Did you see Oprah in all of her Glory? Yes, yes we got a little weepy too, but don’t be ashamed! Oprah does that to people from time to time. Watching her speak, it makes me think that the world is ready now more than ever for a female president of the United States. Women have been known to kick ass and takes names from time to time (see Oprah’s Resume) and so why not in the most powerful role in the land. There is an interesting debate, however about what advice to give to an aspiring women and/or minority presidential hopeful and I thought I would do my best Oprah impression and try to inspire someone somewhere to make a grab for that brass ring. However, seeing as I’m a non conventional sort, here is my somewhat non conventional advice:
For a long time we told female and minority movers and shakers that “you need to be perfect”. You need to be the smartest, strongest and fastest if you want to be in the captains chair, so there can be no mistakes! I couldn’t disagree with this more and for so many reasons. Let’s start from the beginning of why I think this is such damaging advice.
The journey to be in the captains chair is going to be a very, very, very long one and along the way (despite your pursuit of perfection) you will in fact, fail. It’s inevitable. Read the biographies of some of the most respected male leaders in history and their lives are littered with failure: Churchill, Roosevelt, Washington, Kennedy. Perfection isn’t relatable either because none of us are, in fact, perfect. Projecting perfection only serves to alienate, rather than to inspire. Don’t strive for perfection: strive for small goals that can be constantly achieved in spite of all of your failure. These will make the journey, even with it’s many downsides, all the more tolerable.
Failure is the best teacher and often times success teaches us nothing. Constant success doesn’t create tenacity, resilience, critical thinking skills and grit. The captains chair requires more than anything a level of perseverance in the face of obstacles that have no good solutions: where if you DO you will lose and if you DON’T you will lose. If you choose A you will lose and if you choose B you will lose more. These hard ones are the ones that matter and if you’ve only achieved constantly, or been sheltered from these, you will be lost when it comes to navigating these waters.
Projecting perfection creates an unrealistic standard for others to follow after you’ve achieved. Let’s say for a second that we agree on this point: everyone, everywhere needs someone to look up to and to emulate on their journey. If they were to try to emulate you in your perfection are you setting them up on a pathway that can never be walked? Are you supposing that everyone who comes after you be superhuman?
To err is human and asking for perfection denies people their basic humanity. Imagine those that fall short thinking that there can be no coming back. What kind of turmoil must they feel having supposed that the entire game is lost now because their perfection is tarnished? It’s ever more interesting though, that they’re likely to learn more climbing out of the pit than looking down at it, so it might be better to simply let people fail and learn from the mistakes they’ve made, as long as those mistakes have lessons to tell and aren’t long lasting.
I was watching and was inspired by this great movement of women that is going on...a participant of which might be the next great leader of the free world, to say lastly: take your time, learn to think for yourself, stay nasty, but don't forget where you came from or who cares about you.