Kintsugi: The art of embracing damage.

Is it possible to be more beautiful in the broken places?

Recently, I sent a message to my friend who was struggling, in hopes of lifting her spirits.

My friend had been feeling down. Defeated. Convinced that she wasn’t capable or deserving of success. I knew better, of course. I’ve known her more than half my life. I’ve watched her rise from an aspiring writer to international best selling author. Countless reasons, I could offer, as to why she’s more than capable and perfectly deserving of success.  With indignance, I wanted to shout at her, “You’re already successful! Do you know how many people would dream to live your life for even just one day?”

I had really good intentions that day. It was a thrill, in fact, to think that I could be of help to a hero. Here was little old regular me, being asked to Help…Fix…Repair…Heal…this amazing role model of mine, who happened to be struggling. Being able to nurture and support this person who has served as a model of excellence for me for decades. Here was my chance to make a difference!

And the way I chose to help this supersuccessful person to feel better? I denied her feelings. Not a good thing, turns out.

I countered every single negative thought she was having with a reason why she was wrong and “should feel great” or “ought to forgive” herself or “was being too hard” on herself.

Thinking I was helping, actually I was making it worse. I took away her right to suffer. In fact, I teetered on the cusp of shaming her for feeling down.

With all the best intentions, I missed the whole point. She was feeling broken and needed to let the pieces fall on the floor in front of her.

Realizing that I was making things worse by only focusing on the sunny side and by denying her need to feel broken and fall apart, I suddenly remembered a concept I once heard about the importance of being able to “fall into” pain rather than simply denying it. This concept, I was now remembering, was about honoring and highlighting the broken parts. Drawing attention to the damage, even!

So, what is this radical-acceptance-like process of honoring and even highlighting our failures and broken parts?

It’s called Kintsugi, and it’s a beautiful way of turning damage into beauty.

The Japanese practice of “kintsugi” is the art of embracing damage. Check out this Kintsugi video:

“Now you shall transform to a new level, my friend. Think wabi-sabi and kintsugi: the art of embracing damage!”

Now remembering this concept of being stronger in the broken places, I stopped my barrage of “happy thoughts” and apologized mid-conversation to my friend. I acknowledged that I’d been trying to deny the fact that she felt broken. I was trying to pretend the cracks weren’t there. I told her that I’d suddenly remembered this Japanese art of Kintsugi, and that I would send her a video to illustrate the concept right away. We ended the conversation awkardly, and I seriously questioned whether I knew how to be a good friend.

Pushing past my disappointment in myself, I sent her the Kintsugi video, hoping that she was still open to my support, even after I’d botched and Pollyanna’d my way through our earlier conversation. After I sent the note and video link, I started to question myself.

“Who am I to tell this highly successful and internationally recognized thought leader how to live?”

“Why do I always appoint myself as the ambassador of all that is positive?”

“What if she resents my message and sees it as patronizing?”

There I was, spiraling to all my places in my head where my own brokenness lurks.

Worrying about how my friend might feel after I’d missed the point with her suffering, I was spinning in my own broken parts, thinking…

I’ve spent my whole life embracing the broken, the not quite, and the almost…

  • Saving birds with broken wings
  • Fixing toys with broken parts
  • Cheering for the underdog
  • Coaching those who don’t yet believe in themselves
  • Coaxing sunshine from clouds

Just as my negative self-talk was reaching a fervent pitch in my head, the phone rang.

There was my friend, laugh-crying through the phone line, telling me how she finally felt understood. The video just spoke to her. Captured her. She told me how she felt connected to this concept of embracing damage. How she IS kintsugi. How this concept of mending the broken pieces with gold and proudly displaying them was exactly what she’d needed. It was a great moment, and not just because my friend was feeling better or because I’d been able to help her. It was a great moment because she and I were creating Kintsugi in real time. We were piecing back together a set of broken shards of a conversation and making the resulting product even better than when we’d started.

I knew on that day that I would never look at broken pottery in the same way again.

Now, whenever either of us faces a rough patch in life, or when things fall apart altogether, a single word helps us both begin to put the pieces back together and to anticipate an even more beautiful outcome than the original situation could have intended.


Embracing the damage. More beautiful in the broken places.


