I’ve got one last lesson I want to share before I put Daniel Pink’s new book The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward up on the shelf.
It’s the story of 15th century Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa and the Chinese tea bowl that he dropped, breaking it into several pieces in the process.
“He sent the damaged bowl back to China to be repaired,” Pink wrote. “But what he received in return months later was an ungainly mess of an object, the bowl’s pieces held together by bulky metal staples. There’s got to be a better way, he thought, and he asked local craftspeople to find it.
“They chose to repair the pottery by sanding down the edges of the broken pieces and gluing them back together using lacquer mixed with gold. The artisans’ goal wasn’t to faithfully reproduce the original work, or even to conceal its newly acquired flaws. It was to transform the piece into something better. Their work established a new — and now centuries-old — art form called kintsugi. ‘By the 17th century,’ according to one report, ‘kintsugi was such a fashionable phenomenon that some people were known to smash their tea bowls on purpose in order to embed them with golden-veined repairs.’
“Kintsugi (which translates to ‘golden joinery’) considers the breaks and the subsequent repairs part of the vessel’s history, fundamental elements of its being. The bowls aren’t beautiful despite the imperfections. They’re beautiful because of the imperfections. The cracks make them better.”
What’s true for ceramics can also be true for people, Pink writes.
We’ve all done things we regret. We all regret the things we should have done but didn’t. But if we learn from those mistakes and grow — if we become better people as a result — then they aren’t mistakes at all. They’re beautiful imperfections — the many ups and downs, twists and turns of the road we’re on.
And as author Amit Ray writes, “that’s its beauty.”