“The reason I’ve been able to
produce so much
is that I’m not a perfectionist—
I’m an imperfectionist.
I’m confident that everything
can be improved upon by others,
and that’s my great strength,
because I know that it won’t be improved upon by others
unless I take the first step.” Forrest Church
When I was younger, I was not allowed to use coloring books. My artist mama did not believe in coloring inside the lines, that it was possible to make mistakes in creating art (see Beautiful Oops), nor that colors that strayed outside borders were somehow wrong. What we had: Anti-Coloring Books. In these, you were given scenes, like an empty brick wall of a subway station, an empty garden, or the arm of a robot, to create and imagine what could be.
To many children, coloring inside the lines can feel like a setup for following someone else’s ideas of how things should look. And, then, when you step out of bounds or color outside the lines, there is one more little negative check mark against you.
We need to celebrate, embrace and model imperfection. We need to lean into, share, and live the lesson that it’s OK to color outside the lines, to try something hard that you’ve never done before, even if you fall flat on your face.
We need: imperfectionism.
Imperfectionism frees us to live outside the lines, where possibilities are infinite, mistakes are allowed, and self-judgment is minimal. Imperfectionism allows us to be happier, healthier, and more productive at doing what matters. Imperfectionism is coloring outside your comfort zone, and leaving it there.
The old way to approach perfectionism was to inspire people to “let go” of their need for perfection and hope they could do it. But this concept of letting go is not constructive, as if it’s that easy.
Instead, especially in places of learning, we offer, that through "mini actions”, we can empower imperfectionism.
School of Thought of the Week
“Perfectionists are really just people who fail at prioritization, aren’t they? If everything is important, then nothing is!” Shane Miller
Hand-blown glass, hand-carved wood, hand-turned pottery, all admired for their beautiful imperfection. Distressed jeans, handmade baked goods, craft beer. I even saw an ad for hand-poured coffee the other day (although I have no idea why it matters how coffee is poured.)
There are times when we need to reject the rigidity of perfect order and relish in the poetry that comes when things are just a little out of balance.
Imperfectionism. It is foundational concept to living a full-color, creative life.
But what does that mean, exactly? It’s easy to think that imperfectionism means sloppiness, lower standards, or settling for less than what we’re capable of.
But imperfectionism does not mean giving up at all.
Imperfectionism is …
A Mindset: It is about acknowledging and accepting that we are human, embracing that, while also always growing and learning.
A Practice: It is about being intentional about prioritizing some things, letting go of others.
A Community: It is about finding space that allows us to eradicate the motto,“Never let them see you sweat.”
Any creative human setting - from schools to creative workplaces - should be a messy, vibrant place where the unexpected is woven into the fabric of each day, where slips, stumbles, and blunders abound—along with moments of grace and unpredictable brilliance.
Imperfectionism is about saying to ourselves, “I accept that I am not a master yet, and I allow myself to enjoy where I am, while at the same time aiming and working to be better.”
This post is intended as a Call for Imperfectionists. We want to set the record straight about what imperfectionism really is, and gather those aligned souls who strive for learning, living, leading and creating in public in all kinds of beautiful and imperfect ways.
The Big Idea
Our big idea of the week is beautifully summarized in the words of Dr. Jen:
And further, we love the call out by Mr. Sunil Singh:
Making Big Ideas Usable
We believe imperfection is a mindset that can be learned through mini actions. It is embracing the f-word (failure) to sit in our humanity.
We offer steps along the trail to imperfectionism.
Ten Evidence-Inspired Mini Actions for an Imperfectionist Mindset
Find your humans. You need to be able to fail out loud with others. Without learning to fail, you will fail to learn. Surround yourself with people who want to see you grow. 👂🏻 Inspiration here.
Focus on five. If you don’t focus, you may be in motion but you’re not taking action. 🐝Explained beautifully here.
Be bursty. 🎇Establish a ground rule of non-judgment during the generative phase.
Celebrate mistakes. It can be hard to overcome the fear of making mistakes. Idea: Write down 3 mistakes that come to mind. Now write down what those mistakes have taught you.
Take note. At the end of the day or week, write down ONE thing (or more if you can!) that scared you and the results that came out of it. Some good, some bad.
Don’t wait for the muse to show up. Your showing up is more likely to summon the muse than the other way around. 🏝Ideas to inspire this here.
Do something Badly. Gradual, safe exposure to whatever makes us anxious is a powerful way of eliminating anxiety. Paint. Write. Surf. Cook. 🎧Podcast here.
Embrace process. We learn as much from what doesn’t work as from what does work. 🦋Adopt a growth mindset.
Adopt a buddy system. ❤️Commit with a friend that you'll both do something really terribly, then praise each other for following through.
Commit to something. If you commit to nothing, you’re distracted by everything. 🎈More on a this here.
and then….just put your stuff out into the world. 🌎Other people see your work for what it is. YOU see your work for what it isn’t. Let’s do this. Get your idea down so that it can be improved.
🐝Let’s replace Imperfection with I’m perfection.👈🏼
An Imperfect Experiment
Consider this post our personal invitation to you to join us in the ranks of the Imperfectionists. Let’s create a movement of learners, leaders, connectors, artists and creatives, committed to Imperfection and to what matters at all costs. To dive in, we have a Call!
Take a few minutes to dive in to Imperfectionism as a part of an experiment!
We invite you to share thoughts in voice recordings or video. We will use these to create a multi-media School of Thought piece coming soon.
Here is the prompt:
To me, Imperfectionism means…
Make one voice recording or video. To start, state your name, where you are in the world, and around 15 seconds max to complete the prompt. Then, email your creation to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, April 23rd. 💭
If you’re seeing this blog for the first time, you can read previous issues and
SHARE what you learned. As we shared in this post, not only does it help improve retention, but it also leads to ACTION.
Or just let us know you are out there by ENGAGING on Twitter. Pls tag us @Rvltnproject or @shorejaneshore and use any of the hashtags #makingbigideasusable #schoolofthought #communitybuilding #imperfectionism ❤️
Would you like to read more? Another Big Idea and how to Make It Usable is here.