Thick Skin Thin Skin

This week I’ve been listening to Tim Ferriss’s interview to Drew Houston and one of the interesting takeaways that I got from it was this idea that we should develop a thick skin AND a thin skin simultaneously.

Typically we hear about the importance of developing a thick skin in order to be able cope with external criticisms. This is particularly true for those in visible positions of leadership or notoriety (e.g. founders, politicians, artists, etc.) because these type of individuals face constant pressure from different stakeholders to conform to their personal agendas.

However, Drew mentioned that’s people (specifically founders) should also develop a thin skin. He argues that it’s important to develop a thick skin because you will get criticism but it’s also important to simultaneously listen to the criticism of those people and assess whether you should act on it or not. He argues that developing too much of a thick skin can lead you to ignore the outside world and that means that you don’t learn from others which can lead you to making even more mistakes.

Finding this balance is hard and from what I’ve experienced the only way to find it is to be vulnerable as you develop your “thick skin”. This is something that Drew didn’t address but I think is still important to talk about. Receiving criticism sucks. Period. If you learn from it that’s fantastic and in my case at least it makes me feel better. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that being told that your idea or product is bad (or worse that they don’t care) sucks.

Then again that’s perhaps the price people pay to do something truly innovative.