Nitpicking; One Step Forward In A Three Step Intellectual Cycle To Distinguish Between General and Genuine Negativity

There are three steps that every aspect of human civilization adheres to; this hereby named “Intellectual” cycle, involves the understanding of a topic, its deconstruction and, finally, the reconstruction of something new or old, based on the the prior two steps. In terms of accomplishing anything, the first two steps are incredibly easy to achieve; understanding something and breaking it down to its core tenements is simple and straightforward. Using those same core tenements to actually create something new that exceeds the expectations of the prior two steps, actually reconstructing something from its core parts, is by far the most difficult thing to do.

Under any circumstance, whether it involves creating life, a novel, a movie, a song, or a psychological theory based on early Freudian teachings that doesn’t dwell on human sexuality, actually using one’s knowledge to create something is, for some people, almost impossible. The difficulties lie not only in overcoming one’s imagination and actively using it to determine their goals, but to also overcome the obstacles set up by those around the creator. In the most basic of terms, after an individual has overcome their own flaws, they must then overcome the flaws and difficulties set up by the people around them. The common words of failure “It’ll never work,” “It’s impossible,” “It’s never been done before,” “Trust me, I know it can’t be done” are relatively minor when heard in reference to something, but even more powerful once applied to a more personal level.

As children growing up within the Canadian school system, my fellow students and I were frequently told about a teaching in child psychology that discussed the effects of positive and negative words on an individual’s psyche and development. In essence, the theory discussed the long lasting effects of good and bad things people say about us; words with a positive connotation “I know you can do it,” “You are capable and more than adept,” and even “I believe in you” would have a shorter lasting effect than their polar opposites. “You can’t do it,” for example, would stay in a person’s mind longer than “You can do it” for the obvious reason that the human mind has a hard time dealing with adversity. Notice that I use the word mind, and not brain, because I speak from a purely psychological and not neurological perspective; being told that one is incapable has a longer lasting effect than being told that one is capable because of a neurological reason, though that would only serve to explain the psychological one. This theory was often referred to as the 10:1 principle, in that it would take 10 good things to override a single bad action.

Of course, the logic is sound and the reasoning behind the theory is even more so because it’s absolutely true that the hurtful words last longer than the kind words, even if there is only a single hurtful word. Quite frankly, I’ve come to enjoy criticism, not because of any reason, but because it helps me understand those around me, and the expectations certain pieces of work demand. Mind, criticism is not a negative thing, and it’s only hurtful when it stops being criticism; it’s very easy to say something is terrible, though stating why something is terrible is a far more appropriate direction to take. After all, distinguishing between general negativity and genuine negativity is the only way one can hope to understand something and, more importantly, reconstruct something from this understanding.

The difference between the two pillars is minute, as it only takes a lack of distinguished reason for a genuinely negative comment to become general. For a more detailed understanding, allow me to use Transformers 3; saying that the aforementioned movie was dreadful is an example of general negativity. Notice the distinct lack of any distinguishing reason for my opinion; I didn’t discuss it’s flaws in acting, plot, or even its ability to take away the fun from a fight involving giant robots from space, because that would be genuine negativity. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, Transformers 3 is a dreadful movie because of it’s flaws in acting, plot, and even its ability to take away the fun from a fight involving giant robots from space.

Interestingly enough, for some, the latter statement would merely be one designed to point out already existing flaws that can be disregarded. The meticulous details analyzed and brought up are merely meticulous details, and to anyone who went to have their bran lobotomized by Michael Bay’s third travesty, they are trivial and almost insignificant. In short, I’d be nitpicking if I spent time trying to point out the flaws within the movie because it’s a bad movie anyway, and specifically discussing why it’s a bad movie would be a pointless and trivial endeavour.

I, however, absolutely and utterly disagree with the notion that nitpicking is useless to the intellectual cycle (because it’s technically part of the Understanding stage) specifically because nitpicking is one of the only ways that true progress can be made with anything; assuming, of course, that a long term solution is being analyzed, instead of a short term one designed to fail within a few applications, but has only been designed as a short term solution to a long term solution.

