Recently, I discovered Kintsugi, a fifteenth century Japanese art form dedicated to repairing broken ceramics by filling in the cracks with gold. Once the repair is complete, the “brokenness” of the item — its defects — become its source of beauty and resilience. What if the trials and challenges we face in life were simply an invitation to become artists during our most challenging moments?

Here are some uncomfortable truths the art of Kingitsu teaches us about life:

Things fall apart. Life’s surprises and trials sometimes break us.
As humans we are inherently imperfect. In addition to our strengths and joys, we have flaws and wounds.

Last November my 20-year marriage ended and a beloved nonprofit I helped to create closed its doors after a series of internal crises. For the first time in my life I experienced true brokenness. My feelings of sadness, loss, and fear were at times overwhelming. And for a long time I could only see my errors and limitations as reasons to feel ashamed.

The ups and downs of our personal and professional lives can leave us feeling broken in big and small ways. Has there been a moment in your career when you felt this way? A demotion at work? A failed business venture? A time you let others or yourself down?

The lesson that comes from finding beauty in brokenness is this: In the very moments we feel most broken we are capable of gathering up the pieces and choosing not to throw them away. We can then engage in the slow, delicate, intentional process of self-repair. How does one transform personal hardship into gold? And how does that translate into resilient leadership?

Let go of the illusion that you are supposed to be perfect and that life should always cooperate with us.

Appreciate the parts of hardship that make you stronger, wiser, and more confident in your ability to endure the hard times.

Surround yourself with trusted friends and colleagues who show their love for you by telling you the truth of who you are.

Own your mistakes. Apologize and make amends. Take responsibility to harvest the lessons you must learn without spiraling into self-blame and shame.

Reclaim the parts of yourself that bring you joy and meaning. Remember the purpose and passion that is always there but sometimes gets obscured.

Think about your work (and your life). What has shattered recently? How have you helped yourself or someone else discover strength and beauty in pain and imperfection?

Photo credit: Steenaire

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