When Authenticity Is More Important Than Perfection

Decades of an intense career kept me buried in a shallow knowledge trough a mile wide and an inch deep.

I defensively called myself a generalist, but it felt like a painful omission of imperfection.

Several weeks into retirement, with time and the ability to more deeply focus, I dug in to a bucket list of Master Classes to satisfy my passions.

First up, Thomas Keller Teaches Cooking Techniques.

Lessons From A Master

Keller holds 3 Michelin stars each for both Per Se, his New York restaurant, and the perennial favorite for those traveling through California’s Napa Valley region, French Laundry.

His online Master Class is a review of fundamental kitchen techniques. Pot-blanching asparagus. Baking beets. Pureeing parsnips. The proper knife for the proper task.

At first I was disappointed. I’d hoped he’d provide tips on how best to replicate his renowned dishes at home.

My culinary memories reveal a lifetime of cooking high crimes and misdemeanors. Short-cuts taken at the stove. Forgotten ingredients. Knives not sharpened. Over-cooking. Under-cooking. Not placing the top on the blender before pushing the start button. And what remains for me the final frontier: plating.

Perhaps a review of the fundamentals is clearly in order. If I can’t do the basics correctly, there’s no chance of orchestrating a full-on Keller meal.

After all, isn’t living in the details what I now crave?

Which caused me to wonder…

Am I Running My Life In The Same Imperfect Way I Run My Kitchen?

I’ve no expectation my version of lemon-brined fried chicken and smoked salmon crisps will remotely taste like Keller’s dish. Keller isn’t guaranteeing any such outcome. He’s interested in adherence to the steps that lead to good outcomes.

To that end he offers us the six highly recognizable disciplines leading to his success in the kitchen and in business.

  • organization
  • efficiency
  • critical feedback
  • repetition
  • rituals
  • teamwork

It’s about process…not perfection. I can do process.

But what’s the goal here?

I Master, Therefore I Am

Doesn’t master mean to perfect? Doesn’t being a master mean one is a perfectionist?

Oprah says, “A master is someone who has fully stepped in and owned the full progress and trajectory of their life.” (Take a few moments to view her exquisite definition, here).

Her Master Class interviews reveal the fragile dispositions of those we consider to be the greats. If we listen carefully, their quest for perfection bends  – out of necessity – away from the need for perfection toward a search for authenticity.

Simon Sinek, motivational speaker and marketing consultant affirms that “Authenticity is about imperfection. And authenticity is a very human quality. To be authentic is to be at peace with your imperfections.”

Whether sales person or superstar, most Masters have reached detente with their imperfections.

In the end, don’t we get the most out of Masters who immerse us in their branded sense of themselves…their authenticity?

That’s where perfection lies.

I can live with that.











8 thoughts on “When Authenticity Is More Important Than Perfection

  1. Hi Howard,

    I love your your blog post on perfection and simply releasing the need to be a perfectionist. I will be remembering both of what Oprah and Simon have to say (as quoted in your blog post). I find Oprah’s piece of wisdom especially quite valuable in this instance because I’m bit of a perfectionist. Thanks for your powerful gift of the written word, Howard. I always enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Good morning. Thanks for the comments. When I saw Oprah’s statement on authenticity the first thing that hit me was how completely authentic she, herself, is and how the same words coming out of someone else’s mouth would just not work. Authenticity is a bit of a miracle but thankfully it’s within reach for all of us.

  3. I love the Simon Sinek quote about authenticity being acceptence of our imperfections and your idea of “reaching detente with imperfections.” Clearly — as I look in the mirror and find myself wishing I was younger, thinner, smarter, faster — I have not reached mastery….yet! I’m so grateful that you are writing Howard!

  4. Hey, Chris! Thanks. What are you talking about?You ARE younger, thinner, smarter and faster! xo

  5. Caryl Flanzbaum Reback February 12, 2018 — 10:51 am

    “Acceptance of our imperfections” and “making Detente (peace)” with who we are, Wowww!!

    Some of us reach a certain AGE, look into THAT mirror, and hope & Pray that before we leave “this phase ” of existence” we/I might get to that “peace”.
    I pray & hope for my “loved ones”, along with myself, to
    “get there”, GOD willing, with TIME to ENJOY whom we have become.


    I LOVE LOVE LOVE your writings!!!!! Please NEVER stop!
    Sent with my Love,
    Your sister in law,

  6. Thanks, Caryl. Yes…getting there is the hard work!! But it’s one thing no one can take away once you have it. Amen, is right. Hugs to all.

  7. I seem to recall a not so perfect meal you prepared for Hal and me soooo many years ago and no doubt, you remember my having done the same, especially if I had had a drink during cocktail hour. Something undoubtedly gets overcooked, undercooked or forgotten when I imbibe. Trying to be perfect is exhausting. I gave it up years ago. I’ve even allowed (only recently, I must add) others to bring a salad, vegie or dessert to compliment whatever it is that I’m preparing (all orchestrated by me.) Some things I simply must still control, Howard.
    Missing you but loving that you have the time to write so very well. Sending love.

  8. Gail…yes…the first time I’d ever prepared Risotto. I remember it well. Allowing someone to contribute a dish shows amazing progress. I’m impressed! Xo

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