Stop Apologizing

Steve Jobs was flawed.   Serena Williams has soft spots in her tennis game.  Even Brad Pitt has bad hair days.  No matter how successful, powerful, or good-looking, all of the people we admire most have at least some deficiencies.

If we can accept that industry titans and Olympic athletes have flaws, why is it so difficult to accept our own?  Our knees buckle from the unyielding pressure to be perfect at everything, and then we hide in shame when we can’t live up to these wildly unrealistic expectations.

You may be a math whiz and a great conversationalist but stink at oil painting.  Or perhaps you are a brilliant sales rep and a giving parent but can’t hit a golf ball farther than six feet.  Instead of beating yourself up for all the things you’re not, it’s time to start celebrating all the things you are.

In fact, the most successful people focus relentlessly on their strengths.  They readily admit their shortcomings and devote their time to improving what they’re best at instead of trying to “correct” other areas of their lives.

In my hometown of Detroit, we have suffered overwhelming setbacks over the last three decades.  As a one-industry town, the economy crumbled when the automotive sector took a nosedive.  Population dwindled, the tax base dried up, crime increased, and our community was spinning with hopelessness and despair.  We’ve been apologizing for years like a guilty child sentenced to 20 minutes in time-out.

But today, Detroit’s pulse has returned and we are coming out of the ICU.  To be sure, there are still many challenges and obstacles to conquer, but this city is rising from the ashes and dead-focused on a bright future.  The economy is diversifying, downtown residential occupancy is sky-high, and the swing of hammers restoring our buildings can be heard for miles.

Why the turnaround?  There are many factors driving our reinvention, including passionate business leaders who have the courage to invest ahead of the curve.  But I’ve seen something special from a front row seat.  I’ve noticed a renewed sense of pride and optimism.  A self-reliance and scrappiness that’s true to our heritage.   A palpable sense of grit and determination.

Core to this new vibe is that we’ve stopped apologizing for what we’re not and started celebrating what we are.  We’ve had enough of comparing ourselves to others and began the hard work of rebuilding both our confidence and our city.  I wholeheartedly believe that we’re in the midst of the greatest urban turnaround story in American history, and this resiliency is being driven in a most unapologetic fashion.

Our city will once again become a beacon of opportunity by deeply connecting with our inherent strengths.  The same can happen for you.

No more crying in your soup about your shortcomings.  It’s time to double down every ounce of energy on your strengths and leap into action.  No more cowering in the corner.  Stop apologizing and start soaring.