Professional Development

Pursuing Excellence

Sue Hawkes talks about her new book, Chasing Perfection — Shatter the Illusion; Minimize Self-Doubt & Maximize Success

By By Steve LeBeau  |  Photo by Marissa Martinson

This month, the interviewer becomes the interviewee. In the two years or so that Sue Hawkes has written this column, she has interviewed a number of inspiring and knowledgeable women. She distilled this knowledge into a new book, Chasing Perfection — Shatter the Illusion; Minimize Self-Doubt & Maximize Success.

MNBIZ: Why did you write this book?

Sue Hawkes: I wanted to do something that helped business leaders keep their ground, keep their poise, feel confident and lead well.

MNBIZ: You say perfection is an illusion, but don’t people need ideals?

Sue Hawkes: I think most leaders are going for an ideal. But an ideal is like chasing the horizon. You’re never going to get there, right? It’s just always out there. So every day I say to entrepreneurs that 80% is enough in all the areas of your business. They hear that, but they’re going for 100%. They want utopia.

MNBIZ: They seek perfection, but at the same time they feel very imperfect inside.

Sue Hawkes: We all face this constant battle of internal self-doubt that creeps up when you get successful. The hype of your success starts to create bigger self-doubt, not less. It’s like you have to maintain an exterior that your interior isn’t quite aligned with. This whole imposter syndrome is the first chapter of the book. (Unmasking Your Superhero)

MNBIZ: Do you present practical tips that people can follow?

Sue Hawkes: To me, a book always falls short is if it doesn’t have that practical application. Tell me how to fix things! Insight is awesome, but it doesn’t become wisdom till there’s trial, error, error, error, trial. Over time, you start to embody it.

MNBIZ: Here’s a kind of a contradiction: Entrepreneurs don’t want to be surrounded by naysayers, but you say they can be useful?

Sue Hawkes: Yes. Every time I start something, I seek out one person to tell me I can’t do it. They exclaim, “What are you thinking?” And then they list all the things that can go wrong. I sit and go, “You just saved me a whole lot of pain.” I’m gathering from them all the stuff I wouldn’t think about, and they hand it to me on a silver platter.

And all of a sudden, a competitive part of me kicks in, and my emotional reaction is “Watch me!” I just need that one naysayer.

MNBIZ: You have a special chapter whose title we can’t print in a family magazine, yet it is a key attribute for an entrepreneur.

Sue Hawkes: We call it being unf***withable. This is really what we’re all striving for, which is when you reach a place where you’re truly at peace and in touch with yourself and nothing anyone says or does bothers you; no negativity or drama can touch you. You are grounded and centered. You are at the pinnacle of whatever you do, the ultimate leader you can be. We say this is it. You’re at the top of your game, the desired space to be, you are unf***withable.

I have a client who is a triathlete, and to get through her very first Iron Man she wrote on her forearm, “smile, gratitude, unf***withable.”  She sent me a picture of it and said, “I keep your definition with me. It absolutely inspired me.” I posted it on LinkedIn, and a colleague immediately emailed me immediately and asked, “Did you get hacked?”

MNBIZ: You emphasize intuition.

Sue Hawkes: Steve Jobs said intuition was far more influential for him than knowledge. In the U.S., with our very Western kind of thinking, there’s so much distraction from every kind of media and all our devices. People are not present. Whereas the Eastern philosophies are about introspection and being quiet.

The majority of people I know — especially leaders and entrepreneurs — they don’t journal. They don’t meditate. They don’t take what Gino Wickman calls clarity breaks, where you dedicate time to just think.

We don’t have enough of that.

MNBIZ: Your millennial daughter and coworker Ali Stieglbauer wrote a chapter on  intergenerational harmony.

Ali Stieglbauer: I think is the key is starting from a place of shared values. When I was first starting I came to work in an outfit that wasn’t really appropriate for the office. Sue talked with me about it and initially I was kind of upset. I was like, “Well, this is my personal brand. I wear whatever I want.”

So then she reframed the conversation and said, “You know what? It’s about making your client feel comfortable and it’s a way to show them respect.” That made complete sense to me, that was the common ground that she was able to get me to see. It might take a little bit longer to sit and have that discussion, but from the Millennial side, it makes me feel really valued.