Many years ago, I had one of those experiences that you never forget. It shows up in so many areas of my life. In my previous life, I was a trial lawyer for 30 years and have been a musician since I was seven. Most people would say I am very comfortable in front of people. But even now, whenever I’m in front of people, there is an inner conversation going on that I do not want to have. It is always a variation of “can I do it” or “will it be good enough.”
This experience occurred when I participated in a weekend workshop designed to increase one’s ability to give better presentations sponsored by the Actors Institute. The participants included actors, musicians, comedians, lawyers and politicians.
After a long weekend of exercises designed to “stretch” us we were required to give our presentation. We then critiqued our own and each other’s performance. Without exception, our critique of our own presentation was much harsher than the groups. The instructor commented that if we had to hire ourselves we would never get a job!
We are so hard on ourselves. The truth is, in the process of trying to be perfect, we often focus on our imperfections and sometimes that is all we see. Because of this fear of being imperfect, we procrastinate and agonize over seemingly easy tasks. My wife Annie reminded me of a story that illustrates this point.
The master lived quite a distance from the stream. Every day his servant, the water bearer, would walk from his master’s house to the stream with two large pots, each hung on opposite ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the walk, while the other pot had a crack in it and arrived only half full.
This went on for a full two years and the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfections and of the fact that it was only able to accomplish half of what it had been made to do.
Finally the cracked pot summoned up enough courage to have its own conversation with the water bearer. It went something like this. “I am ashamed and I want to apologize to you for I have let you down. Because of my flaws you have had to do twice as much work.” But the water bearer would have nothing of this conversation. “Did you notice the beautiful wild flowers along the path and did you notice that these beautiful flowers were only on your side of the path?” That’s because I have always known of your flaws and I took advantage of them and planted flower seeds on your side of the path and every day you watered them. And these beautiful flowers that you have watered everyday grace the master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”
Each of us has our own unique flaws and in our own way we are all cracked pots. With all our imperfections we still create beauty and good in the world. Perhaps what real courage is all about is not letting our fears and imperfections stop us. Instead of procrastinating we confidently take the next step.
You might want to take some time to journal or just sit as you reflect upon the following inquiry. Imagine experiencing your imperfections in a different way– as gifts or unique opportunities. Identify an imperfection in your life that gets more attention than it deserves and discover what gift is hidden in that imperfection. From this new vantage point imagine what could be possible?
Throughout his life, Mark has always made a practice of taking a leap of faith whenever he heard the call for something more. His life has been an unfolding journey of discovery. A former trial attorney for 30 years and musician, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. Whether coaching one-on-one, speaking to groups, or leading a retreat, he shares his message that regardless of our life’s circumstances, we can find more joy and meaning in our life. He is a sought after speaker and coauthor along with Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy and other experts in the book 101 Great Ways to Improve your Life. Mark’s new book, Dancing on the River…Finding Joy and Meaning in the Midst of Change. firstname.lastname@example.org 415.453.5016