Use Feedback to Your Advantage

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Principle #19 in Jack Canfield’s book “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” is “Use Feedback to Your Advantage.”

Have you ever driven down a straight road without making any adjustments in your driving? Probably not. Instead, if you’re like most of us, you are constantly receiving feedback and making adjustments in your driving to ensure you stay in your lane.

You’re monitoring the lines and as you get close to one, you adjust. You’re monitoring other cars and if any of them starts to drift into your lane, you adjust. If you drift into someone else’s lane, you might hear a horn and get back on track. All of this is feedback.

Can you imagine ignoring this feedback? For example, if you drift onto the rumble strip on a highway, you’ll hear the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. What happens if you ignore it? In no time, you’ll be on the shoulder, in the grass, or maybe even peeling away the guardrail until you eventually stop.

Feedback from rumble strip

Positive Feedback and Constructive Feedback

Some people think of feedback as only positive or negative. I prefer to think of it as positive or constructive.

As an example, I hear from readers almost every day telling me that they’ve passed an exam using one of my books or online resources. Obviously, this is positive feedback (and I love hearing from these people).

Occasionally, I hear from someone letting me know of a typo or an error in a book, blog post, or an online resource. This is valuable feedback to me (even if it sometimes difficult to read or hear). However, when I listen to the feedback, I can often implement it and use it to improve the learning experience for others.

That said, I’m grateful for the feedback I receive – both the positive feedback and the constructive feedback. I frequently ask for it and appreciate the people thoughtful enough to give it to me.

Receiving Feedback

During the pursuit of any worthwhile goal, you are likely to get feedback. Just as the feedback you get when you’re driving, the key is to listen to it and make adjustments in appropriate.

As an example, I recently heard from someone telling me that he just failed the Security+ exam and wanted some advice.  I looked and saw that he had purchased some online practice test questions for the Security+ exam.  Unfortunately, the scores he was receiving on the practice tests weren’t passing scores. More specifically, a passing score on the Security+ exam is about 83%. On one test bank of performance-based questions, he took it four times in three days, getting scores of 31%, 73%, 68%, and 0%.

These scores provided clear feedback. Even though he was learning, clearly he hadn’t mastered the material enough to get a passing score.

Notice that he had an opportunity to receive the feedback while using the practice test questions, but for some reason, the feedback wasn’t clear to him. I used his query and my response as an opportunity to provide the same feedback to him, along with some other steps he can take to master the material.

I haven’t heard from him since, but if history is any indication he’ll probably respond in one of the following ways:

  • He takes on the feedback, returns to the material, and studies it until he masters it. He then takes and passes the exam. Later he shares his success with me along with a heartfelt thank you.
  • He lets me know that I didn’t understand. He then asks a different unrelated question.
  • I never hear from him again.

I'm scoring xx% on the questions. Is this enough for me to pass the exam?

Note that a passing score on the Security+ exam is 750 on a scale of 100 to 900. Doing simple math, 750 / 900 equates to a value of 83.33 percent. You should get scores at least this high, but just your test scores aren’t a complete test of your understanding.

Here’s a frequently asked question that I often get from readers preparing for a CompTIA exam.

Question: I’m scoring 80% (or 90% or some other %) on the practice tests. Is this enough for me to pass the exam?

Answer: No.

I repeat this often. The score you get on the practice tests are not as important as your understanding of the content. If you go through any practice tests enough times, you can memorize the questions and answers. However, if CompTIA slightly modifies any question, your memorized answer can be incorrect.

Ideally, you should be able to look at any practice test question and know why the correct answers are correct and why the incorrect answers are incorrect. That way you’ll be much better prepared to interpret the questions no matter how CompTIA words them.

This blog post discusses how to interpret Security+ questions and this blog post gives some additional info to help ensure you are ready for exam day.

Just Say Thanks

Many people don’t know how to respond to feedback. Jack repeats this response often in this chapter. Just say thanks.

That’s easy when you’re receiving positive feedback. However, when you’re receiving constructive feedback, you might be tempted to provide rationalizations or justifications. Resist the temptation.

Just say thanks and be grateful that the person was thoughtful enough to provide the feedback to you.

What Feedback Are you Receiving

Some questions worth asking yourself about feedback are:

  • Is life giving you feedback?
  • Is your job giving you feedback?
  • Are your relationships and family life giving you feedback?
  • Is the Universe giving you signs similar to the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa of the rumble strip?

Are you listening?



About This Post

I’ve been learning from Jack Canfield (of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame) since 2008. I credit much of my success (including authoring or co-authoring more than 40 books) to applying principles in my life that he teaches. I’m currently going through his book “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” covering one principle a week.

Here’s a link to other musing’s on Jack Canfield’s Success Principles.

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