Don’t Praise Me, Bro

I have had the great fortune in the close to 12 years that I’ve been working at NC State of being able to do work that I enjoy, that I’m passionate about and I have had the great honor to have worked with a lot of smart, caring, involved, hard-working people that care about those around them.

Both of which mean that I’ve been, at times, in the right place at the right time to receive praise and recognition of the things I’ve worked on. It’s something I’ve never quite been entirely comfortable with.

Don’t get me wrong, I have enough of an ego that I don’t shirk away from being the center of attention. I have been known a time or two (cough) to take over a meeting, a forum, a discussion with long rambling soliloquies in one form or another. It’s not really a center of attention thing.

I like to think that I do good work. I certainly care very deeply about my work, and want it to be the best it can be, and jokes and sarcasm aside, I care very deeply that others can learn from, make use of, and benefit from that work. I’m sure I’d be lying to you and myself if I said that part of me doesn’t want some recognition of that.

But even given that, when it comes to praise and recognition, I always get a little embarrassed. I don’t really know how to take it. I’ve tried to learn more how to graciously accept it, because when you don’t have that skill, you can appear at best ungrateful, and at worse, you can insult the one providing the recognition, and you might cheapen the praise for others.

But still, I’ve been trying to put my finger on it — and I think it comes down to the old “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” line from American Bandstand I’m composing the metaphorical equivalent to the album, and I guess I’m the artist that wants a little more than “it’s got a good beat” — I’m not necessarily expecting the person hearing to have the faintest idea about how to compose music themselves (because I sure don’t know how — as my flawed metaphor will surely attest) — but to be interested enough in how it sounds to tell me they played it all night — and ask questions about that middle part — and let me tell them that I borrowed that classical part written for the glockenspiel and turned into an electrical guitar solo. Honestly, I’d feel that — or at least I hope that I could — handle the flipside — having someone come up and tell me out of the blue that they really didn’t like it and maybe had I used a part written for the violin instead of the glockenspiel, it would have been better.

Without that, praise and recognition sometimes feels like it’s not far removed from judgment. And maybe uninformed praise and recognition really isn’t that much different than uninformed judgment.

Maybe I really am an educator deep down. I’m not looking for praise or recognition — but for understanding