On having your sh!t together

You know what? A lot of the time I don’t have my shit together. You know what else? Neither do you.

Some people who know me will read my statement about myself and say Ha! Kim, you’re so organized! You’ve got spreadsheets and you’re prepared and present. Others will read my statement and say, Hahaha - yup.

A lot of my clients believe that if you don’t have it together, you can’t be trusted to be in charge of something.

That is, if you don’t always show up on time, perfectly coiffed, and fully prepared after eating a balanced breakfast and planning for every possible traffic tie-up, that if you don’t believe 100% in the ideas you are presenting and haven’t done your homework down to the names of your client’s six grandkids, that if you don’t have perfect credentials and a custom designed website and always return your emails within 24 hours and never procrastinate, cry or doubt yourself - then you don’t have what it takes to do whatever it is you are trying to do.

And you know what? That’s utter BS.

You would be surprised at the level of accomplishment and success I have seen from people who clearly don't have their shit together at all.

I watched a client absolutely crush a meeting and seemingly play at the top of their game, with enthusiastic yesses all around.

Then when I complimented them, they admitted embarrassedly that they meant to prepare earlier but didn’t get around to it, so they were going to do it last night but their son was throwing up, so they slept like shit and only rehearsed it this morning while driving to the office, and they spaced on the main client’s first name 15 minutes into the presentation and suddenly they remembered they had not updated the graph on page 6 so had to find a way to skip over it on the fly, and there was a big hole forming in their tights which they hope they stopped with a dab of nail polish in the bathroom before the meeting, and the client asked about something they had meant to research but forgot about….

What things look like from the inside and what they look like from the outside can be two very different things.

Where do we get the idea that our habits have to be perfect if we’re going to do what we want?

Because it’s all around us. It’s a cultural message. Pick up any business magazine and see the tough talk: You’ve got to be on your game, master the details, set habits for success, don’t let them see you sweat.

But the fact is, very few people really operate like that. Some of most “successful” people you know are still sweating and failing and oopsy-ing every day. They miss details. They get depressed and can’t even. Their family lives are unpredictable. Emergencies come up. And that means tomorrow they will scale back or move the deadline or miss the deadline or farm it out or basically do something other than stay up all night to get the job done no matter what, even though that’s what the business magazines would have you believe is always the right thing to do.

And still it will all get done in the end.

Yes, it’s true that less chaos would be objectively “better.” Sometimes, if your life is messy, there are consequences. Some business settings do reward style over substance. And some people are so chronically chaotic that you do walk away from them going, Oh. My. God. No way I’m getting involved with that.

But other people – if I’m honest, I’d say most people – manage to be in a fairly constant state of chaos and still be the boss, gain the respect, or even just have a lucrative-enough career doing work they find meaningful.

What’s the difference between the people who make the chaos work well enough and those who don’t? I see 3 main differences.

1)   People who make it work don’t let the fact that they don't have their act together stop them from putting themselves out there anyway.

2)   They don’t advertise it. Their inner circle knows what’s up, but they are self-aware enough to have a good game face on hand for the people whose trust they have not yet earned.

3)   And this is the most important one: They accept themselves 100%. This doesn’t mean that they don’t review how things are going and take steps to improve where they can. It just means they have stopped spending their energy trying to fix themselves to look more like the vaunted ideal of professional productivity, and instead focus their efforts on doing what needs to be done, even if it’s a complete clusterfuck.

Now that we all know that you don’t have your shit together (because no one does), what can you do today to focus on self-acceptance?  

Kim Perkins