Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How to be an Imperfectionist

About once a month, I get an email from a reader who kindly points out a typo in one of my books.

This, in my opinion, is a victory. Because at least I know somebody’s reading. Other than my mother.

And part of me wishes I’d thought to include those typos intentionally, just for the purpose of measuring readership. But I didn’t. The typos are there (not because I’m savvy), but because I’m imperfect.

Even after writing nine books. Somehow, one or two always manage to squeeze by in each one. Dang it.

But I’m cool with that. Perfection is overrated anyway.

THEREFORE: Exerting your imperfect humanity is a hallmark of approachability.

In the words of U.S. Anderson, author of The Magic in Your Mind:

“When imperfectness enters a man’s soul, he is able to show that he does not live alone in the world, but with millions of others, in whose hearts exists the same animating spirit.”

What about you?
Are you willing to be an Imperfectionist?

If so, consider these practices for implementing a little imperfection into your daily life...

1. Learn to thrive in shades of gray. Learn to walk the halls with an attitude of confident uncertainty. Ellen Langer explains the power of this practice in Mindfulness:

“You’re confident that the job will get done, but without being certain of exactly the best way of doing it. This gives employees more room to be creative, alert and self-starting; plus, risk taking becomes less risky.”

It’s about increasing your tolerance for ambiguity. It’s about not reaching for ready-made replies. And it’s about asking questions you don't know the answer to. Are you confidently uncertain?

2. Don’t be at war with HOW when you should be in love with WHY. You don’t have to know what you’re doing. You don’t have to know where you’re going. You don’t have to know how you’re going to get there.

You just need to move – and you need to know WHY you’re moving. Lesson learned: Just keep starting. The finishing will take care of itself. If there even IS a finish line. Which there isn’t. Are you stopped by not knowing how?

3. Forego superficiality and, just for once, try being real. Here’s the deal: Honesty makes you vulnerable. And vulnerability reinforces your humanity because human beings are, by their very nature, imperfect.

Yes, it takes significantly more work to walk your truth. Especially in a world of (mostly) fiction. But, as my Aunt Vicki once told me, “If everything is perfect, somebody isn’t being honest.” What social mask are you willing to retire?

4. Trust that people want the real you. In Writing for Your Life, Deena Metzger explains that "beauty appears when something is completely and absolutely and openly itself."

Similarly, you need to believe that people really DO want the best, most honest, most imperfect version of you. And if they don’t, you need to believe that that’s cool, too. But if that’s the case, now might be a good time to walk away. Which version of you do you think people want?

5. Allow unguarded moments. Who knows? Maybe now is the chance to screw up royally because you’ve been too perfect lately. Don’t worry: When you open the door to your imperfect nature and remove that which blocks the path of truth, the selfhood on which you stand will support you.

And, the awareness and honesty of your imperfections – ugly and terrifying as they may be – will set you free. Well, either that, or your secretary will call the police. What if you laid your weapons down, just for one round?

6. Stop trying to be a leader. Instead, exert your passion fueled by your purpose. Instead, make your life a work of art. Instead, become a living brochure of your own awesomeness. If you do these things – and do them IM-perfectly – people will follow. As Warren Bennis reminds us in On Becoming a Leader:

“No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. Then, when that expression is of value, they become leaders. The point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely – all your skills, gifts and energies – in order to make your vision manifest.”

Wow. The un-leader approach. I like it. In what situations do you inhibit your own authentic self-expression?

7. Don’t criticize imperfections. This increases the probability of people thinking to themselves, “Thank you for treating me like a human being.” The challenge is learning to tolerate a reasonable amount of error. Otherwise people will perceive you as an unimpeachable leader with unrealistic expectations.

My suggestion: Stay away from the attitude personified by Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss, who regularly requests, “Read my mind and then recommend the decision I’ve already decided on.” What would happen to your career if you were known as the biggest imperfectionist in your company?

8. Leave room for yourself (and others) to be imperfect. Stop trying to convince everyone you encounter that you’re invincible, unbreakable and infallible. Approachable means bustable. Approachable means crackable. Approachable means surrendering to your imperfections.

Instead of pulling a Lady Macbeth and screaming, “Out, damned spot!” learn to say, “Hallelujah, blessed spot!” Come on. Even The Death Star had a weakness. And that thing was freaking HUGE.

Remember: Endorsing your own weakness establishes your acceptance of the imperfect humanness of others. Are you willing to abandon yourself to your own (and others’) inadequacies?

REMEMBER: Perfectionism is procrastination. Perfectionism blocks inventiveness. Perfectionism stains communication. And perfectionism slaughters playfulness.

Exerting your imperfect humanity, on the other hand, is one of the hallmarks of being an approachable leader.

In conclusion, when it comes to being an imperfectionist, let us remember Leonard Cohen’s famous tune, Anthem, in which he sang:

“Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.”


Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few manuscript typos to corrrrect for my next book.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you willing to be an Imperfectionist?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
For the list called, "23 Ways to Bring More of Yourself to Any Situation," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

If they can't come UP to you; how will they ever get BEHIND you?

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