The Way I See It: Accept constructive feedback and failure with strength and grace

How do you react to failure? Most of us feel embarrassed and defeated. It knocks the wind out of us and makes us want to hide away from the world for a while.

I’ve found that this reaction is going to occur regardless of your mindset. However, I’ve also found that my role models always do two things: 1) admit to this disappointment wholeheartedly without becoming overly emotional, and 2) seek out similar uncomfortable opportunities to strengthen their weak muscles. Experts in their fields recognize that mastery is a dynamic rather than static process. This becomes especially important when a field (like medicine) is constantly evolving.

Jackie Olive

Jackie Olive

Fewer people, however, like to hear about their weaknesses from another person. Over the years, I have come to accept that listening to criticisms — even those that are constructive — can be very challenging and necessitates pride-swallowing. However, it’s easier to be patient and eager to adapt to feedback when you place the comments you receive in the context of a greater pursuit, such as becoming a better physician so you can better care for your patients, regardless of the other person’s intention for giving you criticisms.

In 2015, John and Ann Doerr made an extremely generous donation to Rice to found the Doerr Institute for New Leaders. What an incredible opportunity to receive the same training that CEOs of Fortune 500 companies receive!

My coaching experience officially began last month. While I have only one semester left at Rice, it is a privilege to take advantage of this course before crossing Main Street for the next chapter in my education. My professional coach and I reviewed my emotional intelligence assessment and openly discussed areas in which I may improve and established tangible goals — all just by talking! I entered my first session with an open mind, sat through the session with occasional laughter about my idiosyncrasies that we discussed and left the session motivated to tackle the tangibles within the next couple of days. It was cathartic without any venting, and productive without any embarrassment. Why don’t more people do this sort of thing?!

Harvard professor, surgeon and writer Atul Gawande discusses how coaching should more readily be exercised in surgical training and even throughout a career in surgery in a 2011 article in The New Yorker. (I told my coach to read this article so he could understand my future career field better.)

Gawande wrote, “Expertise is thought to be not a static condition but one that doctors must build and sustain for themselves.” I think this is especially true when patients’ lives must always be of utmost concern.

Here’s another of his quotes that was meaningful to me: “For society, too, there are uncomfortable difficulties: We may not be ready to accept — or pay for — a cadre of people who identify the flaws in the professionals upon whom we rely, and yet hold in confidence what they see. Coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance.”

I really encourage everyone to dig deeper for their inner humility, look to others for advice and accept comments with strength and grace. Although having a professional coach this semester is a fantastic opportunity to work with someone who has a lot of experience in corporate leadership and mentoring, it’s important that I practice what I’ve learned when I’m with my fellow students and colleagues.

Jacqueline Olive is a Duncan College senior majoring in biological sciences and policy studies.

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.