The Criticism Waterfall

Common wisdom before acting is to listen to everyone, to gather feedback, and take it all in since all voices matter. There’s only one real problem with this.

Nothing you do will be enough to silence every critic. 

The Criticism Waterfall is when the same group of people or different groups continue to lob critiques of who you are and how you go about your business no matter what incremental improvements you make.

I’ll give two examples.

#1: Driveline Baseball and our training methodologies.

  • Weighted baseball training does not increase throwing velocity.
    • We published data showing it did.
  • Weighted baseball training does not increase pitching velocity.
    • We published data showing it did, and professional pitchers showed it off.
  • Weighted baseball training is not in use at the MLB or NCAA D1 level.
    • Oregon State (NCAA D1 College World Series Champions) and multiple MLB teams use our equipment and programming.
  • Weighted baseball training is inherently injurious.
    • There is no evidence that this is true, and recent studies on reasonable weighted baseball programs lend no more support.
  • Weighted baseball training causes a major loss in command because people throw them not giving a shit where they go.
    • Multiple professional pitchers that train at Driveline Baseball massively decreased their walk rates and increased their strike-throwing capabilities, all documented on Fangraphs or other impartial sites.
  • Driveline Baseball does not publish real science.
    • We published two peer-reviewed journals with fully open data.

And on, and on, and on. It simply doesn’t matter what you do, there will always be detractors.

Another example.

#2: Trevor Bauer’s MLB Career, circa 2013

  • Trevor Bauer [TB] is uncoachable.
    • I have never found this to be true. He is challenging and does not accept dogma, but he is not uncoachable.
  • TB does not throw strikes.
    • He has cut his walk rate and seriously increased his “strikeout minus walk” ratio over the last 3 years.
  • TB does not throw hard anymore (in 2013 he was sitting 88-93).
    • In 2014, Trevor touched 99+ MPH.
  • TB lacks an out pitch and cannot rely on his curveball.
    • Trevor developed a slider that became one of the league’s very best over years of tinkering and experimenting using advanced technology and sheer will.
  • TB is nothing more than a league-average pitcher.
    • Trevor was on pace to win the AL Cy Young in 2018 before having his leg shattered by a comebacker. He managed to post a 2.21 ERA anyway with a 6+ fWAR, one of the very best in all of baseball.

It simply doesn’t matter what you accomplish.

So, what can you do about it?

Educated people say things like:

  • Gather all the information and reject what is bad, absorb what is good.
  • Come up with a trusted system of third parties and listen to them.
  • Develop a thicker skin.

The issue is that all of that takes time, effort, and resources. All which are better spent on work, rather than confusing yourself.

I suggest you do what many of the greatest thinkers do, which is to develop strategies and theories based around First Principles and to ignore 99% of criticism and feedback. When you can design a system and see your goals based from the ground up, you know what it should look like and the path you must take to get there.

Example: Elon Musk likes this strategy for helping to design and develop propulsion for SpaceX. What do we really know about the physics of this world? What will it take to escape gravity? How do we do it now? Why do we do it that way? What steps can be optimized given advances in technology and knowledge? Etc, etc.

You ask questions over and over, questions to yourself that you must be exhaustively analytical about, brutally honest on, and think deeply while documenting it somewhere.

And once you have truly tested yourself and analyzed things from the ground up, you have a path to start. Alone. [0]

From there, it’s pretty simple. Perhaps Richard Feynman’s best and most applicable formula was designed to put this kind of thinking into action once you have passed the First Principles stage:

  1. Define the problem. (We have done this through First Principles thinking.)
  2. Think very hard about the problem.
  3. Write the solution down.

Richard wasn’t joking when he said this. If you take it to heart, you might realize the inherent power in the simple three steps he outlines.

Ultimate confidence comes from knowing you are right because you are your worst opponent when you need to be. Listening to people who will never amount to anything and will die nameless is a waste of your time, and only serves to seed doubt in your mind.

Be convicted in your decisions. Act with confidence. This cannot come from taking advice from others who have no skin in the game. It can only come from within.

[0]: This is not to say that having a partner is bad. Almost all good entrepreneurs agree you need one to call bullshit and to help you. But you do not need crowd-sourced ideas. Most of the time, your mom doesn’t have anything to help you with your business idea unless you are having a crisis of character. In which case, talk to your mom. Most other times, though, just know what you need to do. And when you need to know something, unreliable narrators (people) generally only serve to confuse you.

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