I’m not perfect. I’m far from it.
I cry. I kick and scream. I stutter and slur. I think every idea I have is an amazing one. I get stressed out. I’m stubborn. I procrastinate. I’m overly concerned about my appearance. Of course, I don’t always like to admit any of this. Then again who does. These are all considered points of imperfection.
For 30 plus years I went on and on chasing perfection. Perfect job. Perfect relationship. Perfect life. Perfect body. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Have you ever felt similarly? We’re conditioned to believe in perfection from an early age. Nobody really wants to talk about it, though. It’s considered a point of imperfection.
Last summer I was one of 10,000 attendees at the legendary Newport Folk Festival. I watched amazingly talented artists like Margo Price, Amanda Shires, Sturgill Simpson, and Jason Isbell. I couldn’t help but realize they also wanted perfection in their music but perhaps they found it in a different way. Price inspired with her message while showcasing her musical versatility. Shires displayed a quirky and more delicate version of rock n’ roll. Simpson played the guitar with anger channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix. And Isbell engaged with his embattled past while being as polished as ever. It was perfection through embracing their imperfections.
This reminded me about a resounding thought I woke up to a morning not long ago.
“If you want to be relevant, aspire to be similar. If you want to be remembered, aspire to be different.”
Shortly after I read the story of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, his brother Bud Walton said of Sam, “He never stopped trying to do something different.” Sam mirrored this sentiment with his 10th rule of running a successful business, “Swim upstream. Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom.” I mean, the guy bought a two-seat prop plane for $1800, learned how to fly, and flew state to state to check out new stores and locations. People thought he was nuts. In 1967, Walmart had 24 locations doing about $12.7 million in revenue while Kmart had 250 locations doing about $800 million. Walton could have done things exactly how Kmart was doing things back then. He probably would have mirrored their success. The problem, of course, is they wouldn’t have become Walmart. He needed his unique ideologies, methodologies, and imperfections.
The world wants us to do things that will ensure relevance. The way that makes sense to the world. The way it’s been done before. They want to fold you up, box you in, and tuck you away. Teachers, you need to teach this way. Lawyers, you must do things this way. Entrepreneurs, start a business this way. Artists, you must starve. Surgeons, dentists, and well, whoever, you get the point. The world has previously laid out for you how to do whatever you’re doing.
The problem is that everything around you has first been imagined and created by someone. The world is iterative. Somebody had to decide to do things differently at one point or another. So I guess, eventually we all face the question either consciously or subconsciously: Do you want to be relevant or remembered?
You probably don’t want to create Walmart. I sure as heck don’t. You might not want to start a business or do anything too radical either. I get it. But there’s a chance you want to be remembered by someone. Parent to kid. Teacher to student. Coach to athlete. Who do you want to be remembered by? Possibly it’s time to start embracing your imperfections.
Here are 12 things I do every day.
I guess they’re my breadcrumbs. Maybe they’re not that unique. Maybe you share some. I hope you do. They’re liable to change at any point. But when combined with my imperfections and life experiences it’s what makes me, me. Life has been alright to me. Only time will tell how things play out. For now, maybe one or two breadcrumbs can help you find your way.
1. I read for 40 minutes – Every morning I wake up, make two cups of coffee, and read. Not even too much alcohol stops this one. It gets my brain moving and keeps me learning. People ask, how? I say, Easy, wake up earlier.
2. I write something – Writing has kind of become my muse. I’d like to say I write something grand or even a particular word count every day. That would be a lie. I keep a notepad for ideas and journal for memories. Sometimes that qualifies.
3. I work out for 30 minutes – This use to be much more intense, but I’ve found 30 minutes is all I need now to satisfy my vanity and keep me healthy. For me, good health is prerequisite to living a good life.
4. I eat mostly whole foods – This just makes more sense to me – 1) You consume them slower, 2) They digest slower, 3) They have more nutrients, 4) They give you sustained energy, 5) They’re more filling, 6) There’s no/less additives.
5. I take a 20-minute nap – My secret weapon. More useful than any cup of coffee or stimulant to keep you alert. It’s almost like that morning feeling again, almost.
6. I plan tomorrow – I’m essentially useless when I’m not prepared. Everything seems to go smoother for me when I have things planned. To-do lists seem to work for me. Starting with top priority.
7. I don’t answer my phone after 8 pm – My friends and family make fun of me for this one. I tend to get wound up pretty easily. Yes, even in casual conversation. This is why I’ve made this a strict rule to help me wind down before bed.
8. I watch a TV show at night – I really just enjoy these long-form TV series. They’re so good. Super entertaining. Plus, it really helps me with my creative work. I often find myself notepadding ideas and thoughts mid-watch.
9. I track my sleep hours – This is a big one. It’s almost impossible for me to do anything at a high level without enough sleep hours. Research is starting to show that consistency is important. For what it’s worth, I track anything I want to improve.
10. I put a focus on empathy – Multiple times a day I ask myself, What does it feel like to be in their shoes? This one question helps me communicate and cope with people. And people are crazy.
11. I do one thing uncomfortable – This is kind of point of pride for me. I hang my hat on this idea. If you do one thing uncomfortable each day, that’s 365 uncomfortable things a year. At that rate, it’s almost impossible to not grow. Sort of like telling the world what’s wrong with me (see beginning of this article.)
12. I remember to have fun – This is written on my whiteboard above my desk. Days get long and arduous at times. You forget why you’re doing what you’re doing. I believe, if you’re going to do it, you mine as well have fun while you’re doing it.
These are my daily principles. My life process. I value it above any outcome that derives from it. How can I not? I live it every day. Everything else that happens in between are the invariable and uncontrollable aspects of life.
They say, success leaves breadcrumbs. I don’t know if I’m successful or not. I guess it depends on your definition of the word. Maybe my breadcrumbs aren’t for you. And that’s okay.
You’ll have to do it a little differently anyway.