It Takes Mistakes To Make Things Happen

Perfection is just an illusion

Photo by Ελευθέριος Μπέτσης via  Pixabay

Photo by Ελευθέριος Μπέτσης via Pixabay

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I pay attention to details and strive to get each “i” dotted and “t” crossed before something we do makes its debut.

Because I am acutely aware of the details, I notice the emails that we send when they go out slightly differently than planned, the elements we missed in a report or our delay, no matter how brief, in responding to an inquiry.

Being in business for yourself, there’s no day-to-day context to assess how you are doing running your business. And so I wonder how good we are at the day-to-day, especially when I feel like our batting average needs a serious boost.

So in the absence of real-life behind-the-scenes context, I wind up comparing myself to an ideal or the bright shiny public version that I can see from the outside of other companies.

In other words, I feel like a screw-up much of the time.

Often I look at how things get goofed, missed or just plain messy and I think, “Boy, we have got to get our act together!”

And I wonder how other businesses manage to get things done with fewer hiccups. It seems like they would have graduated past our level of faux pas or tragic accidents to a more epic scale (think BP and oil spill or WalMart security breech).

But is that really the case?

Truth is, I have been living in a fantasy world. A world where established companies don’t make seemingly basic, preventable mistakes on a frequent basis. A world where day-to day operations are generally smooth sailing.

This is one fantasy that had me feeling like a failure.

And then …

One evening I was watching a television program that went behind the scenes of the runway show of renowned wedding dress designer, Pnina Tornai.

A top of the line Pnina dress can run upwards of $15-20,000. A LOT of time and care goes into each dress.

In the show, Pnina was stressed. Her new collection was being shown and behind the curtain, there was a race to the runway. Dressers were scrambling to get the finishing touches in places and as the models were being queued up to make their entrance. Pnina was holding onto the back sash and calling out for someone to bring her scissors ASAP because the bows on a number of the dresses were too long and hadn’t been cut to the right length yet.

The scissors didn’t make it in time and the model walked out with the sash uncut, making the design’s debut one with the sash an unintended length. Judging by Pnina’s reaction, the uncut sash was a big “Uh-oh.”

I was mystified. How can this be? An incredibly accomplished successful designer with a thriving business is so pressed for time, the bows are not the right length just milliseconds before the models walk down the runway?

The people in the audience didn’t see it that way. They saw those dresses with their “too long” sashes and they loved them. They had no idea that what they saw was not what it was “supposed to be.” And all that stress that Pnina was feeling? I’m not sure the audience would have been any more awestruck if she had gotten her hands on those scissors in time.

Something clicked for me when I saw Pnina frantic to cut the bow and having to see her designs make their public debut in an "unfinished" state.

Mistakes are part of the process. Every day, sometimes. And I realize, ever more deeply with each day, that if my expectation is a day-to-day free of hiccups, then I don’t get anything done either.

Just because life is messy doesn’t mean I am a mess. And even if I am a mess, or my team and I have messy moments, it doesn’t mean we aren’t successful at making magic in the long run.