Nitpicking, named because it involves meticulously finding and removing nits from an individuals clothes, hair, and so forth, is not trivial, and furthermore, is not pointless. Nitpicking, in essence, is a meticulous attention to detail that can only be respected and thought of in a positive light. In short, nitpicking is the miniscule attention to detail that every human being should strive to achieve exactly because it’s one step closer to the colloquial level of “Perfection” that may try to embrace (regardless of how impossible it is to be “Perfect”). Nitpicking is vital, because it really does form the difference between general and genuine negativity; it’s the difference between hurting someone, and criticizing them. It’s the difference between saying something cruel, with no thought behind it, and saying something that can lead to the betterment of an intellectual property, or human being. Nitpicking, in summation, is editing, and understanding so the intellectual cycle can continue forward, past understanding and deconstruction and towards reconstruction and creation (from an absolutely universal level).

As always, it’s a matter of opinion (and this next paragraph is bad opining) because there are those who disagree with the aforementioned view on nitpicking. Nitpicking, to many, is not a form of good editing or good thinking, but is merely designed to point out minor, almost inherent flaws that would exist within something anyway. It’s not the difference between general and genuine negativity and is, instead, a form of general negativity. To some, nitpicking is pointing out flaws within something good for a purely negative reason; it’s to be hurtful, not logical or intellectual.

Quite frankly, I can’t agree with this point of view because humans must continue to nitpick the minor details, and we must continue to strive to pay attention to every meticulous detail. Otherwise, there would be no point, especially if everything is done for the big picture, because the big picture doesn’t take into account individual intellectualism, but merely a crass generalization that even Spock’s utilitarian line regarding the good of the many cannot justify.

In short, even if one views nitpicking from nothing more than a utilitarian point-of-view, there can be no doubt that the meticulous attention to detail that it provides produces benefits that far outweighs the hindrances of merely looking at a faulty big picture.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!


  1. “Under any circumstance, whether it involves creating life, a novel, a movie, a song, or a psychological theory based on early Freudian teachings that doesn’t dwell on human sexuality, actually using one’s knowledge to create something is, for some people, almost impossible. ”

    I don’t quite understand this statement. Do you mean to say that it is impossible for most people to use ONLY their knowledge to create, which I would agree with, to an extent, or that knowledge is not a necessary part of the creative process?

    • What I meant was the three step cycle application; actually using one’s intellect to create something is difficult. In comparison, understanding something and breaking it down is easy. Though I have to admit, I’m enjoying the nitpicking; it proves my point and that makes me smile!

      • I sympathize with your defense of nitpicking, but why is it necessary to overcome one’s imagination? You also use the word ‘overcome’ in regards to personal flaws. Is the imagination flawed, in your opinion?
        If not, why do you think it is an obstacle at times?

      • The imagination is an amazing thing, there’s no doubt about that, but even all the confidence in the world couldn’t overcome the obstacles that we set for ourselves. Disregard the obstacles others may set for us, and try to accomplish a task that you, specifically, claim to be impossible. I can almost guarantee that actually accomplishing that task has gained a gargantuan amount of difficulty; even more than there was to begin with.
        We set up obstacles for ourselves. In that way, yes, the imagination is flawed, just like the mind is flawed, and just like the concept of intellect is flawed.

  2. I’m just not certain that our perceived limitations exist simply in our imagination. There must be a logical counterpart involved, or else why would we have constructed that obstacle in our mind? It must follow some logical form, mainly, one that we know, in part, to be likely to stand in our way. I don’t think that fear, as an emotion, necessarily requires a lot of imagination. Though we may be confronted by imaginary demons, we’ve learned to fear based on our past history. We’ve learned, through trial and error, what our limitations are.

  3. That’s actually a very fair and reasonable analysis you’ve posed, and you are right. Our fears and limitations certainly are conditioned, though the limits of our imaginations far exceed the borders of our minds. In that regard, whether the fear we have is learned or not, we still need to overcome the limitations set up within our minds. In this way, yes, the imagination isn’t entirely at fault, it’s the mind that deserves most of the blame. Though the mere fact that the imagination is part of the mind is more than enough evidence that we must conquer it too.
    That being said, it isn’t nitpicking to say that I should have said that we must conquer our minds as a whole, and not just our imaginations. Though basic extrapolation would’ve provided the desired result either way.

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