It took me several weeks to start writing my quarterly newsletter, Perfectly Imperfect.At some point, we all have that experience, waiting for the perfect opening sentence, the perfect message, the perfect story before we open our mouths or start to type. I found that “perfect” ideas would come to me in the morning while I dried my hair, or on the bus ride home, or while I was in the middle of a conference call. But by the time my fingers hit the keyboard, I couldn’t remember any of those thoughts. I found myself stuck in the writer’s block spin-cycle for weeks, unable to remember that “perfect” opening line that came to me in the most inconvenient moments—always when no one else was around to hear them or my computer was too far away to type them.
Perfectly Imperfectis written to help you think about imperfect communication. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s even better than the unachievable idea of perfection.
Great stories start with imperfection. Watch any TED Talk, read any Peoplemagazine article, and the story typically begins with a struggle. Most people who have great success aren’t handed life on a silver platter. They had a difficult upbringing, or faced a major challenge, or overcame adversity. In almost every meaningful victory, there is first a struggle with some form of perceived imperfection.
This oddly shaped, dirt-covered object is the golden nugget you need to crack open, clean, explore, polish, and refine to display the incredible beauty within. It’s this authentic imperfection that makes you interesting and inspirational.
Strength Through Vulnerability—Communicate Authentically
Authenticity is a word that continues to gain increasing attention in the business world. As a result, people argue about what is appropriate to share, how much information is too much information. Business leaders are encouraged to be authentic so their teams can see the “real” person behind the impressive title and expensive suit. At the same time, we worry that showing our more vulnerable side shows weakness and feels scary. So many avoid it, despite the amazing benefits that come from being and sharing who you really are.
Brené Brown, Ph.D., master researcher, author, and storyteller, explores the power of vulnerability and its capacity to help people empathize, connect, belong, and love. In one interview, she talked about 13,000 pieces of data collected over 12 years and in not one single case was there an incident of courage that was not underpinned by vulnerability.
Our imperfections are our vulnerable spots—they are the areas we are afraid to share because of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Yet, the greatest measure of courage is to face that imperfection, embrace it, and let it shine. You’ll be amazed to see what greatness can come from opening yourself to others in this way.
In 2013, Phil Hansen, a passionate artist who developed a terrible tremor in his hand, delivered a powerful TED Talk called Embrace the Shake. His tremors made it impossible to draw the tiny dots he needed to create his pointillism-style artistic masterpieces. Encouraged by his doctor to “embrace the shake” by not forcing himself to draw tiny dots, he instead opened his mind and talent to alternate forms of art. As a beautiful result, he began exploring ideas, opportunities, innovation, and beauty in ways he never even dreamed of before.
I encourage you to find your perfect imperfection, embrace the shake, and share the inspirational stories that help others appreciate the beauty in the struggle. Bravely share your story, starting today, just as I did with this article, which, through its honesty, conversational delivery, and possible grammatical errors, is Perfectly Imperfect on so many levels.
What is your perfect imperfection? How do you allow yourself to share this story with the world? What ways do you explain the struggle bravely, letting others know how you succeeded and how they can, too?
Jodie Stewart is a consultant at Exec|Comm, a global communication skills consultancy. Stewart joined Exec|Comm in 2013 with more than 20 years of experience in Learning & Professional Development. Her extensive background in training and client relations in technology and health care give her the capacity to understand business from many perspectives. She brings real-world experience, and a strong understanding of competitive business markets to her clients and the classroom. For more information, visit http://www.exec-comm.com.