Imperfection is a Good Thing

Do yourself a favor and look around the blogosphere. Look at the people who have almost obsessive cult-followings. The people who have started their own movements and revolutions. The people whose fans would knife you if you said an ill word against their favorite blogger.

Realize something with me:

We are not looking for perfection.

If anything, perfection kind of pisses us off. The high and mighty are not our favorite people. We like people who can acknowledge their imperfections, people who admit they screw it up not just sometimes, but often, and the people who can say, “Yeah, I’m really scared too, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

We don’t like people who don’t have a past.

Think of it this way. I’m a millionaire. (I’m not actually a millionaire, but I am in this hypothetical scenario. And yes, my bathtub is made of gold in said hypothetical, thank you for enquiring.) You, as my reader, get to decide which kind of millionaire you would rather I become. You have two options:

  1. Option #1: I have always been a millionaire.
  2. Option #2: I have become a millionaire through my own hard work.

Which one did you choose? I’m betting on Option #2, not just for the totally selfish reason that maybe I’ll give you tried-and-tested tips to become a millionaire yourself, but because no one likes the guy who’s already achieved what we’re hoping to achieve through no work whatsoever.

We don’t like the people who have achieved perfection.

We like the people who strive, every day, to reach perfection and fail.

We like them because even though they fail at reaching perfection, they are still much, much farther along than the rest of us because they’re trying. And we think, “Okay, so-and-so isn’t perfect, but she’s doing much better than I’m doing. So maybe if I stopped trying for perfection and just started trying, I could do pretty well too.”

That’s inspiring.

Imagine this scenario: A unicorn appears before you. An actual unicorn, and it’s sparkling in the sun and has rainbows dancing around it. A small, evidently invisible, angelic choir is singing extremely choral praise-songs to the beauty that is Unicorn.

The unicorn says, “Look at me! I am magical and powerful and amazing! Go unicorn!”

You say, “Um, okay. Why are you here, unicorn?”

Unicorn says, “TO BE AWESOME.”

You say, “All right . . . um. Am I getting anything out of this?”

Unicorn says, “NO. Revel in my beauty! Bring me tribute! Be excited, for I am unicorn!”

Then you stab the unicorn and have steak for dinner, because you can’t do anything with that unicorn. It is totally useless.

This is what a lot of blogs out there sound like. “I’m perfect, I’m amazing, I know all the secrets.” But those bloggers aren’t realistic, and they aren’t of any use to you unless you feel like sitting around and watching someone else talk about how great they are.

We don’t want unicorns. We want human beings who are just like us. Human beings who are flawed and who are willing to give a helping hand to other human beings because they know it’s rough out there. Human beings who get knocked down and have to get up and try again. Human beings who need you as much as you need them.

Human beings are not perfect.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog but you’re afraid it won’t succeed because you’re not smart or funny or interesting enough, then repeat after me:

“I do not have to be perfect. In fact, it is better if I am not perfect.”

(Because then no unicorns get stabbed. )

Post by Taylor

Taylor Lindstrom (fondly known as Tei) is a twenty-something copywriter and journalist from Boulder, CO. She’s the team’s rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol’ boys club. She loves the color green, micro-point Uniball pens, and medieval weaponry.

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  1. Ha ha, loved the unicorn scenario. My favorite blogs are the ones that can laugh at themselves. They give both good and bad examples of things that they’ve done or observations they’ve made. And what makes them especially great is that sometimes, they don’t know all the answers. They post an idea (that may not be completely formulated) because it intrigues them. Also, I love blogs that give good meaningful, down-to-earth advice based on experience. Those blogs are worth their weight in gold (unless you’re the kind who learns from the School of Hard Knocks).

    However, it’s not a good thing either to be sloppy. I’ve seen people who completely throw caution into the wind and it makes their blog less desirable to read and participate in.

    … I wonder what unicorn steak tastes like. Lake Superior State University lets you print out a questing unicorn license… it’s a must have for any meat lover.

    Thanks for yet another great post.
    .-= Chris Mower´s last blog ..Entrepreneur Interview: Chris McClain of Chris McClain Productions =-.

  2. Geez Tei, even unicorns aren’t safe around you…. Hope you enjoyed that steak my dear… LOL

    We like to be around people who are like us. Or just ahead. We want to be able to see ourselves doing what they did, in order to get to where they are. And when we can see that they became a millionaire, an A-Lister, a blogging icon, through sheer hard work and having down days, then we realise we can too. It gives hope.

