Leadership Blog

The benefits of embracing the messiness of life

It’s that time of year again when everyone’s talking about New Year’s resolutions. Exercise more. Stop being late to work. Clean your house more often.

In other words, be perfect (or pretty ridiculously close to it).

But where’s the fun in that?

Sure, few people actually enjoy working out, getting up early, or cleaning. That’s the point of a New Year’s resolution after all—to get a fresh start and a second chance to be better at the things you know you should do, but just don’t want to. And I should know, because despite having the world’s best cleaning products at my disposal, I’d rather stand outside for an hour in this freezing Chicago weather than clean my bathroom!

The reason I’m not crazy about New Year’s resolutions isn’t just because they’re the way we try to make ourselves to do things we don’t like. It’s also because when we try to force everything in our lives to go exactly right, we’re bound to miss out on some amazing experiences we never would’ve expected.

Here’s an example. One December a few years ago, I was so busy I forgot to send out holiday cards. I was horrified to have neglected something that seemed so important to all my family and friends, and I wondered what they must have thought of me for forgetting them.

Then I discovered some wonderful news: New Year’s cards are a thing! So I sent out my holiday cards in January, and guess what—not only did people not think I was a terrible friend and family member, but they thought I’d come up with a really clever, unique, memorable idea.

OK, maybe that’s a slightly silly example, but you see my point. Life isn’t always perfect, and we all make mistakes. But when we try to look at these unwanted changes of plans as opportunities instead of misfortunes, life often rewards us in wonderful ways.

In fact, my two decades at Jelmar started off as an unexpected turn of events. Unlike most of my family members, I’d never worked at Jelmar during the summers while I was growing up. By the time I reached my mid-20s, I assumed I’d never have a career there. But one morning while I was having breakfast with my dad, he suddenly asked me if I’d come work for him.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have mixed feelings about working for the family business at the time. As much as I loved my family, I’d always been extremely independent and had chosen to gain work experience elsewhere. Plus, my dad didn’t have a job description or a desk for me, and he made it clear that I’d need to work hard and prove myself before he’d be willing to promote me.

But as you can probably guess, I decided to accept my dad’s offer. At the time I wondered whether it was a big mistake, but it’s turned out to be the greatest opportunity I could have asked for. Of course, it hasn’t always been perfect. Case in point: I’ve been fired more times—yes, fired by my own father—than anyone else at the company! But because I decided to accept a little bit of uncertainty, I’ve experienced the joys of working with an amazing group of colleagues and family members to create products that help people. I can’t imaging having any other life.

So if you’re like me and you hate New Year’s resolutions, let me propose the anti-resolution: embrace the messiness of life. Because life doesn’t have to be perfect to be, well, perfect.

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