I couldn’t believe it.
She unmade my side of the bed because I didn’t do it right.
My house guest was having problems with her shoulder. She said doing simple things like making up a bed aggravated her discomfort. I volunteered to help, and she agreed. Her ground rule for accepting help was that she would make up one side of the queen-sized bed and I’d do the other. Worked for me. We agreed she’d give me a shout-out the next morning when she was ready to make up her bed.
Puzzled, and feeling a little miffed, I walked over to the side she’d made up. Perhaps she had a different way of tucking in the top sheet. Nope, we’d both done hospital corners. Granted, her angle on the fold was a little crisper than mine. That was the only difference I could see.
What she saw was different.
My side wasn’t perfect like hers was, and she wasn’t going to settle for less than perfect even if it made her wince to first pull out and then redo my work.
Pain is too big a price to pay for perfection.
In the past, I’ve done my dances with perfection, and I refuse to dance with it anymore. Perfection is an unworthy goal. It’s over-rated, not worth the added time, stress, and frustration.
Perfection is overrated, boring. It’s the imperfections—the vulnerabilities, the weaknesses, the human elements—that make us who we are, that make us real, beautiful…necessary. ~Guy Harrison
Before you dance another dance with perfection, give the following items a good think and ask yourself if perfection is truly worth it.
9 ways perfection is overrated
- Most people don’t recognize perfection when they see it.
Why? Because people describe perfection differently. Perfection is an absence of flaws or defects. Perfection, like beauty, rests in the eye of the beholder. I didn’t see any flaws or defects in my side of the made-up bed. My friend did.
- Lost opportunity cost.
Rendering anything with flaw or defect takes time—the time to do and time to redo until perfection is achieved. Some perfectionists are chronic procrastinators. They put off starting something because they’re concerned about not being able to complete the task perfectly.
- Miss out on simple joys.
It’s hard to look perfect eating an ice cream cone outside on a hot, summer day. There’s a good chance ice cream will drip down the cone and your chin. It might drip on your shirt and your fingers. But, isn’t all that part of the glorious fun?
- Present as needy and narrow-minded.
Perfectionism is a prime breeding ground for my way or the highway thinking, which is a death knell for diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective.
- Perfectionism feeds sex and gender stereotypes.
The perfect woman is beautiful, thin, and flawlessly groomed all the time. The perfect man is strong, a protector and provider. Both thoughts are poppycock, full of stereotypical thinking that harms young girls and boys.
- Being perfect doesn’t automatically provide approval and affirmation.
Stop looking outside yourself for approval and affirmation. Give it to yourself, and good enough will do.
- Perfectionism will make you sick.
Perfectionists have greater stress. They’re at greater risk for depression, high blood pressure, anxiety, and mental health problems.
- Fuel negative emotions.
Striving unsuccessfully for that elusive state where there are no flaws or defects makes people feel inferior, resentful, unappreciated, and unfulfilled. They’re full of self-doubt. Maybe anger, too. Perfectionism reduces people’s level of playfulness and willingness to take risks.
- Consumed and paralyzed by fear.
Perfectionism is a cesspool of fear. Perfectionists fear failure, not measuring up, making a mistake, not looking perfect, getting hurt, being exposed as a fraud, and being alone.
Perfectionists often feel that they must always be strong and in control of their emotions. A perfectionist may avoid talking about personal fears, inadequacies, insecurities, and disappointments with others, even with those with whom they are closest. ~Shauna H Springer Ph.D.
Wanting to be a good person who does things well is a worthy goal. Looking to do those things perfectly isn’t. Being perfect is an overrated experience that serves no one well.
Perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or healthy striving. It’s…a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.’ ~Brene Brown
Ready to give yourself permission to let go of overrated perfection and instead do your best and accept good enough?
Image credit before quote added: Pixabay
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“Let me take a look at your Twitter profile,” offered my table companion. We were attending a Chamber-sponsored event on how to make the most of social media. “That’s my area of expertise, and I’m happy to offer up a style suggestion or two. Maybe you’ll decide to become a client.”
Curious, I took him up on his offer.
A few days later, I received an email from him that read in part:
The biggest problem with your Twitter account is that you follow too many people. Your following count makes you look less authoritative and diminishes the value of your message. Be selective and exclusive in who you follow. Think of it as a hierarchy of prestige. I suggest you curate who you’re following and drop those who aren’t influencers or a recognized name. You want to look superior, distinguished, and special, not ordinary.
