Wild Card, Success Mindset

The Beauty of Imperfection


I first met Mary, my husband's youngest sister, shortly after we started dating. She was the first person I'd ever known with Down Syndrome. To me, she looked funny, she talked funny and she chewed with her mouth open. It made me uncomfortable.

Back then, kids like her weren't mainstreamed. They didn't exist. And I had no experience dealing with this human imperfection. So I kept my distance, not wanting to interact with this flawed individual. But Mary wouldn't let me do that. She refused to give up on me. And her charm worked as she wormed her way into my heart.

The truth is, my life was blessed because of Mary. She gave me a whole different perspective through which to view my life and taught me a lot. Let me share a few stories:

Mary's favorite holiday was Christmas. She delighted in opening her gifts. But she left nothing to chance. Every Thanksgiving, she pulled me aside to review her very specific list. When I gave her the Fresh Apple Anti-Bacterial Moisturizing Hand Soap that she requested, she chortled in glee.

But I'll never forget the year I bought her the wrong Stephen King novel. (I'd searched six stores for the one she wanted, but they were sold out.) Her shock and disappointment in me were plainly evident. She let me know it. The following year, I shopped for her gifts as soon as I got the list.

The lesson? Ask for what you want, expect people to deliver and fully appreciate it when they do. But if they let you down, be clear on that too.

Mary loved looking through Victoria Secret catalogs. But unlike most women, she didn't get one bit depressed comparing herself to all those gorgeous sexy models -- even though she was short, pudgy and hunched over from arthritis.

Do you know what she saw? Herself, wearing all those revealing outfits, prancing around and posing in her beautiful body. Because to Mary, she was beautiful. Just as drop-dead gorgeous as those cover girls. She never once bought into the marketing messages that bombard us on a daily basis, telling us we need to be something we aren't.

The lesson? Never let anyone tell you you're not perfect, just as you are. Appreciate yourself.

Over the years, Mary developed major crushes on different celebrities like the Oakridge Boys and Michael Landon -- but only one at time. Every day, she'd write them a fan letter. She'd buy all their albums, dance to their music, read all their books and watch all their movies.

One of her final loves was Prince, the hugely popular singer & songwriter from Minnesota, where we live. While she never did get to meet him personally, she was invited to take a personal tour of Paisley Park, his recording studio. It was one of the highlights of her life.

The lesson? Be persistent. Go after what you want and enjoy doing it. Life isn't always about achieving goals. It's about living.

Mary had tons of health problems. She had severe diabetes which had to be monitored constantly. She was hobbled by arthritis. Her kidneys were failing and she was on dialysis several times per week. She never complained, despite the pain and the restrictions on her life.

She let people serve her because she needed their help. She did it gracefully and appreciatively. She saw their "goodness" and that's what they gave her. She made them feel valuable.

The lesson? Complaining doesn't make anything better. People really do want to help you -- if you let them.

I think you're getting the picture. A little imp. A lot of love. So much we can learn from her simple, uncomplicated ways.

And to think that I thought she was flawed. Who was I to judge? A hard-charging, self-motivated achiever who was making my mark on the business world. Someone who was constantly comparing myself to others and falling short.

Mary taught me about the "beauty of imperfection" -- that you're wonderful simply because you exist with all your glorious warts and shortfalls. She helped me appreciate what I had, not what I was missing. And finally, to know that's all I truly needed.


Five years ago, on December 23rd I was wrapping Mary's Christmas present when we got the call that she'd fallen into a coma. My husband immediately raced up north, leaving the kids & me behind. She passed away the next day. As you might imagine, it was a tough holiday.

Several days later, I came across her unwrapped gift, Barbara Streisand's new CD. When I opened it up and read the lyrics to one of the songs, I felt like Mary had left us a her final message ...


No complaints and no regrets
I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets
And I have learned that all you give, is all you get
So give it all you've got.

I had my share, I drank my fill
And even though I'm satisfied, I'm hungry still
To see what's down another road, beyond a hill
And do it all again.

So here's to life
And every joy it brings.
Here's to life
To dreamers and their dreams.

Funny how the time just flies
How love can go from warm hellos to sad goodbyes
And leave you with the memories you've memorized
To keep your winters warm.

But there's no yes in yesterday
And who knows what tomorrow brings, or takes away.
As long as I'm still in the game, I want to play
For laughs, for life, for love.

So here's to life
And every joy it brings.
Here's to life
To dreamers and their dreams.
May all your storms be weathered
And all that's good get better.

Here's to life
Here's to love
And here's to you!

Please share your story too. It will inspire us all to be better human beings.

After a successful career in the sales world, writing five books, and speaking internationally, Jill is now tackling an even bigger challenge. She's focused on bringing the "millions in the middle" together to solve some of the biggest issues facing our country and the world. Jill truly believes so much more is possible if we can work together.