    We relate to people when we see thier foibles and cracks. One of my most commented on posts was when I admitted to being so overwhelmed with everything I was doing that I actually lost a week. Nothing got done. Ittybiz’s Naomi has a post on when she fell apart, and it’s one of her most viewed posts.

    People want to see the flaws, they want to see that we’re only human (not James of course, he’s perfect and the exception that proves the rule).

    And often we put our hero’s on pedestals and we think they’re perfect. We see only the public face and imagine them as being without imperfection. We tend to see others good qualities – especially when we look up to them – and see our own failings and imperfections enlarged. So the gap between the perfect millionaire on the pedestal and we poor mere mortals is magnified. Perception is fun like that.
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..FaceBook changes – Privacy issues and Fanpages =-.

  3. Susan Allport says:

    “Go unicorn!” Haha love this!

    We do love to feel that we’re in in together don’t we? Perhaps it’s a competitive thing – if somebody shows a flaw/failing it disarms us and we relate instead of seeing them as ‘the winner’.

  4. I always practice this to be humble to my younger generations not to balk at their imperfections. And respect someone who is elder to me who has the good heart to stomach my crankiness and imperfections. I like people who feel they owe to the society and universe what they’ve achieved in their life.
    It’s a great post

  5. Yes. In my old music school there were plenty of teachers who were incredible players and missed no opportunity to show their skills to their students. Some people are indeed impressed by this.

    But the most popular teacher by far was a woman who was nowhere near being the best guitarist, but she was the kindest and most caring teacher.

  6. Loved the unicorn comparison!

    Empathy and understanding will win far more permanent followers than “I am Godlike”…BUT in the Internet marketing industry, the “I am GODLIKE” gets tons more temporary followers.

    Gets most frustrating, that.
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog ..Doing Zazzle? Here are some quick ways to grab expert tips, resources and ideas =-.

  7. Poor unicorn !

    but it’s true – perfection is boring because it’s unnatural. Too many people try to have that shiny, flawless image, creating that artificial feeling we get from all these glossy TV ads. In today’s age, with all potential of real human interaction through the internet, it’s becoming more and more obsolete !

    I always write about my whole package -and people seem to crave it.

    Here’s to our imperfections !
    .-= Mars Dorian´s last blog ..You can’t please ‘em all ! =-.

  8. My first reaction was to look closely at the gold bathtub looking for flaws… that’s human nature I guess. I think this is one of the reasons we tend to be fascinated with celebrities that fall from grace – not, probably, our finest trait but it’s understandable from this angle.

    When I was in 11th grade or so I had a private jazz piano teacher, who was pretty cool, and my highschool music teacher asked him to come in and do a seminar. With what were doubtless the best of intentions, he barely played a note, sticking mostly to talking and playing recordings. When asked about this, he said he’d rather play us recordings of ‘great’ players than have us hear him – a merely ‘good’ player – live. It was basically a failed presentation – most of the class couldn’t tell the difference, and would have been far more impressed and, more importantly, inspired if he’d played himself. He had some good stuff to say, but it was the few notes he actually played that made the biggest impression – and now, many years later, I mostly remember that, given an opportunity to make a real musical connection with a class full of kids, he chose instead to hide behind the ‘great’ – but absent and abstract – players.

    I wish he’d read this post. Oh well.

  9. Great post, Taylor. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I just started my blog, so it’s a good time to marinate on it. My main goal is to find customers through my blog, but I wonder if revealing flaws to potential customers would be productive… I know it is if you want to sell make money online type info products or make buddies with people in the blogosphere, but what about those of us who just want to sell writing services to people who may or may not be active in social media? I suppose having a blog that no one reads isn’t going to help you much. And revealing your flaws would certainly help you attract more readers. Just thinking out loud here.
    Hey, and where are your flaws? :o) You guys are so perfect.

  10. Mmmmmmm, unicorn steak. What? There’s no *actual* unicorn steak? Sad.

    I think you make a great point. It’s hard to learn as much from the ‘perfect’ bloggers – and their message eventually starts to sound like a string of platitudes. Much better to read about bloggers who struggle – because maybe I can learn how to handle my own struggles by reading how they handled theirs. Also, from a storytelling perspective, a story without struggle is just . . . boring.
    .-= Ami´s last blog ..Don’t let money be a barrier to finding a calling =-.

  11. Kill the Unicorn and eat steak? Really? lol That’s Awesome..

    Being in-perfect <–that may be wrong haha) is great, that way there are no expectations, so when you deliver, people appreciate it more.

