3 Lessons from Pearls

Posted on 11th October 2021

In business and in leadership it can sometimes seem as if we must present as perfect to attract business, retain clients and to sustain our business. Yet if the truth be told perfection is an unachievable aspiration, flaws can be the secret sauce that creates a foundation for a unique offering. The formation of pearls is a useful way to illustrate this.

The formation of a natural pearl begins when a potentially harmful irritant slips into the oyster between the mantle and the shell. The mantle covers the irritant with layers of a nacre substance. This process involves secreting layer after layer of a liquid eventually creating the shell which takes on a beautiful lustrous sheen.  

There are 3 learning points from pearls

1.     Appreciate your uniqueness and don’t overly focus on flaws.

Each pearl is unique. No pearls are alike. Each pearl will have unique characteristics, tiny flaws and blemishes.

This is noteworthy because when we think of pearls, we think of their beauty not their imperfections. Sometimes we can be so focused on our imperfections that we forget our inherent value.

2.     You don’t have to be an oyster to produce a pearl.

It is not only oysters that produces pearls.  Oysters are renowned for pearl-producing although only saltwater pearls come from them. Mussels are responsible for freshwater pearls. Other mollusks also produce pearls including clams, abalone and the queen conch.  Nature in general teaches us that uniqueness is part of life to be celebrated because differences create an ecosystem which is not dissimilar to how businesses and leaders  grow.

3.     Be patient with your development.

Pearls are not formed overnight. The process involves covering the irritant, formation of the protective layers and then a growth period. The longer the period of growth the more valuable the pearl. The process takes years.

Often our stories are in the ‘grit’; the irritant or imperfection that started our journey to where we are now or where we are going. Interestingly, natural pearls are formed when an irritant naturally get trapped in the mollusks shell without any human intervention, cultivated pearls develop when this process is engineered by a farmer. Natural pearls are more valued. There is something powerful and amazing about a reaction to an intrusion creating something so exquisite and beautiful.

It begs the question, what have you developed or what are you becoming in response to an adverse situation?

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