Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University until his death in July 2008 from Pancreatic cancer. 10 months before this, he gave a lecture entitled “Really achieving your childhood dreams“. If you haven’t seen it, I really recommend it. The lecture covered a wide range of topics – one of which was about “getting a feedback loop”.
Pausch recalled a particular football practice (he was age 9 at the time) where the coach constantly criticised him. He just couldn’t do anything right. When the game was over, one of the assistant coaches said him: “The coach really rode you today didn’t he?”, “Yeah, he did”, “That’s a good thing. When you’re screwing up and no one says anything to you – that means they’ve given up”.
Pausch went on to say that if you know you’re doing something badly and no one bothers to tell you, that’s not a good place to be: “Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and they still care.”
Which brings me to the subject of Roy Keane – public enemy number one for speaking his mind about Ireland’s performance in Euro 2012. His “sing song” comment raised the heckles of many and provoked very strong reactions. I think that’s because, deep down, people know he’s right. The feedback loop the players on the pitch received from fans as they listened to the Fields of Athenry was “Ah sure, it’s grand – yis did well to get here anyway. We’ve spent a fortune getting here and we know the cameras are on us and we have to keep up the we’re the best fans in the world reputation. Sure aren’t we great gas altogether.”
When Roy Keane stops giving critical feedback (however unpalatable and unvarnished) – that’s the day we should really worry – because there won’t be any tournaments for anyone to travel to and sing their hearts out.