This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.
There’s a distinction that Sifu has brought up a few times in our training I call the “Olympic Distinction”.
Which is to say that at the Olympics, things are decided by the 1/1000 of a second. That little extra oomph of training and effort often makes all the difference.
In that way it’s not an unfamiliar distinction, and one propagated on countless motivational posters. BUT! In a very Niels Bohr-ian way, there’s an even more powerful distinction here, especially for those, like me, who can or readily do fall prey to streaks of perfectionism:
“1/1000 only applies at the Olympics.” *
There are many times in life when we can get caught in our own mental traps that drive us to over polished—and ultimately unproductive—excess. We push and prod and try to make perfect and fret and expend time and effort and sweat and oomph and get nervous and distraught and stressed and all riled up and lose sleep and then… either…
never finish the darn thing,
have to cut it short to finish on time thus parts are left ironically underdone,
have to make changes and the extra effort is lost,
or all that extra effort didn’t make a difference in the final result or even in quality.
It’s hard thing to grasp sometimes. It’s even hard for me to type it out. It sounds so much like “be sloppy” or “don’t try your hardest” or “everyone else is a fool they won’t notice anyway”, or “cut corners” or “never improve” or…
But it’s not really that. It’s a reminder that good enough is still pretty frikken good. That perfection can be an illusion. That not everything we participate in is the Olympics. And above all to be simply present to the cost that comes with perfectionism.
Sometimes that cost is that we don’t even start. We see the amount of work it would take to reach that level of perfection and we think, “I’m never going to be able to get to an Olympic level to do that, so why bother, it’s not worth even starting.” And so we abandon all the joy we’d have in the learning, the doing, and losing ourselves deeply in that activity.
We can get trapped on both ends, never starting or never finishing. We can hinder our enjoyment of the task, and we can hinder our time to enjoy other things as we burn it all into this moment of perfectionism. And, in the most counterintuitive way possible, it can even hinder the work.
Finding that middle path, and walking it, is where we, and our work, can shine. We can play full out and avoid the Perils of Perfect(ion).**
And turn out some quite frikken good stuff.
* In many ways, this sentiment is also captured in the more common phrase “Perfect is the enemy of good” (or the more original phrase by Voltaire, “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien” – “The best is the enemy of good.”)
** Hmmm… Beware the PoP?