I had the profound honor of interviewing musician Jennifer Leeds about her approach to music, her struggles with perfectionism, and what it means to do her Imperfect Best. Jennifer heard about my Imperfect Best concept from a mutual friend and was inspired to write a song entitled “Sitting On The Sidelines”, which you can watch her perform in the video below. I’ve imagined a lot of things along my path to becoming a professional speaker but, I can honestly say, I never thought my words might partially inspire someone to compose a beautiful song. Hearing Jennifer perform it made me an instant fan and I just needed to know more about her . . . AND now, I’m excited to introduce her to you:
As you read through this interview, I invite you to:
1- Delight in Jennifer’s talent and success.
2- Reflect on her struggles with perfectionism and how her struggles might relate to your own.
3- Find hope and encouragement in how much joy she has found by moving forward in spite of her debilitating struggles.
My Interview with Jennifer “Jenn” Leeds:
You have an incredible voice and are an incredible musician. How did you nurture your talent? Has it been a straightforward path or more twisty-turny?
My road to music has most definitely been a “twisty turny” path. I am self taught on all my instruments and I’m not where I’d like to be on level of expertise, however, my passion for music has always been my driving factor. I love the music that anyone in any stage of life can relate to.
I’ve nurtured it by doing it. I actually just learned the guitar about two and a half years ago and it hasn’t come easily. I also play piano – self taught since I was about 6 yrs old – flute, piccolo and saxophone. Piano is the best of this list.
I’ve always looked at life like a piano keyboard or a piece of music. Sometimes the rhythm and melody are straight forward and simple – yet sometimes it contains “accidentals” changing a note from a major to a minor or in other words to a sharp or flat and challenging time signatures, or rhythmic patterns.
It may not always make sense, but when played as orchestrated by the composer – the brights and darks make a beautiful masterpiece.
As it is with life. The Master Creator holds the conductor’s master copy. We may not always know why he’s changed the melody from a major, simple and straight forward piece to a minor or dissonant key. But, if we trust Him and follow His lead, our masterpiece will be far greater than we could’ve imagined.
So I do my best to embrace the twists and turns of this musical journey and the life that lays ahead of me, while the rest lays behind me. I just have to remind myself from time to time that it’s the twist and turns that give depth and strength to the journey – to the masterpiece!
How do you personally know when you are doing your Imperfect Best?
Every day I wake up and put my feet on the floor I know it’s gonna be an “imperfect best” kind of day. Perfection isn’t truly possible so accepting my BEST in each moment is what I give myself and those around me on each imperfect best day I’m blessed to have!
How does the “Imperfect” part of “Imperfect Best” effect your “BEST”? Does it give you freedom or hinder you? How so?
This Question is so powerful and so intertwined I’m struggling to give you a precise answer. This question really unravels the details of ME.
I’m finding that I’ve allowed my childhood expectations of perfection to creep in on this answer…wanting it to be “perfect” leaving me terrified to answer it “wrong”.
So, here is my IMPERFECT BEST answer…and I’m sticking to it!
It’s actually a little bit of both. For years my desire to get everything perfect was a complete hindrance causing life-stopping, paralyzing fear. I was raised with perfection as an expectation and my best never being good enough.
IMPERFECT and NOT GOOD ENOUGH was all I learned I could be and THAT has held me back for the majority of my life.
However, four years ago, I took action to change that after a failed suicide attempt left me questioning EVERYTHING!
After a 12 month Intensive Outpatient Therapy program I have been able to turn F.E.A.R., False Evidence Appearing Real, into FIERCE ENERGY ALWAYS REVOLVING!
To make mistakes and be IMPERFECT at times is terrifying but I am learning that it’s ok. Some days it stops me dead in my tracks, but only for a moment until I realize that every IMPERFECTION is an opportunity for growth. Once the growth begins, it is in that moment of realization my BEST emerges and the freedom of forward motion starts again.
When you encounter twists and turns on your musical journey, do you have a process that helps you persevere and keep moving forward? If so, could you define this process in three to five steps?
My Journey through music is driven by a love of it and not necessarily a raw talent that has been granted me. It generally comes with quite a battle. However, my desire to do it and make a difference with it keeps me going. So, when I have topsy turvy turbulence in my musical trials, and my life in general, my process for recovering and moving forward generally consists of:
1. A temper tantrum which can present in many ways from crying to banging the keyboard and more.
2. A resolve that the tantrum is unproductive and merely just brings more turbulence – so I begin a meditative process and tune into a more “mindful” approach verses “emotional”.
3. I’m reminded that the light and calm is in the center of the storm and “sometimes you have to sit still to find your center” – I wrote this note years ago to myself.
4. I keep going. Mistakes are a guarantee. Sometimes it becomes a beautiful addition and sometimes it’s simply a mistake and I move forward in spite of it.
No matter what it is – it is part of the journey. I am part of something greater than myself and this keeps me going, even if there are moments of doubt, fear, and frustration. Growth is constant. Change is certain. And, as long as I’m always moving forward, the end isn’t what matters – but the constant forward movement and joy in the journey!
I feel like I’ve become wiser with Jennifer’s words.
Thank you Jennifer for your beautiful song and outstanding words of wisdom.
By Courageously Doing Your Imperfect Best you strengthen the world!
JASON FREEMAN is a Professional Speaker and the proud owner of a Speech Impediment. He is also the author of “Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing My Imperfect Best” and a Perseverance Coach.
He excites and encourages his audience to break through the barriers of their own limitations using a method he created, called “doing your Imperfect Best ™”.
His Imperfect TEDx Talk can be viewed here.