Great work doesn't happen alone: on requesting feedback

What do you really want? is a weekly conversation to help you figure out and articulate what you really want at work and in life.


Paul Graham publishes consistently insightful essays. One of my favorites is Makers Schedule vs Managers Schedule.

But it’s after the article that caught my eye this time. At the bottom of that article Paul writes:

Thanks to Sam Altman, Trevor Blackwell, Paul Buchheit, Jessica Livingston, and Robert Morris for reading drafts of this.

He reached out to 5 people to ask for feedback. 5 people!

And when you think about it, of course he did. This has become an oft-shared essay. Great thinkers don't only have great thoughts, they know who can help make them better.

Asking for feedback is critical for many parts of work:

  • Developers review code

  • Product Managers review problem statement, roadmaps, research, stories

  • Designers review product statements, sketches, mockups, and prototypes

  • Teachers, speakers, and comedians review new ideas and lessons with smaller initial audiences

  • Managers review strategy documents, pitch decks, and business plans

Whether you create documents, decks, speeches, lessons, sketches, or prototypes, reviewing with others makes your work better.

Complex problems of the future will be solved by teams, not just individuals. It’s important to know how to ask for feedback and have the humility to make meaningful changes. The quality of your work is directly impacted by your ability to request feedback, listen to critique, and figure out what to change.

One other benefit of seeking feedback is the fan base you build in. Those who help will want to see you succeed. They will be more likely to share your work and celebrate as you move forward.

Questions to consider about feedback:

  • How much work should you do before you request feedback?

  • Are you humble enough to be told your work isn’t great? (or as some say, your baby is ugly)

  • Who in your circle of work gives great feedback?

  • For a current problem you’re solving, who would be best to solicit for feedback?

  • How can you get better at using feedback in your work?


What have you been learning about? I ask this of my kids every dinner and love to hear from other avid learners.

Ryan