Battling “Yes,” Perfection and The Clunk

This blog post originally appeared on the Meeting Professionals International blog. Since its publication, the website has been redesigned and older blog posts are not longer available. It has been republished here with permission.

Tami Evans started out the final 2016 IMEX America keynote address with a 10-second pause and then a confession.

“I figure that a Vegas showroom is the best place to share it, because it’s just us: Hi, I’m Tami and I’m a recovering people pleaser,” she said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Evans described the constant struggle of balancing work and life, keeping everything in check until someone asks if she can take on one more thing, to which the answer is automatically “yes,” an answer given by many audience members in unison.

“Oh, alright. There are many of us here today,” she said laughing. “It’s just one ‘yes’…but that is a slippery slope.”

Evans then described how that one “yes” leads to an increased number of unexpected duties until, finally, a person doesn’t have the bandwidth to make time for their most basic needs. Her solution was to politely put off the request (“Let me get right back to you on that”) in order to focus on the most what was the overarching theme of her keynote address: Taking care of yourself in order to do the best work for others.

“You have to say ‘no’ to make room for ‘yes,’ she said.

Evans congratulated the audience for saying ‘no’ to family and work obligations this week to attend IMEX America, noting that the meetings and events they plan make the world a better place by connecting people through experiences and creating relationships.

Discussing how to stay motivated, Evans cited a Gallup study revealing that the top motivating factor in the workplace is appreciation, something that costs nothing. Showing appreciation throughout your life can make a difference to the people around you.

The main blocker of motivation, she said, is perfection.

To illustrate this, Evans told a story about pursuing acting in New York. She was always chasing her idea of perfection, but failing to land gigs. While heading to an audition, she was convinced that she had achieved the level of perfection, only to be told by someone on the way in that the entire back her skirt had been tucked into her pantyhose.

About to leave in humiliation, she changed her mind, going into the audition and telling the story instead. After sharing a laugh with everyone and giving a performance that she said wasn’t perfect, Evans landed the gig.

“They said they liked my personality and my passion,” she said. “It took that ‘pantyhose moment’ for me to realize personality and passion upstage perfection every single time.”

She urged the audience to embrace their “pantyhose moments” when things go awry and perfection needs to be put on pause, allowing their personality and passion to prevail.

Moving on to the topic of relationships, Evans said that all of us need to look inward as well as outward when dealing with others.

“The quality of your life is directly related to the quality of your relationships, with others and with yourself,” she said.

For inner relationships, Evans encouraged the audience to trust their intuition, calling the feeling that something is not quite right “The Clunk.”

She said that she first discovered her clunk while accompanying a friend on a shoe-shopping trip to a Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. Offered champagne upon entering the store, Evans quickly realized that she was out of her element (“They do not do this at T.J. Maxx”). Talked into buying a very expensive pair of Jimmy Choo high heels, she never wore them due to her clunk telling her that she couldn’t afford them.

Not long after, she listened when her clunk told her not to take the shoes on a trip to see a friend, where the friend’s dog ended up chewing another pair of her shoes beyond recognition. After the near miss, Evans returned the shoes and the clunk went away.

She said the clunk appears whenever we’re making a choice that isn’t the best decision for our lives, whether it’s going along with something we don’t want to or not speaking up when we feel we have a worthwhile idea.

“Your clunk equals junk,” she said. “Take the step that it takes to take back your Choos before the other shoe drops.”

Evans then turned to relationships with others, telling a story about a walk with her son. They came across a dandelion that had gone to seed, with the small white ball on top exposed. Her son picked it and blew, sending the seeds floating away, with Evans taking in the scene and calling it a “momma moment.” She said that when she younger, she did the same thing while making a wish. When she asked what his wish was, she was taken aback when he focused on the scientific aspect.

“Now I’m having another kind of momma moment, where I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have failed to instill childhood whimsy in this person!’” she said.

Evans said that they were both right in their approach, as they both see the world in very different ways but still respect each other’s point of view. She called this their “dandelion treaty.”

She encouraged the audience to have their own dandelion treaty, urging them to find middle ground with the people they disagree with or find challenging so they can both be happy, and getting rid of intolerance in the process.

Evans asked the audience to try at least one method when they returned home, whether it was with their team at work or in their personal life. She also advised attendees to find the difficult balance between the business and interpersonal aspects of their planning careers, utilizing both their brains and their hearts.

“Do you know how special you have to be to be successful in this industry?” she asked. “So I celebrate you and congratulate you.”

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