I recently came across the following quote: “People are too eager to say “This legendary person had flaws!” instead of, “Wow, this flawed human being managed to do something legendary.””
People are too eager to say "This legendary person had flaws!" instead of, "Wow, this flawed human being managed to do something legendary."
— Mishell Baker (@mishellbaker) April 15, 2015
At its surface, the quote points out that people are quicker to criticize than to praise. Rather than compliment someone for their accomplishments, most people prefer to highlight the person’s flaws.
However, I believe that we need to go one level deeper. It isn’t enough to simply claim that people are more willing to criticize than to praise. We need to understand why this is the case.
The answer also lies in the quote. As the second part of the quote shows, if we accept that human beings have flaws, then we’re able to focus on our achievements despite these flaws. However, if we believe that human beings are perfect, all we can see is those character traits and actions that show deviations from this perfection.
I believe that most people would agree that we aren’t perfect. We have shortcomings because of our humanity as well as shortcomings unique to our individual character. Although we each know this to be true at an individual level, when individuals come together as a group it becomes much more difficult to point out personal as well as group level flaws. This is because the social pressure within groups penalizes deviations from and rewards the appearance of the group’s view of perfection. And this incorrectly influences our view of what it means to be human.
Once we let go of our need to be perfect, an artificial construct imposed by group think that we personally know to not be true, we benefit in two ways.
First, we become much more tolerant of others’ shortcomings. We look to appreciate their strengths rather than condemn their weaknesses. In the context of startups, this can be very valuable for hiring decisions. I’m a strong believer that you should hire for strength, not lack of weakness.
Second, we come to terms with our own flaws. We accept what we’re not good at and find people to complement these weaknesses. We also recognize what we’re good at and where, if we work hard, we can be the best at. Only then can we do something legendary.