Wabi Sabi: The Art (& Bummer) of Imperfection

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I just found a pretty obvious error in my main self-study program guidebook. It's an error I should have seen. I know it wasn't there in previous iterations that came from the interior book designer. I know because I looked those ones over really detailed-like. But those last few revisions, I was just checking the essentials – were the errors I mentioned fixed? That kind of thing. So, I missed it. And that seriously bums me out.

Primarily, I am bummed out because I had a bunch of those guidebooks printed so I could send and hand them to those who pre-ordered the program. I had extras printed for some speaking events I had planned. I had more extras printed to ship out as orders come in. So there they sit, that crazy one page in the appendix where you can't read anything because it is actually two pages of text piled onto one page. Oh, and of course there are those copies that I already shipped before I even noticed the error. Argh – the embarrassment!

So, after I calmed down from freak-out mode, I realized I had two options: 1. toss out (recycle) the 30 or so copies I have sitting here in my office that haven't shipped yet (that's 6420 sheets of paper plus covers that would require significant natural resources to process through recycling, all for one page error that (as you'll see in a minute) really isn't a big deal from a practical perspective at all, or 2. use the books I have on hand and explain this embarrassing error to each person to whom I send a guidebook.

First let me tell you, I have perfectionistic tendencies only about a few things. One of them is the work I create in the world. (The other is interpersonal communication, which is a ridiculous thing to be perfectionistic about and, frankly, causes way more stress and instant replay of conversations than makes any sense whatsoever.) So, all of my cells in my body were fighting for the option to obliterate any evidence of this error by getting rid of these otherwise beautiful books. But my commitment to our lovely Earth won out. I just cannot get myself to recycle these books for the sole reason of protecting my ego.

Especially since the page that is ruined is even better as a handout-style insert. It's the Outlining Skeleton for the section on how to Champion Your Business through expert presentations and everyone who uses that outline would most certainly make a copy of it (or download it from the Vision Into Action web page) and fill it out with information for the particular speech they are preparing. So, really, nothing is lost from a users perspective at all.

This reminds me (strangely) of the time I was teaching three public speaking classes at a new college and had to create a totally new syllabus for that quarter. Somehow, in my frenzy to get all of the required “course outcomes” language on the syllabus, I left the “cl” off of the word “class” on all 100 copies of the syllabus. As I stood there at the front of the room establishing both my authority and my witty, fun-teacher status with a roomful of students focused on whether they would get to leave class extra early this first day of school, I noticed that the word “class” had unfortunately become the word “ass.” There are a lot of other words on that syllabus I could have left letters off of and none of them would have created nearly the snickers and red-faces (okay, maybe it was just my face that was red) as that one.

But no. It was “ass” – right there. As you might imagine, my students loved it. Me, not so much.

So, I had to be cool about it. After all, I'm that fabulous mix of “authority, witty, fun-teacher”… (ahem.) Which means I surely said something hilarious (read: lame.) Then, I got to pass that syllabus out to 100 students and know that, while they may have heard little else in that first class we shared of the term, there was a really good chance that they attended to the part where I put “ass” in the syllabus – and told their friends in the hall afterward.

I'm not sure exactly how the two lessons interplay (except I guess the part about proofreading more carefully), but here's what I do know. I put my heart and soul into those classes I taught – and I did the same with Vision Into Action. I wish I was perfect (I think I wish that… though it does feel kind of constricting in my chest area when I write it…) but it seems I'm not.

So I land on one of my favorite concepts from Japanese culture, wabi-sabi. Beauty in imperfection. “Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” (thanks Wikipedia)

And I remind myself that Contribution is what matters in this life – making a real difference in the lives of other from my own gifts and strengths. Then I feel mostly better about things. (Well, that, and I have included a beautiful insert in Vision Into Action that replaces those pages, of course – and future runs of the guidebook will be fixed.)

I wonder – has anything like this ever happened to you? (Don't just make something up because you feel bad for me, either.)

Thank you laverrue for the gorgeous, wish-I-was-there-in-real-life image of the wabi-sabi barn.