The Importance of Being Imperfect

For me, the intellect is always the guide but not the goal of the performance... not too much intellect because it becomes scholastic. Not too much heart because it can become schmaltz. Not too much technique because you become a mechanic. Always there should be a little mistake here and there – the people who don’t do mistakes are cold like ice. It takes risk to make a mistake. If you don’t take risk, you are boring". – Vladimir Horowitz

You engage in dozens of conversations every day, many of them just as important – or more so – than the occasional speech you deliver. Yet you never think for a moment that your conversation should be polished or perfect, delivered without any hesitations, pauses, repetitions, rephrasing or silences.

If you approach a speech or presentation thinking - contrary to the normal dynamics of conversation- that it has to be polished and perfect, of course you’ll be consumed with stage fright. Common sense would suggest your goal is impossible to attain, so panic is a perfectly natural reaction.

The first step toward controlling this wave of adrenaline is remembering that getting the message across simply means being involved with your subject and caring about your audience.  Your aim is not perfection though that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare carefully. Genuine confidence comes from a thorough knowledge of your subject, not word-for-word memorization of the script. Thorough preparation so you’re in full control of your ideas is the second step toward relaxation, but the first… is letting go of perfection.

Most of us are our own worst critics, afraid we won’t be as good as we think we should be. We get up in front of an audience, look out, see one person frowning and immediately assume everyone is against us or thinks our ideas are lacking merit. Or perhaps you stumble over a couple of words and immediately think “well, l now I’ve blown it. I might as well give up.” The truth is that because communication is two way, the audience absorbs and reflects your state of mind. If you’re nervous, they will be nervous too. They want you to be comfortable, so that you can be comfortable.

Repeat this as needed… the faces in the audience are just regular people, essentially on your side – even if they don’t agree with everything you have to say.  You have a right to just be a person as well.  Remember these wise words, “Not so much intellect as to be scholastic, not so much heart has to be schmaltz, and not so much technique that you become a mechanic.” Just be who you are... the imperfect, authentic “you“  that got you there in the first place.

Tags: communication , perfection , performance , practice ,