I’m going to put it out there: The pursuit of perfectionism is the primary reason so many people are stressed. And stuck. And less successful than they’d like to be.
Yep, it’s all wrapped up in perfectionism.
And perfection is an elusive animal. Ask any pitcher.
Yesterday, April 21, 2012, Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox pitched a perfect game. For those whose grasp of baseball is a little loose, let me explain – Humber pitched nine innings and none of the batters he faced made it to first base. Every batter had a strike out, or his fly ball was caught, or he was put out at first base.
That’s a perfect game.
Which is really rare.
How rare? Well, only 21 perfect games have been pitched since 1880.
If my math is right, that’s something like one every six years. A perfect game is a level of perfection that most Hall of Fame pitchers never even achieve.
Baseball itself is not a game of perfect. The Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth? Struck out 66% of the time he was at the plate. And he is revered as a big hitter.
True perfection, my friends, is elusive, and rare.
And, yet, you agonize over your presentation, that report, your website, a resume, an offer. As if what you produce has to be the equivalent of a perfect game. Every single time.
That’s a lot of pressure you’re putting on yourself. What, you expect daily perfection? Maybe even minute-by-minute perfection?
Honey, not even Hall of Famers get to that level of perfection.
Phil Humber is not perfect. Seven years ago, Humber had reconstructive Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm. Twenty-nine years old, he’s played for four different teams, and been sent down to the minors from the big leagues a couple of times. He didn’t book his first Major League win until 2010. Probably the last guy you’d think would toss a perfect game.
But he did. And he did it despite all the odds against him.
About being added to the list of pitchers who’ve thrown a perfect game, Humble Humber said, “I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know what Philip Humber is doing in this list. No idea what my name is doing there, but I’m thankful it’s there.”
See? I’ll bet you he didn’t go out to the mound before that first inning and say, “I’m going to throw a perfect game.” I’ll bet you he didn’t say, “Today’s the day I make history.”
I’ll bet you that Phil Humber walked to the mound and said to himself, “Let this first pitch be good enough, just the way the catcher calls it.” And after he had done that, he focused on the next pitch.
And the next.
And the next.
And by the last pitch of that game against the Seattle Mariners, Phil Humber had thrown a perfect game.
He did it good enough pitch by good enough pitch by good enough pitch.
He did it loose, and easy, and focused. Totally present in that moment when he released the ball.
So, too, you. Rather than obsessing about the word choice in the fourth line of the third paragraph – obsessing for weeks, or even a month – let that good enough word go, and get the thing out there.
Rather than stressing out about your “niche”, start working with good enough clients and get an idea of who you like to serve – and serve more of them.
You can always adjust. You can always tweak. You can always revise. You can always shake off the called pitch.
But if you never deliver the throw in the first place, you’re not really in the game.
And remember the lesson from Phil Humber’s unexpected history-making perfect game: When you give yourself the space and freedom to allow for good enough, the result is a graceful kind of ease that opens up room for a result better than you might even have expected.
Good enough pitch by good enough pitch, you’ll have solid inning after solid inning to your credit.
And with that kind of steady performance, you just might find yourself in the Hall of Fame.