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The Danger in Perfection & Mastery and the Hidden Value in Keeping it Real & Raw

It was December 31, 2016 and Murray and I stayed out until 4am. We never do that.

We’re usually the couple that just barely makes it to midnight. But this time? It was different…  And it taught us something important about life, business and mastery.  (More about that in a sec.)

We started the night with a 2½ hour tasting menu at Atera, a two-star Michelin restaurant in TriBeCa. (Wow, what a rare treat that was!) And then made our way over to the Blue Note to see Chris Botti’s 12th annual New Year’s Eve show.  

And after 12 years, they’ve started calling it a “December institution in the Big Apple.”

And the thing about institutions?   

… well, they can start to feel a bit, well, “institional”. 😉

The show was flawless. Beautiful, really. A work of art.  But, it was no different at all from the show we had seen the previous year.

Chris is a master and he had a perfect show dialed in. But the challenge with “perfect” is that it can lack the raw energy that makes something truly interesting. And engaging. That raw spark of something “new” that draws me in and won’t let me go.

By the end of the night, we came to the conclusion that we didn’t need to go back. We had a lovely time. But we had already seen it. Done it. Checked it off the list.

Then something interesting happened.

At the end of the show, the venue announced that Chris’ guest singer Sy Smith would be doing a late night show at 1am and they invited us to stay…

1am?!!?  Whoa, that was WAY past our bedtime… 🙂

But — young and raw and full of fire in the belly, there was something about the way Sy showed up that inspired us to stay.

So we moved to a table right in front of the stage, ordered another round of scotch and got into conversation with two Greek women in Ivanka Trump dresses and the very hip posse of friends that Sy brought with her. And within minutes the entire demographic shifted… Gone were the gray-haired jazz aficionados and in came the artsy young professionals.

I felt the excitement building up… and the moment “Sy Boogie” stepped on stage in her gigantic blinged-out platform heels, she brought the juice… and the crowd went wild. The whole place was swinging…

Did she have the level of mastery that Chris had?

No, she didn’t. But she was damn good. And she was real. She had the energy and passion that draws people in and has them feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

She created a movement in the room with how she was being, shimmying down to the floor in her giant heels and back up again.  She had the same back-up band as Chris and yet she brought a whole different energy out of them. They were funkier… and having more fun.  She had the whole room in the palm of her hands, and we left the show feeling excited and energized.

And that got me reflecting on the nature of mastery and perfection.

So many of my students beat themselves up for not “being enough” or “knowing enough”. They believe they’re “not ready.” When the truth is that you’re as ready as you’ll ever be… there’s something magical about someone who is new in business, who has that glint in their eye and that fire in the belly. Who is throwing their whole self into their work and wooing everyone around them with their passion and enthusiasm.

Can you remember a moment when you “discovered someone” for the first time? A new entrepreneur or voice that you wanted to follow… someone who grabbed your attention and wouldn’t let go?

Well, you can be that someone for your tribe. You don’t have to be “established” you simply have to be “all in”.

It doesn’t matter what your topic is, if you’re fully committed, if you let go of the doubts and insecurities, and bring all of yourself to your work, people can feel it. You’ll draw your audience in and have them come back for more…

And, if you’re more established, how can you approach each day and each “performance” as if it were totally new. How can you reconnect to that fire in your belly and the passion that brought you to your work?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I prepare for Message to Money Live in February. It’s the fifth time we’ve done this event and I don’t want it to become an institution. I never want to think “oh, I got this” and forget to bring that sense of exploration and wonder to the process.

I want to stay humble and raw. To embrace what’s already working while bringing in something new and something different. I ask myself, what’s the next level? How can I make this event as exciting for me to lead as the one before it? How can I show up like I’ve never taught this before?

So even though I want to be a master at my craft, I also want to stay in that tension that appears in the gap between where I am and where I want to go, who I am and who I am becoming. Because that’s what excites me and that’s what creates the raw energy and newness that attracts and captivates my tribe.

Here’s the thing: No matter how experienced or inexperienced you are, you can attract and captivate by your level of commitment and energy. You can outshine the master when you turn it on and bring it.

And, for the masters? How can you continue to reconnect to the new and the exciting every time you open your mouth and put your pen to paper? How can you connect to that creative energy that flows through you and continue to elevate your game?

There’s a danger in mastery and a certain “deadness” in perfection…

True charisma and success is about dancing with the mystery, the tension and the imperfection. It’s about showing up like you’ve never showed up before.

Where’s your edge?

If you’d like guidance on how to use your “perfect imperfection” to build a business that’s an authentic reflection of you, and that turns you into the Superhero to your Tribe, then join us at Message to Money LIVE (Feb 17-19, 2017).

Read more here and I look forward to meeting you in LA!

Love it? Hate it? Let me know...

  1. Adrienne at Avatar
    Adrienne at

    Awesome story! Love the energy you bring to our community of world-changers. You’re the BEST!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Thanks Adrienne! 🙂

  2. Ewald Avatar

    Only a true Master knows that mastery can never achieved. A true Master refers to himself as an apprentice because he’s learning something new every single day. The founder of Judo (forgot his name) on his death bed asked to be buried with belt for where he’s going he’ll start a new journey.

    Mastery is the old cliche of being the Journey, not thinking about the destination. Like with a GPS, you set your destination but then you focus on the road. Step by step, turn by turn, your eyes are always on the road for you already KNOW where you are going. Mastery is not about perfection but about the small and insignificant (laughable small) things you do out Joy and Appreciation.
    Mastery is like micro adjustments, not macro movements. Waiting for a bus, you can make huge steps back and forth without missing it but running100 meters in the Olympics the tiniest adjustment could be the difference between Gold and Silver! But you can’t even bec at the Olympics unless you take the first step! You gotta start running . However, if you are afraid that you might not be GOOD ENOUGH to ever win anything, you’ll never ever take up running in the “first place” and therefore you’ll never “place first” either. Once you start enjoying doing the small things then you won’t have to worry about winning
    anymore. You’ll realize that you’re good enough, no matter how fast you’re running 100 meters and then you’ll start running and then you’ll start to make your micro adjustments and then you’ll become better and better every day. Just like a true Master, you’ll then be on the way to true mastery but you’ll never be its Slave. You’ll be set free because you’ll get so much joy out of the process itself. Your great work will then be an ongoing EXPERIENCE rather than just another short lived and failed EXPERIMENT. Sometimes we don’t start because we believe that we’re not good enough for what we truly want, so we can’t never finish it either.
    When you know that your great work NEVER can be finished, then you can start with ease because then it’s about your journey, not your destination. HOW you’ll get there then becomes completely irrelevant because you know with 100% certainty WHY you’re doing it.
    Your WHY will find your HOW. Your HOW can not find your WHY.
    Marissa, you changed because you found out WHY you’re doing it! This shifted your BEING from seeking PERFECTIONISM into beginning your never ending, yet always joyful journey of MASTERY!

    1. Marisa Murgatroyd Avatar
      Marisa Murgatroyd

      Beautiful share Ewald. There are some really deep insights in this post and you’re absolutely right, mastery is an ongoing evolution. You’ve never “made it.” And as long as you stay in the learning, you’ll always keep growing and evolving into greater levels of mastery.

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