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Embracing Messy Imperfection

My living room has one forest green wall that's probably still there from the 80s. Ever since we moved into our house, I have wanted to paint it. I have looked at paint chips. Waffled about colors. Discussed it with my spouse (His response: "There's a green wall in our living room????").

Five years later, the wall still isn't painted. I forget about it for months at a time until I notice it again and go back to planning. I'd have to take all the pictures down, move the TV, tape the edges, tarp the floor. It will take so much time and effort. And the color--what if what I've chosen isn't absolutely perfect? I'm overwhelmed with even thinking about getting it right.

Is this you? Do you have projects that you would like to work on but can't get over the fear of doing it "wrong"? Whether you get stuck at the beginning, middle, or end of a plan, is it perfectionism that's keeping you from actually DOING something?


In my effort to make the Messy Desk writing/coaching/consulting business a full-time endeavor, I have taken a lot of classes. Sure, love of learning and curiosity are two of my signature strengths. I am still that nerdy kid who loved school. But really, these classes are just another way to procrastinate because I am afraid to take the leap. What if it's a mistake?

Sometimes, I need messages from the universe to remind me of what I already know.

"Anything that we have to learn to do we learn by the actual doing of it."


I'm currently finishing a class with business mentor Ilise Benun. The course has pushed me forward with less fear. We have completed a series of small practice exercises and then reached out to real clients, accompanied by encouraging and practical messages from successful freelancers.

In one such session with writer, speaker, and consultant Terri Trespicio, Benun turned the conversation to the value of messiness. "I want to draw attention to how messy Terri's elevator pitch is. It's not perfect. She says something different every single time...That's the energy I'm trying to cultivate here."

Benun knows that we grow through mistakes. She calls our businesses "laboratories" where we experiment and learn. A little messiness helps us be adaptable to changing markets and individual client needs. Ultimately, messiness helps us to succeed.

Trespicio pointed out that having a perfect elevator speech shuts down conversation. If you just recite your slogan, there is no room for response. When you stammer a bit, you leave room for people to jump in and make a real connection. They can share their own ideas and needs. Your vulnerability makes you more approachable and authentic.


"The fullness of life is incubated in messy spaces." -Amy Dickinson

The quotation above, posted by one of my classmates, perfectly suits Benun's image of life as a messy laboratory. And doesn't it fit Messy Desk so well?

The Messy Planner is based on the concept that messiness is more flexible and versatile than a perfectly planned life. If you plan every minute of your day, you will be disappointed and frustrated when your plans don't work out. Keeping a loose list of to-dos allows you to shift gears when needed and still meet your long-term goals.

Messies make creative connections that cause what Ilise calls a "tingle of an idea." When you turn those tingles into a Big Idea, you increase your chances of success with a flexible mindset. You are going to make mistakes. When you do, take time for reflective practice. Don't beat yourself up for normal human imperfection. Just learn and move on to the next action.

"We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.”

John Dewey


When I get ready to paint that wall, I'm going to remember Ilise and lessons from this course that apply to all parts of life.

  • Life is a laboratory. Try new things to see how they work.

  • Adaptability can seem messy.

  • Messiness is flexible and versatile. Tidiness can be rigid.

  • Being too perfect can seem inauthentic and leave no room for conversation.

  • We learn from our mistakes.

So the next time I invite you into my living room, I might have a newly painted wall. But then again, maybe not. I have much higher priorities on my lengthy to-do list, such as offering my help to new clients.

And if you are interested in working with me to shift your mindset about perfectionism in your own life, let's set up a call! Schedule it here

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