In business and in life, there is no such thing as being “perfect.” Rather, there is such a thing as being “whole,” which signifies the big picture as it weaves all the smaller pieces together. Being whole in this respect denotes a sense of closure that comes after all the parts fit together.
Striving to be in clarity is about the process of becoming whole, of intentionally incorporating all the important aspects of your business into one connected form that accounts for the outside world as well. It is never, nor will it ever be, a process of perfecting and coming to completion for one moment in time. Rather, being in clarity entails a repeatable closure process, which involves adapting the whole to the surroundings in order to accommodate the changing forces exerted upon the whole.
Completion or perfection describes a definitive end state, which is an irresponsible endeavor for any business, unless they plan on existing in a vacuum of time. Finding closure and sustaining the whole happens in the intermediary phase and is a reiterative activity, with an ongoing commitment to be in clarity as the moment evolves.
The Problem With Striving For Perfection
That being said, it is still our nature to strive for perfection as an ideal anyway. This human pursuit of ours reminds me of a story by one of my longest tenured employees. Her grandmother was a quilter. She set a goal to make a beautiful quilt for each of her many grandchildren. She carefully chose fabrics and was purposeful and intentional in choosing colors they loved and even bits of clothing that she had kept from favorite outfits they had long before outgrown.
When she first started to complete the beautiful quilts, her grandchildren worried that she was becoming a little confused because they kept finding one piece in each quilt that didn’t fit with the rest of the design and seemed out of place. When asked about it, she explained, “That piece is there to remind you that even though life isn’t perfect, it can still be wonderful and full of love.”
In many ways, while different from the many client experiences we share, this story embodies what it means to be in clarity. It also suggests how imperfections—little quirks or ‘flaws’ that exist in every facet of life, of ourselves, and of our companies—are a necessary and meaningful part of our existence.
Whole Without Being Perfect
Without those slight bumps in the road or threads fraying at the end, each thing would not be our own. I’ve come to realize that it is the unique imperfections and idiosyncrasies which differentiate us from the rest, giving us a story that no one else has in exactly the same way.
I like to strive for a different ideal: being whole. By first accepting and then embracing that I am imperfect and always will be, it allows me to be whole. From designers, the best way to be successful is by creating many unique options and crafting a masterpiece out of them, which involves a lot of tinkering and iteration along the way. In fact, I’ve found that practicing the art of imperfection—failing fast and failing often—can lead to extraordinary results.
When originating new content, any leader or designer who avoids the urge to be perfect will learn what to improve upon with each attempt they take. While they are moving forward and honing in on the right look, the person who is frozen by perfection will still be staring at a blank canvas, never breathing life into what could have been.
Excerpted from Leading Clarity: The Breakthrough Strategy to Unleash PEOPLE, PROFIT, and PERFORMANCE (Wiley, April 3, 2018).
The Breakthrough Strategy to Unleash People, Profit and Performance
Leading Clarity offers a bold proposal that changes the trajectory of your business and leadership.