The Imperfect Perfection of You
I sent out an email through my email contact system and realized I had a problem:
An attendee at one of my recent events (who happens to be a technical writer) mentioned how much he enjoyed what I had to say, but that my grammar and spelling mistakes lessen the impact of my authority. I agree with this perspective and wish I had enough wherewithal to hire a full-time editor on staff who could review my thoughts whenever I feel the urge to write something. I know it’s a flaw of mine; I know it’s something that needs work and attention; and I know it is something that is, most importantly, a significant part of me.
Lessons from my Native Heritage
It reminds me of the sand paintings the Native American tribes of the southwest create. Artists spend hours and days creating these amazing works of art. Each idea is meticulously thought out and envisioned. Equality and balance juxtapose against color and design. And at the end, after their work is perfected and ready to be displayed, they add a flaw. An edge is blurred, or a line smudged, or an idea removed. A flaw within the perfect creation is added because it represents us. The painting, which will ultimately be wiped out by the nature of wind, is a representation of the artist and they know they are imperfect so their creation should show that as well.
I’m not saying my writings are as amazing as those sand paintings, but I do know my imperfections, seen and unseen, are what make me … well … me. And in some people’s eyes that is perfect. Our flaws, our mistakes, our holes in the fabric of our lives are what makes us unique. They are what make us special. And ultimately, they are what make us perfect.
Relating this to Personal Branding
When talking about personal branding I help people identify what is great about themselves. Most of the ones I help come to me depressed about their current situation. When introducing themselves to me they highlight things that are of little significance to them and come across as dispassionate about life. Their view of themselves (and their world) is warped through the lens of the pressure of their circumstances. Pressure makes people think horrible things about themselves, their situations and their perspectives on the world. However, talk to any person who wears a diamond on their finger and they will tell you pressure is a good thing. The true gem inside is only discovered after pressure transforms it. My goal is to help people see their internal gem and let that shine … not just showcase the layers of dirt that are on top of them at the instant.
Seeing beyond ourselves is a difficult thing to do. In any moment our perception of ourselves is formed by our collective vision of future possibilities and past highlights. We revel in our successes and accomplishments and hope (or despair) in what is to come. Actualizing in the “Now” and truly ruminating in the wonder of the moment is a difficult skill to 1) realize and 2) master. So if the contemplation of ourselves in the moment is difficult let me offer some suggestions to help you start your journey.
Remember: People Like You for Various Reasons
I used to do an exercise where I had people write down things they think are great about themselves. This posed a difficult problem to many people because … well … the circumstances they found themselves did not allow them to see what was great about themselves. Now I have people write characteristics or traits about themselves they think they do well. That is an easier question to answer. We all have something we think we do well, even if it’s “I sleep better than anyone else I know” we all have something. Later in the exercise I have them think about two people and ask them this question, “I’ve been doing some personal development and have identified this item as a strength of mine. Do you have any stories that might showcase that?” It’s amazing what happens when you ask trusted sources to tell you stories about things you feel you do well.
- You get proof positive (if they say yes) or negative (if they say, “not really”) about how important that strength really is. And usually if they don’t tell you a story about what you asked you get something like, “I don’t know if I have a story about that, but I do have something about …” So you get another characteristic/trait you can put in your list if you didn’t have it before.
- You get a reinforcement of the worth of your soul. Memories are things that get recalled quickly because of intensity. It’s harder to remember the time you walked down the street to get a soda versus the time you walked down the street and were almost mauled by a bear. So if a memory of a friend is recalled then it usually is a time that showcases some significance to them. That significance is important because it reminds us that we are valued.
The important thing to understand about why people like you is to remember they like “YOU,” not a title or skillset of you, but YOU! You won’t hear as often, “Enoch. I think you’re special because you’re such a great presenter.” More often than not you will hear, “Enoch, you have great insight (i.e. intelligence, understanding) and say things that really impacted me.” There is a HUGE difference there.
Remember: No One but You Knows the Whole You
There is only one person in this world who knows everything about you. Even our closest friends who know us best don’t know what’s going on in your mind. That means you have the potential to grow, change, progress in so many different ways and not feel worried or ashamed because no one but you understands what you can accomplish.
If you feel there is something about you that is great don’t run away from it because people around you don’t see it. They may not understand how much greatness you have, because they don’t know you in that way. Seek support, seek help, but always understand you have the choice to determine your destination. Some of the greatest people in the world were thought of as insane for wanting to try something no one else had done before. Just because no one else understands it doesn’t mean that it is wrong.
There is something to remember here. You have limitless potential to progress in excellence. Don’t waste it.
Also … SHOWCASE IT. The reason why people don’t know you can do it is because they’ve never seen you do it. To quote a favorite band of mine, “Shine on YOU Crazy Diamond.” (Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd) Let the world know what you can do. And if you stumble realize it’s not a failure, but a chance to look at the carpet and understand what you tripped over. Then you adjust, look back up and keep moving forward. Remembering what you’ve accomplished, who you are and where you can be are all things that will help you go down the road with passion, determination, and confidence. And who doesn’t want a person working for them like that.
One last thought …
You have to try. If you don’t have the confidence to do something, feel desperate or hopeless, or think the task is impossible because you’re not up to the challenge: try something different. If you feel you need to be a little different, more educated or less imperfect before you start: Try. If you think you putting it out there is a risk that won’t have any return: TRY!!!
To quote a line from one of my favorite musicals, “Stop worrying if your vision is new. Let others make that decision. They usually do.” (Move On, Sunday in the Park with George, Stephen Sondheim) You need to try. If you’re constantly worrying about perfection you may never get to the point of action. And, like I’ve shown over and over again, it’s those imperfections that show where you can grow.
I agree with my friend who said it lessens authority. It does. However, one drop in the bucket of authority versus helping change the perspective of a person for a lifetime is a choice with which I can live. It doesn’t mean I can’t improve or things can’t change down the road. Nothing is written in stone and even if it is it doesn’t mean there aren’t more rocks out there on which to write. We are flawed, but we can progress through our flaws into something much more.
And that, my friends, is perfection.