Two different conversations with two amazing and insightful women this week helped me realize why I am having trouble blogging and how to fix it. (Thank you Phyllis Serbes and Misti Burmeister!) Funny thing is, they probably have no clue they also helped me identify one trait that holds me back time after time. (Thanks now does not seem enough.) So what is this magic recipe for blogging (and professional) success? The one that took me 39 years to learn? Don't demand perfection.
Yes, I have heard it before. But for some reason, hearing it this week from two women I admire and respect in relation to blogging crystallized the bigger picture (and pattern) in my mind. Here's my story, let me know what you think. I started this blog in November because I feel like I have something to contribute to the study of leadership. I keep a handwritten journal of my thoughts and I am constantly making notes, connecting ideas, and citing great sources. My research and learning productivity has been through the roof. My blog, on the other hand, is stuck in hibernation. This week Phyllis brought her laptop to lunch and showed me how to link books to my blog so I can share all the resources I've found through my research. That was Wednesday. You might notice there are no book links on my blog before today. (Please note that I have conquered this task and linked Misti's From Boomers To Bloggers book to this post. If you want a great perspective on generational issues in the workplace, please check it out.) Phyllis told me as she we were looking at her blog (linked above, amazing, you want to follow her), that one of her hurdles was just hitting the send button and not fretting so much over making it perfect. This definitely struck a chord.
So Thursday, I had lunch with Misti. I mentioned my block and she gave me a great writing exercise/challenge to try. Sit down and write for fifteen minutes. (Easy, right.) Not so fast, during that time, you cannot change anything. No editing for grammar, no deleting rambling irrelevant phrases, and no correcting spelling. I couldn't wait to try it...after work, on a night I didn't have a meeting or an American Idol results show to watch. Then inspiration randomly hit while I was on the bus on the way to work on Friday. The only thing I could get to was my phone. The "A" key on my phone doesn't work about 75% of the time so it wasn't long before I started hitting the delete key to correct something. As my frustration with myself increased, I realized this was an e-mail to myself. Who cares about spelling? As I let go, the writing started flowing. I sent four e-mails to myself during that twenty-five minute commute. The spelling and the grammar were atrocious. But I captured an idea that has been brewing for a few weeks now. In twenty-five minutes on a bus and subway train. I was able to work with my notes later and develop the ideas further and was a little in awe of the entire process.
So I thought about what Phyllis and Misti taught me this week about blogging and writing and realized that instinctively I wait until something is perfect (or more likely hitting up against a deadline I can't change) to commit and share. Since I'm always learning and connecting, nothing ever makes it to "finished" or "perfect." As a result, I don't give myself credit for the things I actually finished because I know they could have been better if I'd spent more time. But every now and then, when I see my work reflected in someone else's eyes, I realize that work I discredited for not being finished or perfect was good. That made me think about what else Misti had said at lunch, and I realized that I hold others to the same insane standard I hold myself. Wait a minute, really? I try to go out of my way to be understanding of people's differences - I teach it to other people for goodness sake. Hmmm. Is that why my boyfriend is not allowed to load the dishwasher because he doesn't know exactly which order to place the plates, the bowls, and the pans? Or why I shy away from working in groups because it is easier to just do it myself? Or why I prefer to teach leadership skills instead of seeking out leadership responsibilities?
So as of today, I'm letting go of my need for unobtainable perfection from myself and others. This is a learning process, but I can honestly say, the simple act of overcoming my writer's block has opened up greater opportunities for personal growth and leadership development than I could have ever imagined.