I watched recently as a friend of mine discussed a new idea he had for a business. Another friend quickly began to ask questions that were thinly disguised statements of skepticism. I know he had the best of intentions, hoping to prevent our other friend from making a mistake. But the result was Friend 1 shut down and was clearly hurt by what he perceived as criticism.
It got me thinking about Critics and criticism. Not all critics are wrong, but they aren’t all right, either. In fact, they are sometimes spectacularly wrong. Some examples:
“You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son.” (Advice to Elvis Presley from Manager of “Grand Ole Opry”, 1954)
“Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further development.” (Julius Sextus Frontinus, 40-103 AD)
“I see no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” (Ken Olsen, Founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1978)
“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” (Decca Recording Co., in rejecting the Beatles, 1962)
“640K of computer memory ought to be enough for anybody.” (Bill Gates, 1981)
“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” (Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Field’s Cookies)
“Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.” (Pierre Pachet)
“What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stagecoaches?” (The Quarterly Review (England), March 1825)
“An interesting novelty, the telephone has no commercial application.” (J.P. Morgan, banker and financier to Alexander Graham Bell)
“The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued to a screen. The average American family doesn’t have time for it.” (The New York Times, 1939)
“Law will be simplified [in the next century]. Lawyers will have diminished, and their fees will have been vastly curtailed.” (New York Tribune journalist Junius Henri Browne, 1893)
And last but not least, an example of a critic who was not only wrong, but mortally so…
“They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…” (General John Sedgwick, Union commander in the Civil War, speaking his last words as he was watching enemy troops during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, 1864)
So, listen to the critics, but don’t assume that they’re right.