If you are an American Idol fan, you know that we are heading into the final final week of the 15-year-long music competition show where average kids go from good to great right before our eyes and many become cultural music icons like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson. Good for them for going out with a bang at the top of their run. Bad for us as we’ll certainly miss what has become something we look forward to as a kick off to our New Year every season.
Two weeks ago, Keith Urban one of three judges, coached one of the contestants, Dalton Rapattoni, who was stretching his vocal limitations within the song in what was an otherwise excellent and heartfelt performance. Praising him, Urban said, “I’ll take an inspired attempt over soulless perfection any day.” I couldn’t grab my pen fast enough.
What Keith was so eloquently describing is the choice we all make from time to time between playing it safe within the zone where we already excel versus stretching ourselves into new territory that we haven’t quite figured out or perfected just yet. Inspired attempts are what create growth for us, regardless of the outcome. Soulless perfection is the place where we coast… getting no worse but getting no better. The problem with this is that others are getting better and our industry and clients are always changing and looking for fresh ideas, offerings, answers, and perspectives. Stay where you are long enough, and you’ll be surpassed by your competition… whether that’s another professional who brings something you don’t to the job or a business competitor that now offers that next new level customers want.
Inspired attempts always have a learning curve. When I try out a story or technique on stage, launch a new product, or use an experiential exercise for the very first time with a team I’m coaching… none of them will be perfect first time but from them I will lean toward perfection by learning, adjusting, and discovering what works and what I’m fully capable of. This stretching into new territory allows me and my work to stay fresh and get better, but it also requires a lot of courage and curiosity, a restlessness with the status quo, and an embracing of the messy process of expansion.
For our Music Monday (always the first Monday of every month), Josh Damigo, in his song, “Shooting for the Sun”, tells us, “You won’t find me here 20 years from now, cause I’m reaching for the sun so I land in the clouds. Now is my time to fall from these heights and spread my wings.”
This week, I challenge all of us to pick something at which we feel particularly skilled… and consider stretching our efforts beyond our current level of expertise. Consciously move from soulless perfection to an inspired attempt at the next level of mastery. It’s raw in this space. It can be scary. But it can also be fun and exciting if you remember that you can never lose. You either win or you learn. Period. And either way you are moving toward the next level of mastery and perfection.
“If God had made a perfect world, it would be a magic trick, not creation,
with no meaning or place for us to learn and create. Mankind is not yet
ready for a perfect world. We do not know how to appreciate perfection.”