The Power of Imperfection

I’ll bet you like to do things really well.

It feels good.

And it’s satisfying.

How Important is Perfection?

Perfection may be satisfying, but takes a huge amount of time and energy and effort.

How much effort should you put into making the things you do letter perfect?

Yuna Kim

Yuna Kim

If you watched the amazing performances of ice skater Yuna Kim at the 2014 Winter Olympics, you’ll see a great example of perfection.

She might not have won her second gold medal, but her skating had the remarkable qualities that I associate with perfection.

Yuna Kim makes skating look easy. Every line is right. Every detail in its place. Nothing is left to chance.

Because her performance is that perfect, your heart doesn’t lurch when she does her triple jumps. You just know she’s going to land every one of them without a bobble.

That’s the wonder — and the problem — with perfection.

You stand in awe of perfection.

You love and admire it.

But you don’t become fully engaged. You are an appreciative observer.

In the face of perfection, you’re not a hands-on collaborator.

Perfection is admirable but not accessible. It has a slick surface that doesn’t invite you in.

Imperfection Can Be More Powerful

I  grant you, it feels lousy to make mistakes, particularly when you make them in public. You get that cringing sensation as you realize what you did wrong.

Making mistakes doesn’t feel good.

But your mistakes make you more human. If you are striving to do well — even aiming at perfection — your trials make people want to help.

Errors Create Opportunities

Through your striving — mistakes and all — you become more sympathetic.

I was reminded last week of the opportunities that come from making mistakes.

I sent out an email to a large group of people only to find that none of the five links in the email worked. Though I had checked them once and then again, I didn’t check them in the very final version. And somehow, the links had become unlinked.

Soon after the mailing went out, I started getting responses from people telling me of my error. The part of me that wanted to be perfect cringed!  And I hated that feeling.

But once it passed, I wrote a new email. I apologized and resent the links (this time live) and I added a bit more information I thought would be useful for my readers.

Again, I got a slew of emails. This time, thanking me for sending the fixed links.

The Power of a Mistake

My error, though I didn’t do it on purpose, had power.

  1. It gave many people a chance to help by letting me know what I had done.
  2. It opened the door to a bigger, fuller conversation with numerous people.
  3. It gave people a chance to get to know the real, imperfect me. And they got to see how I respond when things don’t go right.

So the next time you make an error, remember that you have just created an opportunity for people to help you and to get to know you better. And that opening to engage others a gift to both you and your community.

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Take Advantage of Your Next Mistake

This week, you’ll probably make a mistake and you’ll have some options. You can fix it as quickly as you can and hope no one noticed. Or you can ask people for advice and help in how best to correct the situation.

While sometimes simply fixing it is fine, if you’re given the opportunity this week, use your error to ask for help. And then notice how your willingness to expose your mistake and ask for help strengthens your relationship with the people who help you fix the problem.

When did a mistake you made lead to new opportunities? Share your story in the comments section below.