Critics and creators

October 30th, 2015

In life, you can either be a creator or a critic.

Being a critic is easier. Most people are critics.

It starts in elementary school, with what researchers have named the “fourth grade slump.” Since being a creator is vulnerable — it exposes you to the opinions of others — most young people choose to protect themselves. They see the pain of taking an arrow for making something new, so they decide to be an archer instead.

People rarely mock you for taking a shot at something. Often, if you hit the target well, they even applaud you, because they are lined up on the same firing range, and they admire your cynical accuracy. There is camaraderie in criticism, and approval, and comfort.

And sometimes, critics are even right. There’s always something less than perfect about the creation. But critics are not really helpful, and comfort is the enemy.

The creator usually already knows about the imperfection anyway. The creator is the one in the arena, bloody and sweating, doing the work that builds society. Crafts beauty. Finds truth. Pours into others.

Just as anybody can be a critic, anybody can be a creator. Critics say no. Creators say yes. Good educators don’t just correct, they share wisdom. Good consultants don’t just point out problems, they offer solutions. Good leaders don’t just demand excellence, they grow great cultures.

And in case you’re worried about comfort or approval, find comfort in knowing that the future usually doesn’t remember the names of the critics. They remember the names of those who create. It’s the creators who change the world.

I’d rather be a creator than a critic.

Len Wilson is the author of Think Like a 5 Year Old: Reclaim Your Wonder & Create Great Things from Abingdon Press. He blogs at

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