The Perfect Life Lie

You don’t have “it” all together. Nobody does. Admit it. I have yet to meet a person, no matter how “successful”, that is able to manage and execute everything perfectly in his or her life. Leaders that continually seek to maintain the image of the perfect life to colleagues and friends create more stress in their life, fuel their pride, hide their weaknesses, and do not get the help they need to grow and become more successful. Some people try to maintain an image of perfect performance in their work as well. These are deceptions that over the long-term will not serve them well.

All of us have observed the perfect life images and statements that some people post to Facebook. It would be easy to think that the Facebook life you see others projecting is real but we know that it is not. The false image makes us long for a life we think others have. While I do not think that Facebook is the place to air all your grievances, I think many are deceived into thinking that others have it much better. The reality is that everyone has struggles and challenges, pain and heartaches that they must work through and overcome. Some people definitely have it better and some have it worse than others but nobody has the perfect life.

It is OK to be imperfect. Perfection, or the image of it, does not matter. I believe that self-honesty is vital to self-improvement and growing as a leader. Denial does not serve you well and, indeed, will handicap your efforts to become a more mature and more effective leader. The biggest challenge most leaders have is the person looking back at them in the mirror. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is vital. Many performance review processes use “360 feedback” to gain a comprehensive assessment of an employee’s strengths and weaknesses. You can do your own 360 feedback through an anonymous survey and use that to drive your self-improvement efforts.

What does matter is a commitment to continuous improvement. Make continuous learning and improvement a part of your life and you will see exponential improvements in your effectiveness over the course of your lifetime. A 1% improvement per day is almost a 38X improvement over the course of a year! ((1.01)^365=37.78)) A 10X improvement by most standards would be considered exceptional. Rather than perfection you should focus on constantly getting better at what matters. 10X improvement over the course of a year is less than 1% improvement (.63%) per day.

Humility has become an underrated virtue. Many years ago I read a management book in which the author suggested that humility is an overrated virtue. While there were some good ideas in the book I have to disagree with his statement on humility. Humility is a valuable character quality. Unless we are humble enough to admit our faults and weaknesses we cannot grow as leaders. Unless we adopt an attitude of service to others we cannot build effective teams or achieve organizational or personal goals. Our purpose as leaders has to include being of service to others in order to help them succeed. This requires humility.

“Unless we are humble enough to admit our
 faults and weaknesses we cannot grow as leaders.
Unless we adopt an attitude of service to others
we cannot build effective teams or achieve
organizational or personal goals.”

Honesty regarding your struggles can also benefit someone else. I am not someone who wears his heart on his sleeve. I tend to keep my feelings and challenges private. I have learned, however, that when I am transparent about my trials and lessons learned I can often help someone more than if I just focus on my successes. One of the reasons I write is to help others. To be the most effective in this I need to be willing to share what works and what doesn’t.

You have to get help when you need it. I will be the first one to try to muscle through a problem. It’s a good trait to be persistent and to keep after something until you overcome it. This is a common characteristic in leaders. You do not accept defeat. You never give up. You keep pressing forward. It’s been said that the “test of your character is what it takes to stop you.” I love this characteristic in people. There is a point, however, when you have to admit that the lack of forward progress is not acceptable or that you will need help to achieve your goals. It is for this reason that I have had a number of mentors and coaches over my life. Be humble enough to admit when you can’t “muscle through” and get help when you need it. Don’t let your pride keep you from growing into all that you can become.

This blog is one way I try to invest in others and to encourage character-driven leadership in life and business. If I can help feel free to reach out to me at

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By Alan Buttery