Momentum: Two tips for accelerated success

Time“I could be so successful, if only I had more time…”

Have you ever heard yourself saying, “If only I had more time…” then finishing that sentence in your head with a sad realization that if you had more time you’d probably fill that gifted time with more harried, hassled, stressful tasks that would leave you even more exhausted than you already are?

Time, precious time

As author Harvey Mackay taught us, time is the one commodity that we can’t reproduce, alter, capture or revisit. Each of us is afforded the same quantity of time on a given day, day after day. Yet how we use that time makes all the difference.

Think about the Food Network television show, “Chopped,” where several chefs are presented with a mystery box and a tiny window of time with a mission to create fabulous food fare. Invariably, one of the contestants groans after the clock runs out and Chef Ted marks “Time’s up!”  The contestant stares at the unfinished dish below and states as if it’s the first time this has ever happened, “I ran out of time” as their reason for not including all of the required ingredients on their plate, or for not cooking their dish to the judges’ satisfaction. But remember, each chef had the same ingredients, the same cookingtimesup station, the same pantry, and the same amount of time. Why were the other chefs able to finish on time with the intended delicious outcome, while Joe Too-Late is still standing there with a raw slab of pork on his station?




So how can we make the most of this precious, limited resource? How do the super-successful time managers seem to breeze through their tasks and still have time to show up at the kids’ soccer games or catch a concert in the park?

One way to optimize your moments, days, weeks and months, is to make time work for you by transforming your time into a force multiplier by harnessing its power in an intentional direction. I’m talking about creating and sustaining momentum.

What is momentum?

While considering the recent passing of my favorite sports writer, Frank Deford, I recalled what I consider to be his most poignant commentary, a short NPR radio article on “momentum.”  It talked of the power of perceived momentum in a competitive sports game. Momentum can be so powerful that it’s like having an extra player on the field. An extra player on the field?  Hmmmn, I thought…like having more of you…or more time…or both! So I decided to look up the definition of this momentum, ’cause I needed to get me some. Then good ol’ Merriam Webster did it again. Dishing out inspiration from the dictionary. Check out the definition of momentum:


mōˈmen(t)əm, məˈmen(t)əm/
noun: momentum; plural noun: momenta
  1. Physics. The quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity.
  2. The impetus gained by a moving object. “The vehicle gained momentum as the road dipped

Momentum – How to get it

If you’re looking for momentum in your life, you can achieve it in two ways:


  1. LAUNCH FORWARD FROM THE BAD: Transform negative energy into positive momentum
  2. HARNESS AND MULTIPLY THE GOOD: Capitalize on positive energy, making it a force multiplier

Tip #1: LAUNCH FORWARD FROM THE BAD: Transform negative energy into positive momentum

Gaining momentum from the dip in the road

The first way to bring momentum into your life is by turning a “downturn” into positive energy toward a better situation.

Recall the above example from the dictionary that illustrated the use of the word momentum: “The vehichle gained momentum as the road dipped.”  Positive energy from a negative downturn. That’s it! As life has its ups and downs, we can actually use the negative, uncomfortable road-dipping experiences and energy to generate momentum!  Impetus, gained by moving forward! 

So, positive momentum can be generated by transforming negative energy and experiences into a force multiplier, propelling us forward toward our next goal. “Use the pain!” as my exasperated physical trainer might say to me as I whine through yet another set of 20s.

This concept of using the power of a negative experience to generate positive life force is a familiar one to me. It brings me back to an old addage I used when I was a clinical psychologist trying to help patients find hope when they felt like they were drowning in life’s troubles…”Sometimes, hitting bottom provides you a solid base to push off from, and allows you to gain upward momentum to fresh air above the water’s surface.”

Tip #2: HARNESS AND MULTIPLY THE GOOD: Capitalize on positive energy, making it a force multiplier


momentum by adding fuel to your positive fire

child-on-swingThe second way to harness momentum in your life is by taking a positive expeirence, moment, feeling, achievement,  relationship forward with additional positive energy.  I’m sure you remember the junior high school gym teacher explaining that “energy begets energy,” and that the more you exercise, the more energy you will feel.”

 That’s the power of a force multiplier. It’s like adding a gentle push to a child on a swing as they are moving forward. Just enough added energy, and the child is beaming with delight as the swing reaches higher toward the sky.

