Wabi sabi – the philosophy that says the beauty of things are imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the opposite of our classical Western notion of beauty as being something that is perfect, enduring, and monumental.
In 2016, the notion of “wabi sabi” made its way into home-wares and industrial design. Many cafes and homes were and still are, being fitted out purposefully leaving cracks in the walls; exposed beams and concrete floors; lopsided sugar jars on tables and earthy elements in their raw state, scattered throughout the space. No perfect lines and polished perfection to be seen anywhere. The scars, rawness and imperfectness is actually the highlight and focus point, not hidden away or covered up.
The Art of Precious Scars – Kintsugi
In Japan, there is an art form called Kintsugi: the art of precious scars. By repairing broken ceramics, it’s possible to give it a new lease of life, and it becomes even more refined, thanks to its “scars”.
The Japanese art of kintsugi teaches that broken objects are not something to hide but to display with pride. This art form and philosophy got me thinking how alike we are to this as humans with all of our scars, mistakes, lessons and wisdom we learn in this thing called life.
How often, as humans, do we hide the things that make us who we are today? I have always believed that where we are right now, personally and professionally, is a result of all the choices, lessons and mistakes we’ve learnt and made along the way. Our scars make us stronger and more beautiful and why not display these “gifts” in the same way kintsugi displays the art of precious scars.
Being “human” in today's’ world is more important than ever and it's now that we need to let our guard down and be more real and relevant than ever, whether you are a leader, business owner or individual leading self.
Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity
The United States Military are committed to leadership training. It uses the acronym VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity). The key elements of VUCA present the context of which organisations view their current and future state.
- Volatility refers to the nature and dynamics of change and the speed at which this occurs.
- Uncertainty relates to the lack of predictability and certainty of change. This is where our sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events is so important and crucial to our success.
- Complexity applies to the multiple forces, issues, chaos and confusion that can surround the organisations we are in.
- Ambiguity relates to the haziness of reality and the mixed meanings of everything we face.
To survive and thrive in such a fast-paced and challenging environment, we need to adopt “Limitless Leadership”. I reckon sharing the lessons and wisdom of our mistakes and challenges could go a long way here.
Mistakes and life's hard “gifts” should never define you but instead guide you through. Don’t “awfulize” and dwell on this but instead, map out the lesson you have learnt and be a lighthouse for others who may benefit from what you’ve been through.
The scars you share become lighthouses for others who are headed for the same rocks you hit.
Many clients I work with share with me the most amazing experiences and lessons they have learnt along the way, but rarely do they they share these with their team or business. I always challenge them on this and ask them to imagine what would be different for them if their manager had shared those same lessons with them earlier in their career? It's almost selfish not to share what you have learnt, providing you frame the lesson in a way that is useful and heartfelt with good intention.
A simple way to do this is to take the time to reflect on the 3 areas below:
Being aware is like stripping off the outer layers to look at what has really got us to where we are today? Good or bad, happy or sad, what have you experienced that could be seen as a key ingredient to who you are today? Like any recipe, it’s the ingredients that determine the end result. Not all taste great on their own, but when combined in the right proportions, you end up with a dish that tastes great. Sometimes, and I can vouch for this, the less than great people or situations in our life, I call them gifts, are the things that teach us the most. It may take a while to see the lesson or the gift, but there is always something there if you look deeply enough. List the top 4 ‘Gifts” that come to mind.
Being aware is one thing, but now you need to accept or surrender to what you have become more aware of. Acceptance is part of a cycle, and I believe tapping into the benefit for you and others can assist here. If you are creating future leaders, how can sharing this story and lesson benefit others? How will it make you feel to share it?
Developing a different relationship to experience, one that is characterised by allowing an experience and letting it be is really what acceptance is about. Allowing difficult feelings to be in awareness means registering their presence and what will happen next.
A bit like the Kintsugi pottery, do you throw out that cracked piece of art or hide it OR do gild the cracks with gold and make it a beautiful story to share.
Action & Implement
So now it’s about what you will share or keep to serve your self? Not all things have to be shared with the world. You will just know.
At the same time, get out of your comfort zone. This isn’t a comfortable thing to do, and we all know that growth is outside doing what we know.
- You need to access what to share and who will benefit.
- How you will frame the story and the lessons.
- What the recipient can do to apply and discuss what this means for them.
Recently I’ve been sharing more of my story with clients and in keynotes and the response has been profound. Knowing what to share and the intent is vital. Don’t share for the sake of being “vulnerable”. Make sure you share with integrity and a rawness that encapsulates what happened, the result and the lesson that you learnt, good or bad.
I love to hear what you do with this and the outcomes for you and those around you.
To being “limitless.”