Perfectly imperfect: What draws us in?

I have always hated being imperfect. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist because we’re all evolved enough to know that unless you’re a neurosurgeon, perfectionism is a character flaw. And—surprise—I don’t like thinking of myself as flawed, either.

My favorite business coach, Samantha Bennett (sadly, we’re not related), has tried to instill in me an appreciation for imperfection. “Don’t be afraid to get  a C,” Sam says. Or as PR expert Sakita Holley, the host of a delightful podcast I recently found, says in her latest episode: “Done is better than perfect.

Of course, they’re both right. I can think of only one upside to a world in which we all wait to achieve perfection before acting: A whole lot less email. Then again, we might not have any computers on which to receive it. Tech wizards have mastered the art of “ship now; debug later.” And annoying as it is when you’re the person who gets the wonky upgrade, I don’t see anyone clamoring to return to the days of carbon paper and carrier pigeon.

Imperfect is much more interesting

Cindy Crawford’s mole—a facial “imperfection”—made her millions. It made her recognizable; she stood out in the crowd of leggy beauties in our fashion magazines.

Flawless delivery, like flawless skin, is much less interesting. Think of all the boring Saturday Night Live sketches that only get funny when we watch one of the performers fight not to burst out laughing. It’s unexpected. And it’s endearing. The celebrity suddenly becomes human.

One of the reasons I find Sakita’s podcast “delightful” is that she is not afraid to be imperfect. Even though I’ve never met her, when I listen to an episode I feel like I’m gabbing with a girlfriend over tea, not listening to some blow-dried “expert.”

Now, please don’t mistake my praise of imperfection as license to be unprepared. If you stumble over a passage when delivering your speech because something distracted you momentarily—hey, it happens to the best of us. No harm, no foul.

But if you stumble because you haven’t read the thing before you stepped up to the microphone, shame on you. You’re not respecting your audience, and the time they’ve invested to listen to you.

Prepare to do your best, always—but don’t expect that “your best” will ever be perfect. It won’t be. And that’s probably a good thing.

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