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Paying Attention to Detail-Not Chasing Perfection!

Dare to Be You!!

I had the honor of attending my niece's college graduation recently; what a joyous family day for all of us! As someone who has devoted the last 20 years of her life to the business of education, and serving almost 800 MBA now Alumni since 2014, it is no understatement to say when one of my students walks across the stage to receive their individually hard-earned diploma, it's like one of my own, much like my niece. We get to know each other on the deepest levels, often experience life-changing hardships together, have disagreements that must be resolved, and end up becoming closer in bonding of the heart than is true in some families. It's true to say we've been called by God to be there, united in common purpose, and about to launch on an entirely new path that may yet to be revealed, or perhaps even one we are not quite ready to accept as right for us. Definitely, our legacies will be forever impacted by future decisions we will all make.

While the situations may be different, my workplace versus yours, we are equally impacted by those with whom we work no matter where that may be. We develop long-standing relationships that can feel just like that of our families. The same is true for many of our friends who are also our colleagues (our network developed over the years of our professional lives). I can't help but think of the song, We Are Family, by Sister Sledge as it is playing in my head!

I came away from commencement with 2 powerful messages that resonated loudly with me personally. I want to share them with you!

1. Success, differentiation, distinction - is most likely for those who pay attention to detail in everything they do.

In my business life, my commitment every day is to listen as if what I hear is the first time I've ever heard "it" & to find ways to solve what may be a similar difficulty I've heard many times before. To anticipate what may help someone else on their own road to success & to never tire of trying to make a difference. Accountability for me is with my team who knows with total confidence they are empowered to always tell me what I need to hear, not what I may want to hear. They are rewarded for bringing different opinions & engaging in difficult conversations, fighting if necessary for what they believe in, & for helping me to stay appropriately in the "details." We all need accountability partners, or it's just too easy to develop what I refer to as jaded thinking, or not really capable of hearing the unique person, & how I can serve them on a path to success. The commencement speaker who spoke on this topic is a retired naval officer, fighter pilot, & one who has devoted 30 years of his life in service through the US Navy supporting the values upon which this great Country was built. What I heard him say? Pay attention to the details as if your life depends on it because it does.

2. Don't chase perfection - it just doesn't exist. Wisdom comes from preparation & knowing when enough is plenty good enough albeit imperfect.

I can look throughout my life & find lots of examples of how I chased perfection only to find that even if I could finally see what it looked like, I didn't really want it. And, of course, perfection may have a huge price tag that is often not worth the sacrifices to be paid (such as time & money). Perfection, as I perceived it, sometimes made me ask myself, "is that all there is?" For instance, how about the time we've all prepared, practiced, adjusted, for hours, if not weeks, for a presentation we wanted to give - it had to be perfect! We may have taken time away from family, friends, exercise, etc., to ensure this was going to be a home run like no other! This was going to be THE presentation of all time, one to be remembered, a real game changer! Right? And then what happens? You already know what I'm going to say - it may have been perfect in preparation, the much more important part was not perfection, but that those whom I wanted to reach heard what I was trying to say & saw me as a very believable messenger, one to whom they even should listen to as worthy to be out front. No matter how many times I wrote / re-wrote, practiced / practiced more, moved things around, etc., it was destined to be imperfect because why? Because I'm imperfect. There is also the example of when I planned the perfect homemade Thanksgiving dinner for my parents after I had first gotten married. Everything on the menu had to be "from scratch." So much planning went in to table setting, timing of the meal itself, the flowers & candles for the table, the utensils I needed for each dish including the cooking & the serving. Yep, everything had to be perfect! Guess what happened already, right? I made my own avocado salad dressing, misread the recipe & put in a Tablespoon of sugar rather than a teaspoon of sugar. Problem #1 on the road to imperfection! My parents said nothing, but I knew it was too sweet, of course. When I asked, my father said he loves sweets & not to worry a bit about it. We went on to the main meal & I knew nothing else could go wrong so I recovered pretty quickly. It just didn't take long, though. I had lots of equipment as I attempted to get everything ready at exactly the same time. One thing was a huge auxiliary oven I was using to cook the turkey reserving the main oven for dressing, sweet potatoes, broccoli & rice, rolls, etc. Cardinal rule, don't open an auxiliary oven while it's cooking because the heat escapes & cooking timing is then off. I had always made A's in my homemaking classes, watched carefully as my grandmother cooked, I just knew I HAD THIS. I should have taken some "shop" classes because I didn't realize the auxiliary oven had blown the fuse on the plug I was using & the power had been off the entire time. All the other "cooking smells" masked that there was no "turkey cooking" smells. The time came for me to cut the turkey & I took the top off that oven to find the turkey looking just as it had the 8 hours before when I placed him in that oven! Although that was decades ago, I still remember my father saying "I'm tired of Thanksgiving turkey anyway! Dressing is my favorite! Tell me about those great looking pies! How did you do it?" I knew he meant it & that he had accepted my gift of love that day. My father loved to describe the look on my face when I opened the oven which is a story he told literally for years. After I recovered, of course. HA

I learned lots of other lessons that day. The most important one being there's just no such thing as perfection. My father taught me how to laugh at myself, how to love myself especially in mistakes, & that I was always worthy of his genuine love for me. I believe one of the lessons I still struggle with today is not letting planning get in the way of the priority of time needed for the actual relationship.

The powerful commencement message yesterday about chasing perfection? Wisdom is preparing, learning perfection doesn't actually exist & knowing when imperfect is plenty good enough. Living this wisdom is the real game changer to me.

Call To Action:

1. Share what "attention to detail" means in your daily life. How do you discern what's important detail & what's detail that can be a de-railer?

2. Share a time you "chased perfection." What was your epiphany? How do you know when "imperfection is plenty good enough?"

Discuss with your coworkers & / or support group. Let's get a dialogue started!

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