Friday, January 31, 2014

It doesn't have to be perfect!

I once re-finished furniture for a living. A lady came into the shop one day with six chairs, wanting them colored white.  So I started bleaching them. I figured the “perfect way” to color them white was to get down to the bones of the wood. I spent days bleaching those chairs and although they lightened they didn't get white. The lady eventually stomped into my shop and took her chairs before they were done. All that work for nothing and all I had to do was spray a couple coats of white opaque lacquer over them.

Dining room set finished by the writer.
The job would have been done in two hours and the customer a happy camper.
Why didn’t I do that!? I suppose I think in the back of my mind a job has to be hard. No matter how simple every job has to be hard.

I’m learning. I don’t aim so much for perfection now. I aim to do the best I can. Perfectionism is motivated by errant thinking. Maybe it's motivated by a subconscious desire to get more kudos from a parent. Maybe it's caused by a deep seated mindset that accuses you of not being good enough; you feel a need to strive for perfection to prove that's not true.

Perfectionism is like a ball and chain. It punches the air out of you.

I want to do good work. I obtain much satisfaction from doing a good job on any task. Thinking back about the best work I did when re-finishing furniture, it was always inspired work. Spirit was enabling me to do the next right thing. I wasn’t sweating and had composure. Even if I was not certain how to match a rare color, I felt intrigued by the challenge so much so that it felt like an interesting journey.

Japanese tansu re-finished by the writer
I’m a beginning Spanish learner. When I try to talk perfect Spanish I’m going to stumble the words. I’m going to fret over how to speak with perfectly correct grammar. I took a bunch of cans and plastic bottles over to the recycling center a couple weeks ago. The young fellow taking and weighing the bottles speaks some Spanish too. We conversed in Spanish with almost complete mutual understanding and fluidity for about twenty minutes. If I'd worried about making mistakes or insisted on trying to talk in perfect Spanish---that would never have happened.

Many people have a positive form of perfectionism that drives them to achieve great results in their endeavors. I'm writing today about a negative form of perfectionism. I know people whose work is so well done it couldn't have been achieved without the force of a perfectionist spirit that comes in its positive form.

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