By Kalika Yap, serial entrepreneur & founder of Citrus Studios, Luxe Link, The Waxing Co & Orange & Bergamot
- Years ago, a relentless desire to be perfect wreaked havoc on my relationships, businesses and health.
- So I decided to ask myself a daily question: “What’s funny about this?”
- After infusing humor into my challenges, I’ve watched my business and personal life improve.
Take a look at this photo. Do you recognize this building?
The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy and Western civilization, and it’s considered one of the world's greatest cultural monuments.
What do you see? How many straight lines? Bends, curves?
Beautiful things are not perfect things.
The Parthenon, one of the most important surviving buildings of Classical Greece, has not a single straight line.
Each column bends slightly this way or that.
And no one’s aware that the sense of overwhelming happiness you feel when viewing it is caused by the curves and bends that are almost imperceptible yet immensely powerful.
We’re unaware that we’re responding to a combination of perfection and imperfection, regularity and irregularity, that the architect has hidden in his work.
According to the new book “ How Women Rise” by Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Hegelsman, women entrepreneurs often feel a need to be perfect to a fault.
It’s a habit that holds us back from achieving happiness & true success.
As a recovering perfectionist and achiever, I had to learn this the hard way.
I thought that if I let one thing fall through the cracks, everything would fall apart. If I didn’t answer a client’s email within an hour, the house of cards I had built would fall flat.
I had a schedule for everything, including when I would see my then-boyfriend and now- husband on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.I crossed my I’s and dotted my T’s. I double and triple checked. As an achiever, I would create an overwhelming list of to-do’s to drive my goals.
I would check off my to-do list, but I wasn’t happy. And neither were people around me.
When my employees didn’t complete their tasks to my standard of precision and timing, I would show my utter disappointment by making passive-aggressive remarks that chipped at their self-esteem and our culture.
Relentless achievement and perfection culminated in a 30-day bout of insomnia and utter exhaustion. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.
I realized there must be a better way. Something had to give. I couldn’t continue at this pace.
In my mind, I time-traveled to the future, to celebrating my 88th birthday. Who was around me? Husband? Employees? Family? Probably not, with the way things were going.
I realized I had to change.
I started by setting a notification on my phone that would pop up every day at 3 p.m.
“What’s funny about this?”
This little notification helped diffuse “issues” and infuse humor into whatever I was dealing with.
My husband has this awesome habit of putting his dirty socks on the kitchen table, or the coffee table, or somewhere on the floor. It would irritate the heck out of me. Even my girls started doing it!
But then I’d see the notification pop up on my phone.
What’s funny about this?
Instead of my usual tirade of nags, I chuckled and went on my way.
This encounter of letting go of perfection had a domino effect in my companies. If something went awry at work, rather than taking it personally and or dramatically, I would take a step back and approach it with a sense of detachment.
A client’s unhappiness wasn’t a reflection of me on a person but an opportunity for growth.I started to look at things with perspective.
What’s funny about this?
This hack helped me put space between what was happening and my awareness.
I’d be able to focus on improving a process, or better yet saying, “it isn’t the end of the world if a few of the 10 things I wanted to accomplish fall through the cracks.”
As a women entrepreneur, you’ll have your share of regularity and irregularity.
So stop holding on to perfection. Instead, hold on to perspective.
You’ll have your share of bends and curves, and I encourage you to embrace and allow the ebbs and flows of entrepreneurship -- or whatever life throws at you -- with a level of tranquil detachment.
A year from now, you can look at this past year like the Parthenon: with a sense of happiness about what you’ve accomplished, finding perfection in the imperfection, for that is where the beauty of life comes from.
The funny thing is that after I stopped caring about the socks and getting irritated by this “annoyance,” the socks seemed to disappear. They didn’t matter to me anymore.
Every once in a while, I’ll see my husband’s socks on the floor and chuckle, exhilirated by how far I’ve come.
Kalika Yap is the founder of four companies: Citrus Studios, her first digital marketing agency; Luxe Link, the original purse hook; The Waxing Co, Honolulu’s first luxury waxing salon; and Orange & Bergamot, a branding agency & community for female founders. Connect with her on LinkedIn to keep up with her growth story.