I happen to love Wednesdays. Once upon a time, “Wednesday” meant “25 cent beer night at Phi Kap’s” – a fond memory, believe me. But now, in the fullness of time, Wednesdays no longer equate to fraternity party excess.[Well, not that often.]
Wednesdays have become the day when I work with members of The Club, my affordable coaching program. Each Wednesday, members get a sharp, focused one-on-one 20 minute coaching session – and, boy, do we get work done. It’s wonderful. And during the course of last week’s laser coaching appointments, I realized that there was a common theme emerging. A theme around perfectionism.
It seems that many of us want to be absolutely perfect right out of the gate.
The website copy must be perfect.
The presentation must be flawless.
The vacation must be life-changing.
The relationship must be relentlessly connected, joyful, energizing and sexy.
No room for errors, mistakes, illness or personal preferences (especially those of other people). Not enough time. The stakes are way too high. Which, of course, made me write myself a note: “What ever happened to trial and error?”
Trial and error is a beautiful thing! Trial and error opens the mind – why the result could be anything! I could be surprised. Elated! I could be disappointed, sure – but, regardless, I will absolutely learn something fascinating. Something that will make my next try more successful.
That’s the reason trial and error underlies the scientific process. Frankly, I am thrilled that some guys kept looking at blue mold on bread and working it, working it, until there was a successful outcome – penicillin.
I am happy that the guy who goofed up making a new glue decided to see what it would do on paper before the threw the whole batch into the trash. What would you do without Post-It Notes?
It pleases me to think that right now, out there somewhere, someone is testing what blueberries and spinach would taste like in salsa. Talk about creativity!
Perfectionism absolutely kills this kind of creativity.
Perfectionism prevents exploring – “what if it’s the wrong direction! What happens then? What if I make a mistake? Better just stick to the tried and true. Must not fail.” So to protect yourself against failure, you squash your curiosity, and creativity falls aside. And you learn nothing.
Because you only discover when you explore.
Not to mention the waiting. Good golly, Miss Molly, but perfectionism often requires waiting. And waiting. And waiting. So many people wait until the perfect pops out, fully developed and well-formed. Indisputably astounding. Making observers say, “Wow!”
This, darlings, is a happy dream. A happy dream which, I will admit, has never happened to me or anyone I know in real life. The best stuff has come with focus, over time, with smart trial and plenty of errors.
Perhaps people seek perfection as an insurance policy so they can’t be told they’re wrong when they put their stuff out there.
But I have better insurance: When I’m using trial and error, I’m not “wrong” – I’m just not “right”… yet.
I am, however, happily on the road bound there. Doing stuff. Creating. Filing errors under “learning” so my next attempt will be even better.