By PTA Global Co-Founder Scott Hopson
It has been one of those days. I had a schedule perfectly planned, a nice list of things to check off, and an intention of getting lots done, including work, my training session, and writing this blog. Reality: I did not remotely get to stick to the schedule, the list has one item ticked off, and I feel I got very little ‘done’ (I did not get to train nor my blog started on time).
You know those days?
I intended to write a blog that would inspire, create intrigue (and yes some controversy), and express some of my ‘great’ thoughts and experiences in the industry. But given the fact I am running late, have not trained, feel frustrated at having a unchecked list, and am hungry….you might want to stop reading now.
Initially I was debating about the topic of this blog and was having my usual internal debate over whether I make it technical or abstract, theory or practice, scientist or artist! Truth is we are both. The scientist needs the artist and visa versa. Architects and painters are deeply similar on many levels. I have come to the realization that one of the – if not the – greatest blocks I have to creative flow, is perfectionism. For me perfectionism can be a train wreck and has two routes it takes to its inevitable crash.
Route number one is the path of procrastination and it says “I won’t start the project until I can do it perfectly”. This leads to feeling rushed, pressure mounts as time passes, deadlines get squeezed and we now act out of mania and desperation – train wreck. Route number two is the route of non-completion and its say’s “I am not finished yet because I can still make it better.” This leads to a never-ending search for ‘more’, the inability to be at peace with your creation, and you miss deadlines – train wreck. Route one means you never begin and route two means you never end. Ouch. So given the day I am having I cannot afford either of these perfectionist perceptions. Perfectionists can struggle with this reality and find themselves ‘stuck’ in such moments. Thankfully today I found a way out. During my 4-hour interview (scheduled for only 1 hour and thus my day not going as planned) I gave a presentation and in one of my slides I gave a quote (that I have offered many times) that broke my perfectionism.
Clare Booth Luce, a journalist and one of the first women to serve in Congress, paid a visit to a young President Kennedy. She told him “a great man is a sentence”. By that she meant the life’s work of any successful leader (man or woman) should be summed up into one sentence. She said she feared that Kennedy didn’t have a sentence but a muddled paragraph—and that he risked losing focus by trying to do too much. Examples:
Lincoln “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.”
F. Roosevelt “He lifted us out of the Great Depression and helped us win a war.”
I am pretty confident these great men had a million things to do and got many of them done. Yet we know of and remember so few.
A few years ago when I first read this I asked myself “what is my sentence?”. In other words, how can I summarize the mission of my work clearly and concisely? How would I sum up in one sentence what I do and what I want to be known for? It occurred to me today (in my frustrated state of perfectionism) that Clare did not say a great person is a ‘list’ nor needs to be on ‘schedule’.
This led me to remember my vision, mission and core values (why am I here / what do I do / who am I). If you have never done this I highly recommend you do – it’s a real game changer and will unequivocally direct and channel your life’s work, especially crucial when the poop hits the fan in life (and it will). A mission can change so long as it serves the vision. A vision can shift. Yet our core values truly are where the rubber hits the road. Most of life’s choices are made and most of life’s conflicts resolved and most of life’s dreams realized by the manifestation of our core values. I realized today that perfectionism is not on my list.
“To help others live better versions of their lives so that we may leave the world a better place than we found it.”
All that I do – all of it – at some level serves this purpose. Yes, even the mistakes and failures and perhaps those the most. It is so easy to fear failure or worse still – be shamed by it. I find Warren Bennis offers a truly remarkable notion around this:
“The leaders I met, whatever walk of life they were from, whatever institutions they were presiding over, always referred back to the same failure something that happened to them that was personally difficult, even traumatic, something that made them feel that desperate sense of hitting bottom–as something they thought was almost a necessity. It’s as if at that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.”
So what’s my point? Quite simply this: when we stop playing the many roles that life demand of us (parent, child, boss, employee, sibling, spouse, lover, friend, etc, etc) for just a moment, what’s left? That is where we find our sentence. All the roles are quite wonderful and for sure a responsibility bestowed upon us, yet in there is your sentence – that one thing that drives you in all your roles and non-roles.
When I awoke this morning I had my day down! I was going to work, interview, train, write a perfect blog , check everything off of my list, and all in time to relax tonight and have ‘me’ time. Yea….not so much. That leaves me with two realities to choose from. Choice #1: live life on my terms. Choice #2: live life on life’s terms and be OK with it.
If my sentence is: “To help others live better versions of their lives so that we may leave the world a better place than we found it” then I have to be OK with the fact that today that meant turning a 1-hour interview into a 4-hour one, and during the extra 3 hours I should stay dedicated to being of service to those who were interviewing me. Period. I can see it as 3 hours of ‘not getting lots done’ or 3 hours of actualizing my sentence. Paradoxically this willingness to live life on life’s terms actually allowed me to better reach my purpose.
It is funny how a shift in attitude creates a shift in life.
Another way that I am learning to help others is to honor my commitments. My training session being missed affected no one but me. Not checking off my list affected no one but me. Not writing this blog actual affects an entire team at PTA Global, for I agreed to do it and they depend on that. More over it requires others editing, publishing, etc. So as much as I want to miss my deadline so I can write the perfect blog (idiot…) I am willing to write a very average one to honor my commitment. And today that allows me to honor my sentence as well as honor others.
I could, and wanted to, directly link this blog ‘thought’ to how we coach clients, how we write programs, how we build clubs, how we build equipment and endless other ‘intellectual’ ways of feeling creative and inspiring and connecting it to ‘fitness’. However I am tired, hungry, feeling frustrated and looking at a list that I want to throw away but cant actually bring myself to do – so I will stop the blog right here.
Before I go, I will leave you with two questions…
1. What is your sentence? Please let me know and post it on our (PTA Global’s) Facebook page.
2. Do you want my next blog to be Science Geek or Abstract Artist? You tell me.
If just one of you reading this blog find anything – just one thing – helpful in your day, then I want to thank you. For you just helped me to live my sentence. And by the way – that was the one thing I did check off my list.