As I am writing this today, I have a sick kid at home. Which means it’s not exactly a perfect workday. But it has provided the perfect opportunity to talk about an ogre I and a lot of people meet everyday – perfectionism.
Normally, my daughter is way too old and entirely too cool to watch kid movies, but today she wants something animated, some chicken noodle soup, and her momma nearby.
She chose Shrek. Since I find it hard to resist the story of the green ogre, the donkey and a red-headed princess, I watched with her. As I did, I found myself making all kinds of correlations between the movie and what stops many of us — the struggle between being ourselves versus the idea that we have to be perfect.
I did a little singing along, too, but I will spare you that part.
You probably know the movie, but in case you don’t, here is the story: The ogre is really pretty happy with his life until his swamp home is invaded. He tries to save it by making a deal with the land-grubbing prince who wants to marry a princess so that he can become king.
The diminutive prince is bent on being perfect: having the perfect kingdom and the perfect bride. Worst of all, he wants it all without effort! Clearly there’s something offensive about his point of view, because at the end he is eaten by a dragon. (Oops! Spoiler alert!)
The ogre has a goal and sees a simple solution: Find a princess, deliver her to the prince, and get the deed to his swamp, all while becoming friends with the pesky Donkey. Yet along the way, the princess and the ogre fall in love.
Here is why the ogre is the real hero, and how I see some of the same lessons in life:
- You don’t have to be perfect to get a great outcome. The ogre didn’t have to change to get the princess to fall in love with him. Believe me, I have messed up plenty…I believe that my mess is my message, in that what I have been through is the stuff that makes me who I am and helps me serve others.
- Listen to yourself first. Shrek had a trusty sidekick in Donkey, but his first allegiance was to his own vision—that of a peaceful home. I silenced my gut a long time ago when I worked in corporate, because let’s face it, the VP didn’t want to hear the woo-woo stuff and there was no column on any spreadsheet titled “gut factor.” I was miserable. That’s why now I often have clients focus on what their gut is telling them when they are comparing to companies or career paths.
- Let nothing stop you. It is your path–run it or walk it, you just have to keep moving forward at the pace that suits you, and pick yourself up whenever some obstacle temporarily trips you up. The ogre was willing to fight for the home he loved and later to fight for the woman he loved. He knew what his non-negotiables were and stuck with it. (BTW, the princess kicked some butt, too.)
- Ask for help. At the end of the movie, the ogre enlists his friends to help rescue the princess. They weren’t perfect–one was a moody dragon and the other was a real ass. But they were right beside him even though the risk was big. Sometimes, we take for granted those friends that have our backs. I have a friend on my mind right now that I haven’t made much time for—I’m going to go reach out to her on Facebook and set up some time for lunch as soon as I’m done writing this.
- Know your enemy. In the beginning of the story, a band of villagers comes after the ogre with torches and pitchforks, not realizing that he is not the real enemy. Know your actual weak points – not your perceived failings – and figure out how to manage them (working with a coach is great way to figure out what is perception and what is reality). You have to know what you are good at and what you stink at to make the splash you want personally and professionally! After all, average sucks!
You can learn a lot from an ogre about showing up just as you are, not the perfect version of someone else. I know I did.