His advice disturbed me. For lots of reasons.
My dad taught me to be confident yet humble. One of his favorite put-downs for someone acting “high and mighty” was to say, “he forgets we all put our pants on the same way.”
There’s no “hierarchy of prestige” in that mindset. Just common sense and goodness.
Thinking you’re better than others
“The individuals in our sample consistently judged themselves to be superior to the average person.” ~Ben Tappin, The Illusion of Moral Superiority
In one study, two-thirds of the participants agreed with the statement, deep down, you enjoy feeling superior to others. Lots of other studies contain similar findings. There’s even a name for the mental state of thinking you’re superior to others—the self-enhancement effect.
Research shows the self-enhancement effect is most pronounced with moral characteristics. What does that mean? It means we not only see our abilities as above average, but we also see ourselves as more moral, just, trustworthy, loyal, etc., than our peers. That’s too big for your britches territory.
Self-enhancement thinking can lead to self-righteousness. That’s problematic.
Self-righteousness seeps into multiple aspects of our lives—it’s subtle, incremental, addictive, indiscriminate, and destructive. Thoughts about rightness and superiority contribute to polarization, social injustice, intolerance, political discord, and even violence.
My interpretation of the consultant’s recommendation? He wanted me to position myself as being better than other people. Special. Elite. Exclusive.
Creating such a narrative about myself smacked of arrogance and narrow-mindedness, not messages I wanted to convey or even let myself believe. Other social media experts advocate the same approach to those you follow back. For me, curating those I follow back to create an image of exclusivity and superiority felt inauthentic and dishonest.
“What is intellectual honesty? It means always seeking the truth regardless of whether or not it agrees with your own personal beliefs.” ~Perry Tam, CEO Storm8
A very thin line exists between confidence and arrogance. Not crossing that line requires vigilance, commitment, and self-awareness. Curiosity, a desire for humility, a sense of humor, and being kind to ourselves and others are involved, too.
Authenticity over style
Maintaining intellectual honesty and avoiding the trap of self-righteousness requires a few do’s and a couple of don’ts if we’re going to lead ourselves and others with grace and goodness.
- Respect others as equals.
- Be willing to listen to opposing points of view.
- Check our ego at the door.
- Be confident without being arrogant.
- Judge or label people.
- Accept our presumed superiority.
- Attack people who hold different beliefs.
- Be something we’re not.
I thanked the consultant for taking the time to look over my Twitter account and for sharing his thoughts. He asked if I wanted to become a client so I could capitalize on more of his experience and increase my influencer status.
“No, thank you,” I replied.
“I think you’re making a mistake, so may I ask why you’re not interested?”
“Of course. I walk to a different drummer. I want to be seen as knowledgeable, not superior. Accessible, not exclusive. Kind, not elite. If that means people judge me as not being distinguished, then so be it. They wouldn’t be my target audience, anyway. I’ll take substance over style any day.”
“Have it your way,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and walked away. Convinced, I’m guessing, of my lack of superiority. I’m good with that.
Image credit before quote added: Pixabay
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Power has a reputation problem.
When I use the word power, I’m referring to changing “what is” to “what can be.”
When I ask people to talk about power, they wrinkle their nose in disgust or say, “I’d rather not.” When I ask them why not, they offer up reasons why power is bad, saying things like:
- Power makes people selfish and insensitive.
- Power makes you over-confident, narcissistic, and corrupt.
- Having people makes you intimidating.
People aren’t wrong when they say these things about power. Who hasn’t worked for bosses who were all these bad things—and more? If personal experience isn’t enough, research affirms that some people who have power are selfish, corrupt, and cruel.
As a result of these unsavory encounters, power becomes the bad guy to be avoided, like the creepy stranger who lures kids into cars with candy.
The problem with this avoidance solution?
It leaves the bad guys in charge.
In reality, power, in and of itself, isn’t inherently good or evil. Power takes on either the goodness or badness of the person using it.
Power undirected by high purpose spells calamity; and high purpose by itself is utterly useless if the power to put it into effect is lacking. ~Theodore Roosevelt
Because so many people abuse power, we confuse power with the bad person misusing it and say we don’t want power.
