“Never be ashamed about being broken, because strength is nothing but pain that's been repaired.” - Trent Sheldon. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer to enhance rather than hide the breaks. It embodies a philosophy of embracing imperfections, breakages, and ‘scars’ as celebrated parts of the new. EMBRACE IMPERMANENCE AND IMPERFECTION. The simple beauty of Kintsugi is a reflection of wabi-sabi, which was described in Richard Powell’s book Wabi-Sabi Simple as embracing that “Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” In that sense, applying Kintsugi involves shifting from being frustrated about an unattainable perfection, to embracing gratitude for the imperfect and impermanent. FORGE YOURSELF WITH CYCLES OF RUPTURE AND REPAIR. Kintsugi prompts us to reconsider and even celebrate the broken and repaired. As British Journalist Chris Cleave reminds us, “A scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, ‘I survived.’" Persian poet Rumi took that idea further, seeing scars as potentials for growth or, as he described it, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Importantly, cycles of rupture and repair move away from the original and create something new, something different, and perhaps something that you can value. GETTING PRACTICAL. How do you apply Kintsugi? Sure, you can start repairing broken crockery with gold lacquer however, if you want to take it further, you can use the concept behind it as a reminder to celebrate the damaged, the broken, and the repaired in countless contexts. For example: Reject consumerist and disposable trends. Rather than throwing something at the first sign of imperfection or breakage, how can you embrace and even highlight it as part of the ‘story of that object’. In doing so, consider what you will create that is new and unique. Reframe failure. When working on a project that goes terribly wrong, reframe that break as an essential part of your project’s story. Rather than covering it up, consider how you will speak to it and build from it. Find compassion for yourself as you acknowledge your big struggles. We’ve all had rough times, breaks, ruptures and even collapses. Rather than pretend that they didn’t happen, consider how you might wear those scars and repairs with pride. After all, they are part of what has forged the person you’ve become today. Accept imperfection and impermanence in people around you. Once you’ve found compassion for yourself, explore how you might find it for those around you. Know that everyone will struggle and that their challenges can help to define, and even reinvent themselves. IN YOUR LATTICEWORK. The impermanence of Kintsugi, born from Zen philosophy, has interesting alignment with Entropy, the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The idea of reinvention from the old might be compared to the economic model of Creative Destruction, though the latter describes the destruction of the old rather than the repair or addition to it. Some of the mindset shifts around failure that Kintsugi encourages can be supplemented with Return on Failure, and even First Principles to identify the core of what’s important. If you’re trying to maintain a positive and resilient outlook in our impermanent world, you might also want to combine this approach with the Stockdale Paradox. Finally, the value of repairing rather than replacing something might also be understood in the context of the Ikea Effect.
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