Hello friends, this episode is going to be more about the messy. When I usually prepare for an episode, I’m digging into research, articles, and recent news on topics like habits, brain science, and psychology. I’m a former journalist and I’m a full-time nerd. I like to explore the Why as much as the What.
I’m also aware that time and attention is a scarce resource, so my goal here in these podcast episodes is to offer you bite-size information that is culled from reviewing deep information and digested quickly.
But today I want to talk about the messy middle. The parts of our efforts where we don’t get to the polished product. The days where our best just isn’t available. Now in our social-scrolling, trending-hashtag culture, those curated stories and posts come with easy filters to shine the dull away.
But that’s not life. Not even close.
The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that true growth, personal growth, is always going to be outside our comfort zone. And while that can often mean stretching our ideas and efforts, there is also a counterbalance in allowing room for growth to come from letting go of the all-or-nothing notion (that’s outside our comfort zone sometimes too). There is an opportunity to acknowledge – and even celebrate – the times where we simply make progress.
That doesn’t mean we’re always going to like that sensation. And it’s natural to want to press on, power through, and white-knuckle our way through whatever feels mediocre to get to a result that looks and feels more like an achievement, with a capital A. Gold stars only, please – but again that’s not life.
We can be so busy preparing, perfecting, and polishing that we miss the here-and-now. The messy parts of us are actual parts of us. We’re not supposed to sand it all away. If we do, we miss the opportunity to improve, evolve. Being real leads to real moments. And when others see more of the real parts, that’s where we can go deeper than the screen and superficial exchanges and get real connection.
In the early 2000s, author Jim Collins published a business book called Good to Great. In it, he profiled 11 companies that instilled a culture of discipline with a constant drive to be great-that was their key differentiator. Other companies that are content with good (he suggested) lack the incentive to do anything different or extra that can get them to great.
It’s an interesting look at performance within business, when it’s a collective effort of many to carry progress across the line.
But we, my friends, are not conglomerates. We are a team of one. Yes, we can and should accept support from others. We can build our own teams. That in itself is a sign of success and healthy balance. But what we can’t do is always push ourselves to only be great. Or to discipline ourselves to trade our sleep, nutrition, exercise, and even relationships – maybe even just for a short period –but trade them to try to upgrade good to great.
On a human level, if good is the enemy of great, does that make great the enemy of feeling good?
I was visiting with a longtime friend this weekend. Like me, he’s a public speaker and trainer. He’s been on stages all over the world and his work is also online where it’s regularly seen by tens of thousands of people. He also writes regularly for a large social channel that has editors who provide comment on his writing. And then all those people who watch his work means that there are plenty of places for comments and feedback.
At first, he said, he would read those comments and consider those edits.
“Now I don’t,” he said. “It takes away too much Me.” I love that.
And it reminded me of an important piece of my own history from Baby Kristin archives. When I was growing up, I loved listening to records over and over and one of my favorites was Free to Be…You and Me. It was produced and sung by Marlo Thomas and a bunch of artists from that time. It was released in 1972 (which was also when I was released) it was an ahead-of-its-time collection of songs about acceptance and equality.
Being real, being messy can feel really vulnerable. Will we be seen, heard, respected if we’re not Great? Certainly not by all, but definitely by the few who matter. And what if this vulnerability offered others validation. What if our messy was an invitation to the Good Playground – or the Okay for Today one? And, of course, there are going to be the times where even Okay is a stretch.
A place to just be. More me, less great. Free to be whatever we are today without carrying tomorrow just yet.
So this is my light-on-research-and-science offering for today. Just some messy thoughts that I hope are good enough. And if they’re not, that’s okay.
In the days ahead, I wish you freedom to be You and lots of time to take good care.