedback to get better and succeed.

Mark Simon's Tae Kwon Do National medals.

Praise Hurts

What? You think constant praise is better than honest commentary? Really? Let's look at an example. Do you ever watch American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance? I do and some of my favorite episodes are the auditions.

You always see a bunch of star wannabes accompanied by their family who drone on and on about how incredible their little Bobby or Bobbi are. Then we hear them sing and they sound like some stray cat stuck in your car engine. Or we watch them stumble through a dance routine that more resembles an epileptic fit. (Anyone remember the untalented reality contestant named Sex and his delusional mother who thought he was incredible?)

Unearned and misplaced praise didn't help these contestants. In fact, it often kept people from hearing and listening to the truth offered by the judges. We viewers at home laugh our collective asses off at how delusional many of the contestants are, yet many of us are just as misguided about our own concepts.

Even the best contestants can get better, and often achieve amazing success, when they listen to the advice of the seasoned experts.

If you want praise regardless of the quality of your concepts, I'm not your man. Go talk to your momma. But if you want an honest review that will make your concept better and help you pitch like a pro, give us a call.

Mr. M. said it best when we sent me an email after our blood-letting (project review consult), "Your honesty, again, is greatly appreciated [although sometimes the truth hurts]."

Mr. M. had a great attitude and his project will be much better because of it in the long run.

Mark Simon is the co-founder of Download his FREE REPORT on the seven biggest show-pitch mistakes at He is a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is the current (and 3-time) Tae Kwon Do National Champion.