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Why The Best Students Seek Out Good Friction

Antonio Neves

If you’re striving to make progress on anything meaningful in your life, what you need most is something we all tend to avoid. Good friction. 

What is good friction, exactly? It’s another way to describe getting real, constructive feedback that asks the tough questions, helps us find our footing so we can get traction, and pushes us to be a little better in our work and everyday lives.

The rub is that even for the most confident among us, finding and dealing with good friction can be challenging. How do you get pushed just hard enough outside your comfort zone without being knocked flat on your back from fear of failure?

Think of the last time someone gave you feedback, solicited or not, on something you worked hard on or care about deeply. Whether the feedback came from a professor, advisor or from a long-trusted friend, if you’re like most of us, chances are, you first heard the feedback as criticism. Maybe you even got defensive and thought, “What do they know anyway? … Idiot.”

If that sounds familiar, don’t be too hard on yourself. This response is perfectly normal. Sharing our work with others — whether it be a blog post, a class project we busted our butt on, that piece of jewelry you made at your kitchen table, or that screenplay you’ve been toiling away at for years — is inherently vulnerable. Even if we know the feedback will help us, all that ‘red ink’ on our work can be hard to digest sometimes.

But getting real, tough feedback doesn’t have to cut like a knife. How can you learn to be, well, more open to learning? Because what we miss when we get defensive to feedback is an opportunity to learn, get curious, and improve work that’s important and meaningful to you.

Next time you find yourself getting constructive criticism, remind yourself of these important lessons:

  1. Getting feedback is the opportunity is to ask ourselves:

How will this good friction make my project better and push me farther than I’ve ever gotten before?

The simple act of asking this question opens us up to true growth and development, even if what we hear isn’t always easy to digest.

  1. The best don’t avoid good friction. Instead, they seek it out.

If you have the opportunity to get constructive criticism from a trusted source, say “yes.”

  1. Growth comes from friction.

You want to build stronger muscles? Lifting heavy weights actually causes microscopic tears to your muscles. As your body rebuilds the muscles, they grow back bigger and stronger.

Want to start a fire without a match or lighter? You vigorously rub two sticks together until there’s a spark.

Your car is stuck in the snow with the tires spinning? Put sand or salt under the tire to cause enough friction to propel yourself forward.

Remember, diamonds were formed from the friction of millions of years of pressure.

 

In all that you do, I encourage you to seek more, not less, good friction.

 

Create a good friction mechanism for all the projects that matter most to you. Identify peers and allies in your network who have the expertise and/or experience in your area. Then ask them for their feedback on your latest work — and be open to repaying the favor. Because the better you are at providing good friction, the more open you’ll be to receiving it, too.

 

Remember:

– Good friction is your friend. It makes you feel uncomfortable because you’re growing.

– You get to choose if you’re going to accept or dismiss the good friction that you receive, whether it’s solicited or not.

– You get to choose who provides you with good friction.

And last but not least: Big breakthroughs can only happen when we stop cloistering the projects that matter to us most and open them up to good friction.

 

Learn more about speaker Antonio Neves at campuspeak.com/neves.