When thoughts like this get into our heads, they can be hard to get rid of. However, for the greater good, now’s the time to let go of the notion that power is a bad thing and reclaim it as something good.
The problem? The bad person misusing their power
The problem with seeing power as an evil force to be avoided? This view removes the person who has the power from the equation. They become an innocent bystander to a situation of their own making. That’s not right.
Linguist Julia Penelope says the nouns we use and where we place them in a sentence changes how we, and others, interpret a topic. She says we sometimes go so far as even to forget that a person is responsible for what happened to us.
Julia uses the following series of sentences to illustrate this omission: John beat Mary. Mary was beaten by John. Mary was beaten. Mary was battered. Mary is a battered woman.
By the time we get to the third sentence, John has disappeared, and the topic has shifted from John beating Mary to Mary’s identity as a battered woman. When we make these thinking shifts, we delete whomever or whatever initiated the event.
We’re doing the same thing when we say power is bad. Power itself isn’t bad, it’s the greedy or egotistical person who’s changing “what is” to “what can be” to suit their own purposes who is.
What power does is that it liberates the true self to emerge. ~Joe Magee, a power researcher and professor of management at New York University
Professor of psychology and sociology G. William Domhoff notes that power is one of a few universal dimensions that humans encounter at the interpersonal, group, and societal levels.
Why is power’s universality important to recognize? Because doing good involves having and using power—but for the greater good, not personal gain.
It doesn’t matter if the doing good happens at work, at home, in the community, or in pursuit of social justice or equality. Changing “what is” to “what can be” requires power. If you’re like me and want society and workplaces to be more equitable, inclusive, and kind, we need power to effect those changes.
Eligibility checklist for power?
I confess. My tolerance for selfish, money-oriented, glory-grabbing people in positions of power has been exhausted. Because of that, I’ve been thinking about what can be done to ensure that the people who have power are the ones who can properly handle it.
Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power. -Seneca
Here’s what is on my list so far:
1) Change what’s measured and rewarded. Require that leaders at all levels be held accountable for people, principles, and profits. Measuring success only by dollars and cents perpetuates bad behaviors while encouraging more of them.
2) Call’em out. Rather than lauding their actions, criticize CEOs and Wall Street analysts who focus on only the bottom line. Who says capitalism must be heartless?
3) Take a leadership oath of office. Doctors do it. So do new citizens, politicians, soldiers enlisting for the U.S. Army, nurses, lawyers, and pharmacists. Part of the oath would be a promise to hold people, principles, and profits equally important.
What would you put on the power-eligibility list?
Image credit before quote: Pixabay
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Business can lead to cutthroat competition in more ways than one, but I learned that the darkest moments also can lead to the greatest triumphs and best business lessons.
It’s the worst experiences that sometimes teach us the most important lessons. I encountered turbulent times in the inner city of Los Angeles as I built my company into a trusted institution among underserved communities.
My employees and I faced harrowing experiences, such as armed robberies and threats from the mob, which hoped to block some of his expansion plans. The 1992 riots that erupted after a jury acquitted police officers in the beating of Rodney King proved especially distressing. Many businesses were looted or burned to the ground, so we had to scramble to protect my check-cashing locations.
It was gratifying to learn that loyal customers prevented some branches from being torched albeit in unexpected ways. A gang member called us to say he’d always been treated with respect at Nix, so his gang had decided not to burn our buildings because we were part of the community.
4 business lessons learned from hard times
My experiences taught me a number of valuable lessons that relate both to business and life, such as:
This applies to everything that happens, including things you can’t control. Once when an economic downturn left me unable to pay my bills, I contacted each creditor to explain my predicament and work out a payment plan. This upfront approach helped me to avoid bankruptcy.
- Never play the victim role or blame game.
Avoid replaying misfortunes over and over in your mind. Accept setbacks gracefully and concentrate on getting back on track. In the 1990s, a business deal that went awry nearly forced me to sell my company, but instead I focused on solving the problem and stayed in business.
The most debilitating human emotion is fear. Learn to keep it in perspective, minimize it when applicable, and harness it to your benefit when need be. Standing up to bullies as a child set the stage for me to be able to stand up to the mob.
Operating with fair play and compassion is important in building trust. The way some community members protected some of our branches during the riots reflected this. Treating people fairly and supporting community programs paid off.