    I had a 20 comment chat with a blogger that read my post and said I used YOUR wrong, should have been You're..

    Silly mistake..Yes.. Did it take away from the usefulness of the post..NO

    It was a 200 word post and very helpful in my opinion and all she took from it was a spelling lesson in ONE mistake.

    So I said I'm not perfect and not a writer or english teacher, I'm not trying to help you with spelling and grammar. I am offering blogging help and whether the word is spelled wrong or not grammatically perfect isn't the point of the post.

    So Be Happy Be In-Perfect.. it's ok
    .-= John Paul Aguiar´s last blog ..My Crazy Simple 7 Step Plan To Promote A New Post =-.

  12. This post is well timed for me. My blog is just a little newborn baby and this serves as a great reminder: although my intention is to share how-to information, I don’t need to always sound like an authority. And I don’t need to hold on to each post, waiting for absolute perfection before publishing.

    It’s also timely because I stumbled upon a new blog today that looked somewhat promising, but when I realized that the author refused to identify herself in any way (not even on the ‘About me’ page), I walked away. I guess I wanted to know that the human being being the writing believed in herself enough to disclose her identity.
    .-= Marlene´s last blog ..I’m weary of being leery about mix-ups between wary and weary =-.

  13. The people I admire the most are the ones who are flawed – I’m flawed so admiring a perfect person is guaranteed to end in low self-esteem from constant comparisons. Yes, we know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, but that’s how many of us navigate our way to our success – if xyz worked for her, then it’s bound to work for me.

    In addition to all this, perfect people are boring! I like the unpredictable!
    .-= Kiesha @ WeBlogBetter´s last blog ..5 Quirky methods I use to stay organized =-.

  14. Ha! Love it. Perfection sucks. 🙂 I’m much more interested in reality, flaws, tears, hard work, cuts, scrapes, bruises and the life lessons learned along the way (hmmm… is that maybe why we’re so in love with reality TV now??) And the unicorn analogy is priceless.

    Bloggers can be relentless, especially in pointing out the flaws in others. I think this is great for veteran bloggers to be reminded of where they started, too. They’re much more likely to make comments about rules and the right way to do things than anyone else.
    .-= Tia –´s last blog ..The Best Advice I Have Ever Received =-.

  15. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Taylor, thanks for the good thoughts: “I do not have to be perfect. In fact, it is better if I am not perfect.”

    Since I mess up a lot, I’m hoping the second part of the mantra is, “I will forgive others who are not perfect.”

    ps. Wonder how you clean a gold tub? If I had a gold tub, I would definitely have different wallpaper.

  16. Imperfection is the only way to go. It’s what makes the world go ’round. Just think of where software companies would be if they got it right the first time…

    They rely on people to tell them what they are doing WRONG and then come out with the 2.0s and the 3.0s in order to get better, but never perfect.

    One thing I learned from earning two black belts is that once you have achieved a certain level of excellence, you are now ready to START learning, where before you weren’t even born yet.

    Perfection never really exists and if you spend all of your time in pursuit of it, you are going to miss a lot of cool stuff that happened in the meantime, as well as a lot of potential customers.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog ..Does Your Sales Letter Pass The Critical “Vodka Test?” =-.

  17. Man, if I waited to be perfect or even close I would still be waiting. I started my blog with no knowledge of anything about it. It has grown from there and only a couple of unicorns had to go into hiding because of it…There were those Keebler elves though….

    Anyway, I like to read stuff from the guys that have made it big but still talk like they are human and not the do all be all of blogging.
    .-= Justin Matthews´s last blog ..Be Great, Powerful Beyond Measure =-.

  18. These are great comments, guys – so thanks for that.

    As for me… I’m not perfect. I stress over stupid stuff. I procrastinate on important stuff. I say dumb things on Twitter sometimes. I do dumb stuff in real life. All the time. Every day, in fact.

    I don’t WANT to be perfect. Yes, that’d be awesome in some respects, but I think it’s our flaws and quirks and fears and stupidities and goofiness that make us all fun and special and unique.

    That’s what I want to be remembered for – that I was fun and special. Not that I was gilded perfection.

    Okay, well, maybe I can be gilded perfection on Sundays.

    (And I decided not to have steak tonight… pasta, anyone?)

  19. Perfect is so overrated. When I’m just trying to be my imperfect self, really tapping into how I feel — that’s when I write the best posts. I have lots of good material b/c I screw up and am imperfect ALOT.
    .-= susan´s last blog ..Art and Communication =-.

