Book Club: Present Over Perfect

I just finished Shauna Niequist’s “Present Over Perfect” which felt so symbolic to start the new year off with. It has nothing to do with Catering or events or even business, but has a theme that I think most of us can relate to these days. The first few chapters in I wasn’t sure if this book was truly written for me. While the overall theme applies, her own need for professional perfection and collected outward appearances didn’t resonate. I’m not type A – there’s no real desire for me to appear super woman-esque. However, as I delved in more and really absorbed the depth of her words, I realized the book was me. I’m glad I decided to purchase this copy because the margins are full of underlined sentences, exclamation marks and asterisks now.

“So many of us have forsaken those natural rhythms and stayed at full speed, through the night, through the storms.”

This was the first underline and asterisk mark I made. In talking about the natural opportunities the land and sky give – like rainfall, nightfall and sunrise, she puts into perspective how too often we blind-fold ourselves and barrel past these natural invitations to slow down. Just one more to-do item on the list, one more email to send, one more volunteer position to sign up for, one more commitment, and all the while the sun is setting and rising again before we even take note.

I think we all have to be careful and attuned to the natural breaks we need to give our mind, bodies and souls. It’s hard as entrepreneurs to stop though. I get that. I’m married to the energizer bunny himself. But, as I’m getting older I’m realizing quality of quantity applies to so many things. The number of clients we take on – finding the quality ones that you cherish and enjoy working with. The ones that fill you up instead of depleting you. The number of commitments we have. The number of shoes we own! Seriously.

I’ll never forget the first client I had to say, “no thank you” to. It was hard. Our family had just left town and we were on the road towards Breckinridge for an event we were catering. We had stopped in Pueblo, CO and found the cutest Children’s Museum filled with hands-on exhibits and the coolest art installation made entirely of yarn. As the kids were deep in play I slipped back to check my email. Our office manager had sent me a message regarding an urgent matter – a bride’s mother who was very upset I’d be out of town for several weeks. Her daughter’s wedding was in 4 months. I stepped outside and called her, with no real plan in my head, but a looming feeling in my gut.

She answered the phone and I immediately apologized for my absence. I assured her even though her daughter’s wedding wasn’t the only event we had, we had the resources to fully devote the time needed. I remember how I immediately felt like I was failing her, by being with my family, out of the office. It didn’t occur to me that I was allowed to take a natural pause – to let my mind rest. For five years we had been pushing ourselves, our entire family often the collateral damage, to be the best in our field and grow our company.

She then began asking about the pricing we had quoted based on the menu selection. Followed by asking to borrow props and decor from our warehouse. Just an extra table here or mirror there. Maybe if we had a few extra flowers we could add them in. I’ll never forget the burst of strength that seemed to form out of nowhere, perhaps those nerves mutated into power somewhere deep in my gut. As she kept asking for more and wanted to pay less, I felt empowered. I looked at my children’s tiny faces through the window I said the first “no thank you.”

I once again apologized, because that’s what you do in customer service, and then explained we wouldn’t be able to meet her needs. I wished her the best of luck planning the details of her daughter’s day. I kept it short and sweet and could tell I caught her off guard. I think I caught myself off guard.

This was nearly eight years ago and it was the first wake up call (of many more to come) that it’s ok to say no. And being present is far more valuable than being busy.

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