Good times may be more enjoyable, but challenging times provide more opportunity for growth. Realize that bad people, tough times and mistakes are your teachers. Always ask yourself, “What business lessons do I need to learn from these events?”
Today’s guest contributor is Tom Nix, author of the memoir Nixland, a pioneer of the check-cashing industry, and currently a public speaker and writing focused on helping people overcome obstacles and be successful.
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Just like spring breezes and pollen, conflict is in the air.
Contentious attitudes are everywhere. We find them in the media, in workplaces, in our social media feeds, in the streets, between friends, and at the dinner table. Civility and respect for other’s rights to have their opinions are beginning to feel as outdated as a wall calendar.
A number of people have shared how they’re struggling to stay calm and deal with the friction and discord swirling around them.
I’m struggling with that, too. You?
I’m also struggling with discovering I didn’t know people I thought I knew. It’s been hurtful to be on the receiving end of their unpleasant attacks. Their darkness tugs at some dark spot in me that cries out to respond in kind.
Lessons from a wise man
That feeling isn’t new. I experienced it back when I worked in labor relations and contentious was the flavor of the day, every day.
Joe had been a labor relations attorney longer than I was old and was willing to help me learn the ropes. The first lesson he taught me was how to disagree without being disagreeable; the second was not to make things personal by attacking others.
He believed conflict wasn’t logical or rational but rather emotional and relational. What we think shapes how we feel and act. For many, feelings become facts.
The same issues that lead to protracted conflict (e.g. values, status, and identify), are also the triggers of strong emotions. People who feel ‘unfairly attacked, misunderstood, wronged, or righteously indignant’ are typically overcome with emotion and respond with hostility and aggression. ~Michelle Maiese, Emotions, Beyond Intractability
Joe said only a silly person believed they could solve a conflict based in differences of opinion or perspective. He said people needed to accept that, in those situations, conflict is a fact of life.
Here’s his wise counsel for dealing clashes of interests:
- See conflict as something ongoing that needs to be managed; not exterminated like termites.
- Aim for a constructive, goal-oriented solution that gives everyone a small win.
- Strive for outcomes that improve performance.
- Look to advance the greater good; there’s something bigger than all of us out there.
- Accept that differences of thought, opinion, and perspective are both healthy and uncomfortable.
- Handled without skill, patience, or compassion, conflict can easily become ugly, leaving people frustrated and angry. Don’t go there. Find a way to let respect over-rule self-righteous anger.
- Take the high road and be productive, not the low, unproductive one.
That last point about making conflict either productive or unproductive is crucial. Conflict, handled constructively, can be an instrument of growth. Handled unproductively, well, too many of us have experienced unpleasant attacks—that sometime get so bad that relationships and friendships are lost.
Wondering which side of that productive/not productive line you sit on? Imagine you’re a party to a conflict that’s flared up because of differing principles and values. Think about what you would normally do when you feel your needs, interests, or concerns are threatened. Then take a look at the table below.
If more of your actions fall on the left side of the table, take a step back and reflect. It’s likely you’re not letting people feel heard, respected, or free to voice a dissenting opinion. Aren’t those things you’d want people to do for you?
How conflict makes us productive…or not
|Refuses to see other’s position
||Open to exploring another point of view
|Respond with anger or accusations
||Respond calmly and respectfully
||Acknowledges thoughts or feelings and doesn’t try to justify
|Reasons or argues others out of their invalid thoughts and feelings
||Approaches issues with facts, not emotions, saying when you do xx in this situation, I feel yy
|Withdraws love and compassion
||Continues to care and be compassionate
|Nonverbal communications (facial expressions; posture; gestures; pace, tone, and intensity of voice) are hostile
||Nonverbals are agreeable, pleasant, nonthreatening, and friendly
|Focuses on winning and losing
||Understands that success is more than a score or coming out on top
|Passionately defends individual power and rights
||Seeks mutual interests
|Dredges up the past
||Focuses on the here-and-now and the future
|Refuses to let go of any contrary issue
||Knows when to pick a battle
|Makes it personal
||Doesn’t let things become personal
|Always goes with the gut; doesn’t see the need to research or seek to understand
||Gets the facts from checking multiple sources
|Denies being wrong
||Shows courage and openness to being wrong
|Co-mingles and conflates people and problems
||Respects people, attacks the problem
|Jumps to conclusions
||Gathers additional information before deciding
|Intolerant of differences
|Refuses to negotiate or compromise
||Aims for inclusive consensus
|Is eager to escalate, exaggerate, or embellish
||Stays level-headed and keeps to the facts
|Demands my-way-or-the-highway allegiance
||Commits to working together to work it out
|Presumes that others will live up to and/or accept their expectations
||Gives others room to have their own expectations
Thanks to Joe all those years ago, today, whenever I’m facing a vocal someone who passionately sees things differently than I do and who’s starting to get under my skin because all they can say is that I’m wrong, wrong, wrong, I take a step back and think about their right to think differently.
