By the time you read this post, I will be sitting in a small room with a very privileged group of entrepreneurs learning about branding and writing from Donald Miller. Don is one of my heroes of the art of great writing - the kind of writing that changes you for the better after reading it - and his latest book is clear evidence as to why. Everything Don has written has hit the New York Times' best sellers list, but Scary Close is extra special. If you only read one of his books, pick this one. And trust me, you need to read this one. It's a total game changer.
In our world of Pinterest-perfect, Instagrammable image-making, Don's book is refreshingly transparent. That's an understatement. It's so transparent that it's powerfully healing at a really deep level. He offers readers a total paradigm shift if they're brave enough to join him in making it, and I for one am ready for that kind of brave.
Here are four key insights I've learned from Don by reading Scary Close:
No. 1: REAL INTIMACY ISN'T INSTAGRAM-ABLE
There's a big difference between people loving the image you project on social media or in your professional persona and people loving the real you. And the thing is, it takes the courage to be vulnerable enough to experience the difference.
Don paints a powerful picture of how true this is by sharing his own personal story. As he says, what attracts us doesn't always connect us. It's one thing to impress people, but it's another thing all together to love the real them, and to be loved as the real us. Here's one of my favourite quotes from the book on this topic:
"What if we are designed as sensitive antennas, receptors to receive love, a longing we often mistake as a need to be impressive? What if some of the most successful people we consider to be great are actually the most broken? And what if the whole time they're seeking applause they are missing out on true intimacy?"
I tend to think of this in the context of social media platforms. Don't get me wrong, I think the new era of socially-driven business is amazing in many respects. But I also think it can be dangerous, creating a society of very polished, very lonely people if we don't check ourselves regularly. If all we ever present to the world - on social media or otherwise - is the most polished version of ourselves, we will completely miss out on true love and belonging. Don't believe me?
Check out the next insight:
No. 2: OUR FLAWS ARE ACTUALLY THE GATEWAY TO RECEIVING GRACE
When we feel like we have to hide our imperfections from people in order to be accepted, one of two things is true: either they are not safe people and we are right, or we have not learned to accept our own imperfections and are missing out on being unconditionally loved. Don says it so clearly:
"Those who can't accept their imperfections can't accept grace either."
Think about the moments when you have been most deeply aware of being unconditionally loved. Were they your most pulled-together moments? I know for me they were the moments when I was in fact kind of falling apart - or you know, totally falling apart - and the people in my inner circle chose to love me anyway and pull me even closer. It's when someone sees the real, flawed and vulnerable you and chooses to stay that you know the love is legit. And there's nothing like being loved as a whole, real, flawed person. In fact, I believe it's the only thing that can truly transform us.
No. 3: PERFECTIONISM IS A SHIELD WE USE TO KEEP FROM GETTING HURT
One of the chapter titles in Scary Close really says it all: EVERYBODY'S GOT A STORY AND IT'S NOT THE ONE THEY'RE TELLING. Why is that? Because we've all be taught along the way that the real us isn't good enough. In fact, we often learned to perform at a young age, playing the part of whoever we think we are supposed to be in order to get people to like us. And as Don describes, we often bring that young version of ourselves into adulthood, sending them out into the world to hustle for our approval and success.
As Brené Brown says, we can either stand inside our stories and own them or we can stand outside them and hustle for our worth. Don leads with his life when it comes to this stuff, and he's as courageous as it gets - not to mention all kinds of relatable and funny - in the way he shares it in Scary Close. He owns his story, and in so doing he offers courage to readers so they can do the same. If Daring Greatly showed us that vulnerability is the path to unconditional love and acceptance, Scary Close gives us the road map to get there.
No. 4: PROCRASTINATION IS REALLY JUST FEAR DRIVING THE BUS
Quoting Dr. Neil Fiore, Don shares that the fear of letting people down is one of the primary reasons why people procrastinate. Can you relate? For me this was like a neon sign jumping off the page. Man oh man can I ever get caught in that trap. My friend Merry calls it social perfectionism, and it's a long and dark rabbit hole of paralysis if you get stuck in it. Don says,
"Is there anything more toxic than the fear of being judged? Judgement shuts us down and makes us hide. It keeps us from being ourselves, which keeps us from connecting with other people."
Here's one of the things I have realized over the last few years: Your life casts a vision for others of what is possible. You show others, just by living your regular, everyday life, a way of living that they too can choose for themselves. So what kind of vision do you want to cast? A punishingly perfect, always together, unattainable one? Or an authentic, connected and loving one?
I'm not saying we shouldn't share our highlight reels on social media. There's something really aspirational and inspirational about that and I truly think it's great. I'm just saying we should take every opportunity we can to be the real, authentic versions of ourselves with our trusted inner circle, and we should be careful not to curate our social image to such an extent that there's a huge gap between the highlight real and what life really looks like behind the scenes.
How does this relate to procrastination? Well for me, as a designer, writer and creative, it means having the courage to put ideas and content - like, for example, this post - out into the world even when I don't feel I'm totally ready or that it's quite good enough yet. It means building momentum and not getting stuck in the paralysis of perfectionism. And now I have the perfect reminder:
If I'm stuck in procrastination, it's really just perfectionism rearing its ugly head again. And perfectionism is really just fear driving the bus.
Once you're done liking and sharing this post, go pick up a copy and let me know what you think when you're done reading it. If you're anything like me, you won't be able to put it down.