  20. Hahahaha… love it.

    Unicorn the other white meat?

    Some very good and valid points there. Who want’s pure awesome? On the other hand… 😉

  21. “We don’t like people who don’t have a past.” Yes! You can’t find clients who truly resonate with you if you’re not being your true self when you write publicly. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to share *every* personal detail. Please don’t. Just don’t. But please do share stories about your own struggles as a way to help readers with theirs. It’s a wonderful method for teachers, methinks. Also? Praise Jeebus, Tei is writing biz advice again…Woo Hoo!
    .-= Sally J. (Practical Archivist)´s last blog ..The Talismanic Aura of Authenticity (Part 1) =-.

  22. I loved this article. I prefer to read blogs where people can have a good laugh at themselves, admit their mistakes and how they learnt from them. I don’t want to read a blog where I’m preached to and the person as you say is high and mighty and talking or writing down to you. This blog makes you feel more as an equal and I find in life if you do admit your mistakes and imperfections, people do tend to like you more and relate to you!

  23. Jack Busch says:

    Wait, do you mean you ate a unicorn steak? If unicorn is anything like a horse (which it is, right? I’ve never seen one while sober), then I’m betting it was really stringy.

    Anyway, I totally know what you mean. We demand the same thing from our rock stars. Hard work is a virtuous endeavor, and if you’ve never had sweat on your brow or anxiety on your balance sheet, then you’re not perfect at all.

  24. Lisa Zahran says:

    I love this post! I wonder if unicorn meat is halal… 😛

    Anyway, great point on staying real. To err is human, and those who act as unicorns are downright annoying.

    Then again, on the flip side of the coin, would it be arguable that TOO much modesty and humility is equally annoying? This is probably more evident in my culture (Malay) than it is in the Western culture. How then do you best find balance between too much/too little self praise, and, too much/too little self depreciation?

  25. LOL! Does that mean all great bloggers much kill the unicorn 😉
    .-= Business Logos´s last blog ..Water Conservation Drop =-.

  26. Thank you. It was fun reading. Especially because I have always looked for perfection, and my mantra now says: don’t look for perfection. BE HUMAN. it’s much more realistic, isn’t it?

  27. Hmm steak!, ah! its a unicorn steak. awesome.
    Life isnt fair. Imperfections is good.

  28. @Arnold: Life isn’t fair, but the best bit is once in a while it isn’t fair in your favour. 🙂

  29. OH Tei. I so rarely get to ready these delightful tidbits of your writing, but still all I can think of is when is this perfect wonderful woman going to come make me a gold mosaic claw-foot tub.

  30. I love reading this post and everyone’s comments. It is true. We are humans.

    I found myself walking backwards in life and fell into a pit. I ate dirt. It started to rain and the dirt turned into mud. I’ve been waiting for the sun to shine to dry the mud so I can shake off the dirt and crawl out of the pit.

    Thank you for shinning some sunlight. You put a smile on my face. 🙂

  31. I came across this post today and it is so awesome and so true! I only started blogging in May and I very quickly learned that readers really get engaged when you admit your flaws and your mistakes.
    I am fighting a major battle with depression and while it is difficult for me to be so open, it is helping me, it is helping others, and I am learning to be authentic instead of hiding behind a mask. And my readers are engaging. They come back because they like to know they aren’t the only ones dealing with issues.


  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by TonyMackGD: Imperfection is a Good Thing: Do yourself a favor and look around the blogosphere. Look at the peo.. @MenwithPens…

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    […] em conjunto com a comunidade. Os bloggers não são capazes de saber de tudo e, ao que parece, os leitores gostam realmente da imperfeição . Oferecer uma questão à comunidade para que esta conduza a discussão e encontre a solução […]

  5. As mudanças nos hábitos de escrita da blogosfera | * says:

    […] em conjunto com a comunidade. Os bloggers não são capazes de saber de tudo e, ao que parece, os leitores gostam realmente da imperfeição . Oferecer uma questão à comunidade para que esta conduza a discussão e encontre a solução […]

  6. […] to solve problems together. Bloggers don’t have to have all the answers and readers actually prefer when they’re not perfect. Often by posing a question and letting the community guide the discussion, we learn more than by […]

  7. […] yourself. You are constantly evolving and so is your blog. Be human and other humans will love you. Imperfection is a good thing, says Men with […]

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