I have to understand and respect that I’m never going to change someone else. Only they can do that.
I know I can’t control the other person’s response, but I’m in total control of mine.
I have endeavored to remember that the object of life is to do good. ~Peter Cooper, industrialist and philanthropist
Image source before quote added: Pixabay
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“You’re a total idiot! No one in their right mind thinks that way.”
Those words were from a conversation happening at the far end of the coffee shop. A conversatiion that kept getting louder and louder. Everyone in the shop knew the people back there were talking about immigration.
The “idiot” fellow had shared that immigrants deserved compassion. From the ugly debate and name-calling his words produced, it was obvious he was in the minority.
I was recently involved in a similar but less passionate discussion about regarding leadership. My conversation partner believed the best leaders were the ones who kicked butt and took names. I believe the best leaders practice tough empathy because effective leaders are both tough and tender.
My conversation partner was one of many in a long string of people who got worked up about leaders being tender and humane. That’s for wussies was their thinking.
Why are caring and connection so threatening?
Time for research.
I looked into emotion, fear, love, neuroscience, psychology, leadership, and change management.
Not defaulting to fear
Machiavelli’s words about fear—that it was more reliable because it can be “maintained by dread of punishment, which never fails” and that “it was safer to be feared than loved” popped up several places.
Safer. What a fascinating word choice. Machiavelli didn’t say fear was better than love, just safer.
Funny how a single word can unlock a whole new line of pondering—what’s so unsafe about a leader who cares?
A couple of answers popped into mind:
Expressing love does makes us vulnerable. We have to get close; fear can be elicited from a distance.
Detachment doesn’t ask for an emotional investment, empathy does.
Reaching out is harder and riskier than walking away. We put ourselves on the line.
My pushback to these thoughts? Fear and love aren’t forever either/or choices. People need them both.
Sometimes we need a warm heart; others times a cool head. Sometimes we need a boot in our bottom; other times it’s the comforting hug. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree, but not be disagreeable towards those who see things differently.
How can we learn to replace defaulting to fear with seeking to understand and doing what’s right for the situation?
I found these words from Umair Haque, author, economist, and Director of the London-based Havas Media Lab that helped me answer that question:
Those who truly wish to be leaders in an age of discontent—not merely its demagogues, bullies, hecklers, and tyrants—will have to turn reject and refuse ruling through fear, and toward leading with love.
Leading through love means overcoming the ever-present temptation to abuse and belittle people, to guilt and shame them, to mock and taunt them — to force them into line.
It means creating the conditions for them to grow into following the principles that you espouse. It means not just arguing tendentiously with nor patronizingly explaining to people things that they are not ready to, equipped to, nor prepared to understand, but putting faith in people — even those who damn you — first, always, everywhere.
Wow. Those are some powerful thoughts on getting right with fear and love.
After reading Umair’s words, I thought about the fellas in the coffee shop as well as my colleague and I.
In those situations, no one was getting through to anyone. No heads or hearts were being changed. All anyone was doing was making noise. Rattling our sabers of fear, certainly not extending compassion or empathy or promoting goodness.
Create a chain reaction of goodness
To find the sweet spot of respect without defaulting to fear, it’s necessary to:
- Honor and respect other’s right to think, feel, and act differently.
- Accept that we’re not always right.
- Not allow evil and hatred to make us numb to what’s good, paraphrasing Henry Adam’s remark that evil is done by those who think they are doing good.
- Be mindful when words and phrases like either/or, should, or need to be control our thoughts, feelings, and actions.
- Assure we’re practicing both logic and emotion as we chart our lives.
My promise to myself? To replace my wagging finger with grace and aim for creating a chain reaction of goodness.
Image credit before quote added: Pixabay
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