Attitude Is Everything-

Criticism is horrible. Even constructive criticism hits us in the gut like a mule-kick. There’s not a single one of us who enjoys being told what we’re doing is less than perfect. After all, if we weren’t absolutely convinced we were doing it the best it could be done we’d already have changed, right? The funny thing about living on public performance is that every single day you’re inviting exactly that kind of assessment as part of the nature of your job, and believe me there is no shortage of people lining up to tell you just how lousy you are at what you do.

Oh sure, you can employ a number of defense mechanisms; write it off to jealousy on the part of the critic, convince yourself he’s some lowlife who hacks off missives to everyone he can think of while his Cheeto-stained fingers rain crumbs down on the keyboard of the computer in his mom’s basement, assure yourself that if given the chance to do what you do every day he wouldn’t last ten seconds, etc. You even have the option of taking the criticism to heart and adjusting your performance slightly to appease those who are of a like mind to a particularly well-reasoned and good-mannered reviewer. But still the critique tends to nag. “What the hell does he know,” the voice in our heads invariably asks, “why should I even bother listening to him?”

And then there’s Johnny Hickman. Johnny Hickman plays lead guitar in a number of rock bands including Cracker, The Hickman-Dalton Gang,The Three Amigos and others. He’s a brilliant, accomplished, bluesy slinger of the Les Paul to whom in my opinion there are few peers. I’ve been privileged on a couple of occasions to tip back a couple of Pacificos with Johnny and I can tell you from experience he’s also a hell of a nice guy.

Recently, somehow, Johnny got ahold of a picture taken of him from the crowd while he was onstage somewhere, hitting it hard like he always does. In the foreground of the picture is a man, turned toward Johnny, with his middle finger raised high toward ‘our hero.’ What was this guy’s problem? Who knows? Who cares? The fact is that Johnny had the same options we all do when faced with that kind of anonymous, harsh assessment: responding in anger, snark, or some other kind of destructive and meaningless and ineffective fashion. What he did instead was perfect.

He made it his Facebook profile picture. Middle finger returned. Your move, hotshot.


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