Tonight, Dad, Granny, and I were watching X-Factor. While I find all the hype around these shows quite exasperating and I can honestly do without one more high-priced commercial, I also find these programs quite inspiring – there’s just something about watching someone do what they really love to do and know they do well.

But it’s the people who think they do something well and don’t that really baffle me. I always wonder why it is that these people have no one in their lives that loves them enough to be honest with them and say something like, “My dear friend, I love you, and you are good at many things, but this singing thing, this is not one of them.” I want the people I know and trust to keep me from making a fool of myself. I really do.

That’s why I send everything I write to a group of people who I love and trust will tell me the truth. Before I embarrass myself by submitting my “inspired” rant on my granny’s creepy doll collection (at least I’m staying in the room with fewer this weekend, eek!), I ask these trusted people read it over. They are my readers for two reasons: first, they’re good writers themselves, and secondly, they will tell me the truth about the piece. “This is incessant drivel,” for example. (Okay, they aren’t quite that harsh, but you get the point.) They love me and so they tell me to help me. An objective reader might not be so kind.

We all need champions, those people who stand at the TV monitors and cry with joy at our efforts, but we also need the critics, the people who stop us before we really damage ourselves. Their insights, observations, and yes, even those things they really hate can help make us better in what we do. We all need critics, too, and so much the better to have them be people who love us rather than random, hurried editors and judges.

So for those of you with dreams and goals, by all means pursue them, but please pursue them with honest, critical people at your side. They may just help you avoid hearing L.A. Reid say something like, “Your singing made me want to slit my wrist.”