Letting Go of Perfect

Meeting our heroes is not always a wise venture. Too often the reality disappoints the expectation, they fail to live up to the pedestals we have built for them, either being too human or not human enough. Meeting our grassroots heroes is completely different experience. The ‘human’ element is so wonderfully apparent in every aspect of their story, and their being. Some might say it’s in their very humanity that makes them heroic. They represent a dynamic mix of determination, ingenuity, courage and optimism.

Whilst grassroots heroes’ initiatives may have humble beginnings, in terms of resource, they are not humble in ambition. The imperative is to act quickly to learn, build capacity and attract support, both human and fiscal through articulating an energising clear connecting purpose. Without the traditional organisational trappings, frameworks, measurements, budgets, templates and teams of people, our grassroots heroes need to adopt an innovative approach to organisational growth and sustainability. As an award winning organisation that has attracted national attention and praise, the Together Project exemplifies this dynamic grassroots approach.

Meeting Louise on a dismal wet dark December morning in a steamed-up coffee shop in Walthamstow, I was fascinated to learn about her journey from a highly successful marketeer, to founder of successful grassroots company, using the stepping-stone of motherhood. True to all my grassroots heroes she is open, engaging, and energising, with a lingering sense of surprise at the incredible level of success her project has already achieved. Louise has launched a movement that has connected people at either end of the life stage spectrum and found there an alchemy of real harmony.

Taking inspiration from those around us

Louise’s decision to set up The Together Project was a big leap of faith but after having her baby she found she wanted more than her previous career had offered. She wanted a role that could make a tangible difference and would allow her to work flexibly around the needs of her son. As it turned out her answer lay very close to home. Taking her son to meet an elderly relative in an old people’s care home she watched fascinated at the natural transaction between her baby and their elderly host. She noticed a natural rapport strike up between them; unencumbered by awkwardness the two lit up during their interaction and left Louise feeling that she had witnessed something important, simple but profound. This immediate, uncontrived connection appeared transformative and the discovery sparked an idea to create a parents and toddlers music group based in, and including, the elderly in their care homes. And thus, the seeds of the Together Project were sown.

On the far side of complexity lies some simple human truths that bind us together

The brilliance of the Together Project is in its simplicity and the immediacy of its value. Carefully crafted sessions meet the needs of all involved. providing stimulus and flow through the medium of music and singing. There is a trinity of joy for all involved. The children, elderly, and all the adults involved find something of real value in this transaction, framed with a light touch structure and easy flow connectivity. For this reason, the exchange avoids condescension and contrivance, managing to combine structure with flow, and an environment that allows for authentic connection.

The Together Project illustrates the simple truth that when people feel valued it ignites a light that no amount of medical intervention or prescription could achieve. Louise has seen firsthand the extraordinary transformation from bringing children and parents into care homes where the elderly are frequently left to vanquish. Looked after certainly, but perhaps not involved and engaged in such a joyful way. This enterprise promises to change all that and heralds a new level of empathy and understanding between generations. With one clear action, Louise has shown how we can all benefit from small interactions, that begin with the expectation of helping others, but as is so frequently the case, ends up helping the givers as much as the receivers.

The snare of preparation

Louise had always strived for ‘perfection’ in her work, slaving over details, worrying over nuances, being thorough and well prepared; but one of her most impactful lessons during the development of the Together Project, has been to accept ‘good enough’. This new way of working maybe less precise, but is she admits, also less laboured, and far more effective in moving things forward, and creating the space for learning that has proved a valuable platform for growth and stability.

This is perhaps a lesson we would all benefit from, when looking to innovate and change. Too often we stifle opportunity in favour for producing certainty. We sacrifice action and progress at the altar of perfection, and sometimes confuse this with safety. Tolstoy used the phrase the ‘snare of preparation’ to underline just how stifling trying to perfect can be. Sometimes our tinkering and reshaping is more about our fear of action than demand for ideal. Louise’s story illustrates the tension between perfect and progress and how letting go of perfect has rewarded her progress with unexpectedly impressive outcomes.