Issue No. 22: Practice Makes Imperfect

“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist... Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.”

- Stephen Hawking

Photo by Steve Johnson.

Photo by Steve Johnson.

So, it’s been awhile. Longer than I’d like. Why? Well, because with each passing week that I didn’t send out a new newsletter issue the self-imposed pressure would build: I need to have something really good to say. It needs to be profound. It needs to be timely. It needs to be everything. It needs to be perfect. And every time I told myself it needed to be perfect, another week went by with no email sent. Perfectionism, in work and in life, is a great way to accomplish nothing.

(That said, I do think that a healthy striving for near perfect can result in high-quality work as long as it doesn’t prevent you from getting started and block you from knowing when to call a deliverable or task done.)

I recently picked up a copy of Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfections because perfectionism and I know each other well. I used to think that this was a good thing, perfectionism, but then I got a little older, maybe a little wiser, and definitely more aware of all the ways it prevents me from doing the things I want to do in this life.

When I started the book, Matt and I were sitting in bed and I began reading him the titles for the chapters:

  • Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think

  • Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty

  • Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth

  • Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

There are ten chapters in the book, and when I finished reading all ten titles aloud we both burst out laughing: Me because I could relate to every single one, and him because he’s seen me struggle with them all recently. Is it weird to be laughing about such a realization? Not at all. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you’ve got to have a sense of humor about the adventure of being human.

As much as I wish that there was a one-stop, “I’m cured!” way to edit perfectionism out of my life, there simply is not. Overcoming perfectionism, like so many things, is a minute-by-minute practice. It requires that I continually choose to do something different than my default, to tell myself another story. And that requires being present: It’s only when I slow down enough to be herethat I have the option to choose — to edit in — a different path.

I'm sure to be imperfect in this practice. There will be days, weeks, and maybe months when I'll aspire to perfect. In those moments I’ll need to go easy on myself and remember: Isn’t imperfect the point? 



  1. Watching Running With Beto and still thinking that he’s got something special. At the very least, he’s given us the gift of showing us what’s possible and that there is no one way to run a campaign.

  2. Listening to this episode of The Ezra Klein Show on "work as identity, burnout as lifestyle" as a follow up to this article on how Millennials became the burnout generation, which was featured in Issue No. 20. (Thank you, Vikram, for the recommendation!)

  3. Finally reading the Monk of Mokha and taking away so many things, including: “Keep the money in your hand, never in your heart.”

  4. Giving the wildness and possible health benefits of natural wines a try with a subscription to Dry Farm Wines. So far, the wines have been unlike any I’ve ever had.

  5. Coming late to the Serena Williams party: Not only has she done tennis her way, she's out to do venture investing differently, too.

  6. Figuring out how I can edit in more Tusk in Portland into my life: The flavor-packed Middle Eastern-inspired food; the cool, sunny vibe

  7. Promising to be more aware of any tendencies I have toward conversational narcissism. You know, those conversations where the person who you’re talking to asks zero questions. Yep, it’s a thing.

  8. Getting acquainted with the Heath Ceramics of the East Coast that’s out to introduce a new generation to the earthy world of artisanal ceramics. Say what? Pottery for Millennials.

  9. Eyeing swimwear made from recycled plastic because, you know, summer.

  10. Truth: "If you don't do it, someone else will."