Take a positive element of your life, say a successful workout session or a well-received presentation at work. Multiply that energy by sharing your success with a loved one. Journal it. Get in your car and jam to your favorite tune in celebration of that success. Take a selfie to show your progress from your workout. Place a memento of your success into an “emotional bank account” folder that you can dip into on rainy days when you aren’t feeling so great. Take that positive momentum and make it last longer by sharing it, celebrating it, crystallizing it and honoring it.

What the Experts Say

Consider these thoughts on Momentum from Thrive Global’s Benjamin P. Hardy in his article, “The 2 Mental Shifts Highly Successful People Make:

Momentum is essential

“When you experience positive momentum, you’ll never want it to stop.” — Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach

Finally, people who have experienced this first mental shift really care about momentum. They’ve worked hard to develop their momentum and know what it feels like to not have momentum.

Being without momentum is rough. It’s how most people live their lives. And without momentum, results are minimal, even with lots of effort.

Consistency is key to developing momentum. You get it by putting intentional effort toward a singular goal or vision, and eventually the compound effect takes over. It’s as though several outside sources are working for your good. Because, they are.

Keeping momentum once you have it, then, becomes very important. Hence, you must maintain a thirst for continual learning and growth.

Okay, now it’s your turn.  It’s your opportunity to make the most of the precious, limited time we have.  Enter a comment below to share how you will create and sustain momentum in your life.

Carpe momentum!


Susan E. Hendrich

The Spaces Between: Taking time for your personal development

What if you spent 30 minutes on your personal development every day? Reading. Blogging. Journaling. Drawing. Imagining. Networking. Planning your future. A half hour. Every. Single. Day.

A friend recently told me that in a “How to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile” seminar, she learned that we should spend a certain amount of time each day focused on our personal and professional development. Each day? Wow, that sounded like a lot. I mean seriously, how many meaningful moments do you average each day, working on developing your strengths? Or your resume? Or your network?  Pffft, my answer to the question wasn’t all that great, so I decided to try out the concept.


For one month, I’ve spent 30 minutes each day with focused attention on my personal development. Reading, writing, sharing, listening, and absorbing myself in energy focused on my growth as a professional and as a person. The results are predictably exciting and positive, but not for the reasons I’d expected.

Of course I learned a lot through tuning in to authors and speakers and mentors and idea-makers. But it wasn’t those active learning moments that made the biggest difference. It was the spaces bewteen that yielded a refreshing and unexpected rush of creativity, clarity and focus.

I believe that investing in your personal and professional growth is an iterative process best achieved through small, meaningful steps over time. Just like a great athlete or musician or speaker, it takes sustained and consistent effort to build the muscle memory needed to become fluent in any worthy pursuit. Intentional practice in directional increments is often said to be the secret to reaching a development goal. But I believe that in between those efforts of intention, the silent “pauses” are just as important. A pause can be a time of silent introspection or just a rest from the norm of day-to-day goal pursuit.

The pause is for me is about allowing thoughtful spaces between my rushed and hurried emails, calls, and meetings. It’s about protecting and valuing those spaces, rather than rushing to fill them with urgent-but-not-important matters…Allowing those spaces to be dedicated to developing my strengths and focusing on where I want to be, not just where I am.

English musician Gordon Sumner, better known as The Police’s Sting, once said,

“Paradoxically, I’m coming to believe in the importance of silence in music. The power of silence after a phrase of music for example; the dramatic silence after the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, or the space between the notes of a Miles Davis solo. There is something very specific about a rest in music. You take your foot off the pedal and pay attention. I’m wondering whether, as musicians, the most important thing we do is merely to provide a frame for silence. I’m wondering if silence itself is perhaps the mystery at the heart of music? And is silence the most perfect music of all?”

What are you doing with the “spaces between” in your life?

Harmony Photo Challenge

Ever feel like the world is falling apart at the hands of hate? Need a ray of hope? Want to make a difference, but not sure what to do? Try the HARMONY PHOTO CHALLENGE. Try these 3 simple steps to make the world a little bit better:

  • Step 1: Take a photograph of people being good to each other
  • Step 2: Post your photo to Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, or anywhere that could use some positivity
  • Step 3: Tag your photo with #harmonyphotochallenge

Let’s build a huge pile of positivity!


Example: In this example you can see Holocaust survivors Dorothy Finger and Morris “Freschie” Freschman chatting about the power of forgiveness. ‪#‎harmonyphotochallenge

Thank you for visiting!

Susan E. Hendrich