I’m a recovering perfectionist. After many years of working to embrace imperfection and accept my inherent human flaws and those of others, I still find myself mesmerized by perfection.
During the recent Olympics, I was cheering for a perfect score – the unachievable 10.0. I’m still bummed and confused why the Olympic Committee changed the gymnastics scoring system, departing from the famous 10-point scale.
I sometimes laugh when I look at the name of my networking skills audio program – Perfect Your Pitch. The word ‘perfect’ in this case is used as a verb, not a noun. Still, you can see my obsession.
Damn! It’s not perfect
The pursuit of perfection includes a lot of pain and self criticism. For example, in last week’s networking tip, I included a homemade video entitled “Lessons from the Inchworm.”
In making this short video inspired by nature, my system crashed twice and I had to rebuild it both times. It wasn’t until I had uploaded it to YouTube that I realized that I misspelled inchworm (I assumed it was two separate words inch worm, which is incorrect). I also found four other grammatical errors in my own video. I couldn’t believe it. I was so disappointed with myself. Careless mistakes. So unprofessional!
Then I started to get very positive feedback from the inchworm video. I was reminded that what really mattered was how the video made people feel, not whether or not it was perfect. Check out this bit of feedback (note J.C.’s use of the word ‘perfect’ – a kindred spirit, perhaps?)
“Your ‘inch worm’ message has hit me at such an INCREDIBLE time! Your message couldn’t have landed in my lap at a more perfect time. I have read it, and re-read it, watched the WONDERFUL video, and now I’ve printed it out to take with me to read again as I contemplate ‘Life’ in a near solitude environment. I can’t thank you enough! Thanks, Kathy, for your continued inspiration” – J.C.
Imagine if I had decided not to issue the video because it was flawed and imperfect? J.C. might not have gotten the burst of inspiration he needed to tackle his challenges and progress toward his dream.
The risks of imperfection
Early in my career I worked for Foote Cone and Belding, an advertising agency in San Francisco. It was an awesome start to my career in marketing. I remember one significant communication made by the general manager. He had become distraught with the frequency with which letters/memo/emails with typos were going out to our clients. He became disgusted with this sloppiness and told us that we would be fired if we let a memo leave the building with an error. As a result, communication, productivity and creativity came to a grinding halt. The cost of making a mistake was now compounded with a real threat of termination.
Seth Godin, one of my favorite modern thought leaders on business and marketing, recently posted an inspiring blog on the topic of making mistakes. He called his post “Tattoo Thinking.” Seth is ever so creative! Here’s a passage from that blog post:
“Just about every choice you make with your project and your career, though, doesn’t last forever. And the benefit of taking a risk is significantly higher than it is with a tattoo. A landing page, a pricing move, a bit of copy–they don’t last much more than a day, never mind a lifetime. Higher benefits, lower risk, what are you waiting for? So go ahead and act as if your decisions are temporary. Because they are. Be bold, make mistakes, learn a lesson and fix what doesn’t work. No sweat, no need to hyperventilate.” – Seth Godin, blog post “Tattoo Thinking” (08/22/2012)
You will make mistakes in networking. I guarantee it. You will say the wrong thing, make the wrong move, upset someone, disappoint someone, feel rejected, awkward and/or uncertain. It’s just part of the game. But don’t let perfectionism or fear of rejection hold you back from putting yourself out there. The world needs you, plain and simple. Embrace your flaws and celebrate your imperfection. It’s part of what makes you GREAT!
Your Networking Goal for the Week
This week, try to lighten up on yourself. Laugh at your mistakes. Continue to push forward in spite of them. Be less critical of yourself and of others when mistakes are made. Look for the beauty and the value in the work and the intention behind it. Focus on the positive intention and the courage it takes to put yourself out there to your network of people who value you!
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”- Anna Quindlen, author of “Being Perfect.”