when i was a senior in high school, i wrote an e-mail to my school’s marching band director telling him all about how i thought our show for that year sucked and how i thought we should improve on it. (for the record: yes, i just admitted to being in the marching band. yes, i admitted to caring enough to send an e-mail. no, i’m not embarrassed by that.) in the e-mail i wrote about how we were doing things that were boring, how if he would listen to me we would be doing better, and how, in essence, i thought i knew better than he did.

i was 16.

i was cocky.

i was a jerk.

the day after he received my e-mail, he pulled me out of the lobby before school started, took me to his office, ripped me a new one and threatened to kick me out of the band. in all honesty, i probably deserved to be kicked out. luckily though, he didn’t do it and cooler heads prevailed. it wasn’t the last argument we would have but it was one we got past.

being creative and having ideas is something that is a bit of a catch-22. on the one hand, you’re able to come up with things that are occasionally really cool and people really connect with. on the other hand, it’s really easy to become critical of others and to look at their ideas in a negative light because they’re different than what you would’ve done.

when i sent the e-mail to my band director, i didn’t do it because i was motivated to make the show better. i did it because i was angry that i wasn’t allowed to try out for drum major the year before and i thought the two drum majors were doing a terrible job. (i’m learning this may be the nerdiest post i’ve ever written.) i wrote it because i thought i knew better. i thought i deserved to be heard. instead of being supportive and offering up ideas, i was negative and criticized the ideas already there.

it’s one thing to speak up to help.

it’s another to shout and tear down.

i don’t think my director was mad at me because of the actual ideas i suggested. in fact, we ended up using a few of my ideas and the show was better for it. one of the ideas even led to the best moment of our entire season. my director was mad at me because i came across as an arrogant jerk who knew better than everyone else.

i’ve sat for ten minutes staring at my computer screen trying to figure out where this post was supposed to go from this point. i wrote out a few paragraphs that were terrible and didn’t make sense. i contemplated deleting the entire thing and starting over.

in the end, i think that the important thing to know is that the process is more important than the result.

it didn’t matter that my ideas for our marching band show were good. from the moment i hit send on that e-mail, my relationship with my band director was never the same. we had spent over three years working together. he had taught me more than i could’ve ever known on my own. we even played the same instrument. on some level, our relationship was almost more of a mentorship than a typical teacher/student relationship.

with one e-mail, i ruined it.

good ideas with bad intentions can be poison.

we have to be careful with how we critique others. in the wrong tone or with the wrong intentions, critique quickly becomes criticism. criticism becomes personal jabs. personal jabs becomes mean insults. before we know it, we’ve taken something that could’ve been positive, uplifting, and reinforcing and made it into something completely different.

do you critique your spouse or do you criticize them?

do you critique your boss or do you criticize him?

do you critique yourself or do you criticize yourself?

the end result is totally dependent on the process.

it’s up to you to determine what that process will be.

say your prayers and take your vitamins.

have a nice day.