Add a Pinch of Imperfection

There’s a fine line between passion and obsession, and I’m on the borderline when it comes to quilts. I am crazy about quilts… the colors, the texture, the names of the blocks, the loving care put into each stitch. I learned to quilt at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson–my husband was a curator there many years ago and he gave me the gift of quilting classes as a Valentine’s Day present. In the process of learning to quilt, collecting quilts and becoming a “Quilt-Whisperer” (that’s someone who rescues old quilts from swap meets and flea markets for ridiculously low sums of money), I’ve learned one thing: The value is in the imperfection.

I’ve heard it said that some quilters, like Native American weavers, purposely include flaws in their designs. The deliberate placement of a “mistake” is said to be an homage to God, acknowledging that only God can create something that is perfect. This tradition seems like a useful reminder to anyone in who is working on a business or a career–it’s the flaws along the way that remind us we are human, and the mistakes that help us learn. Flaws keep us humble.

In Brené Brown‘s book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, the author makes the connection between loving ourselves and living our authentic lives by letting go of the need to be perfect.  “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life,” she writes. “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”

Our fears around being imperfect can stop us in our tracks. We quit before we begin, fearing that our work, our product (our quilt, our rug) won’t be enough. Fearing that we won’t be enough. That’s one of the reasons I love Anne Lamott‘s discipline of creating what she calls “Shitty First Drafts.” In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Lamott offers the idea that every first draft is imperfect–it’s supposed to be that way. Knowing that, and giving ourselves the grace to create something that falls short of our standards on the first pass, gives us the freedom to create. No grace, no action. No actions, no quilts. Or books. Or sculptures. Or amazing businesses, products, services, careers… need I go on? The key is to stay engaged with the creation, in spite of or maybe because of its flaws.

So at least for today, give yourself the gift of grace. Add a pinch of imperfection to your work, bowing to the Great Spirit who created us all. Just get going.

Network as if You’re a Talk Show Host

This past June I became the host of a new talk show, “Talk About Choices,” where I have the privilege of interviewing people who “love what they do and do what they love.” My purpose for the show is to provide powerful models for others to see, giving people permission to love their work.

What if we approached networking as if we were talk show hosts? Granted, networking is best when it’s give and take, a volleying back and forth between one person and another during a (live-and-hopefully-in-person) conversation. But when you’re out to build your network, your “Circles of Gold®,” the best way to build those relationships is to listen, really listen, to what someone else has to say. I recommend that you think of a networking meeting as if it’s a pie chart: 25% of the time is yours, the other 75% of the time is for your “guest.” That means that 75% of the time, you’re the host.

Here are some other things I’ve learned as a talk show host that might help you with your next “Circles of Gold” conversation:

  • Be prepared. Review the person’s biography and how you met them–was it a Chamber connection, an introduction via social media, an alumni buddy? If you have notes on them in your database, review those notes. You may see something that will not only add zing to your conversation but will let your “guest” know that you heard, and remembered, what they said. This can be both surprising and flattering to them, and it isn’t “cheating,” by the way–just good use of technology. Be sure to do a Google search and if they’ve written something, or they were profiled in a professional journal, have that reference available. Study their LinkedIn profile and scroll all the way to the bottom. That’s where people list their hobbies & volunteer activities, the groups or leaders they follow and the associations to which they may belong. This information is pure gold when building relationships, giving you insights into what’s important to them.
  • Have a great list of questions. Following the format of a podcast I love listening to, “The 10-Minute Writer’s Workshop,” I ask all my guests the same questions, including: “What was your first job? How did you get into the field you’re now in? What was a challenge or disappointment you overcame? What do you most love about your job?” These questions get wildly different responses because each person brings his or her unique history and experience to the interview. I’ve learned many things about my guests that I never would have learned had I not a) asked the question and b) kept my mouth shut long enough to hear the answer.
  • We can never be too appreciative. Whenever someone gives you the privilege of sharing with you in a conversation, whether they’re a guest on a talk show or sitting across from you at Starbuck’s, they are parting with something they will never get back: their precious time. I am humbled that the people I’ve invited to be on my show have agreed to take time out of their busy days to share about their career journeys with me and my viewers. I will never forget their kindness and consider that a debt of gratitude that will never be repaid.

Oprah would agree with me that the real job of a talk show host is not to talk, but rather to listen. While listening to my guests, each with fascinating stories about their own career trajectories, I am learning to discipline myself to calm that chatterbox inside my head, the one that wants interrupt and chime in, “Oh, yeah! I’ve had that experience too…”  Being a talk show host is teaching me a whole new level of connecting with others.

Next time you have the pleasure of meeting someone for coffee, lunch or a quick drink after work, put yourself into the role of a talk show host. Do your research. Write down a list of questions. Begin and end by expressing your appreciation for their time, that non-renewable resource, and see if you don’t come away with new perspectives on networking, your “guest” and yourself.

 

[“Talk About Choices” is produced by Wheaton Cable TV (WCTV) and can be viewed on the city’s website as well as via Vimeo. My guests so far have included Kerry O’Brien,  executive director of the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, Bob Carey, chief market strategist for First Trust Portfolios, Jerry Evans, founder of Jerry Evans School of Music, and the Honorable Bonnie Wheaton, judge in the 18th Judicial Circuit Court of DuPage County. Upcoming shows will feature Betsy Adamowski, executive director of the Wheaton Public Library, Tammy Pressley, director of government and community affairs from Northwestern Medicine and Pam Sharar-Stoppel, president & CEO of Wheaton Bank & Trust. Many thanks to Arin Thrower, Wheaton’s new public information officer, Rich Sagen and the production team at the City of Wheaton, for their support and assistance.]

Photo by Jan Gonzo, courtesy of Unsplash