Archive for the ‘Personality’ Category

The Perfectionist Mantra: If I’m Not Perfect I’ll Perish

March 27, 2010 6 comments

We’ve all heard it before: “Don’t be a perfectionist!” Often said with a sneer. Most likely because the person saying it has screwed up in one way or another and wants to divert attention to unreasonable expectation. Despite the obviously selfish motive behind the statement, I think there is some useful advice in there somewhere. If you’ve ever been (not so kindly) asked to quit being a perfectionist, then you may recall that you weren’t in the sort of mood to sit back and say “hmmm…I think you have a point.”

What drives the perfectionist? I think its simple: Mistakes are despicable. The perfectionist abhors being tainted with failings, accidents, results that are not just so, and most of all the people who have a tendency to bring about these outcomes. If a child falls off a high seat, the perfectionist parent first scolds the clumsy behavior and then asks whether she’s been hurt. Finesse is important to the perfectionist and is not just required of them, but also all who are associated in any way that reflects back on the perfectionist. This would include parents, siblings, spouse, children, friends and even institutions.

You might hold the firm opinion that a perfectionist is all bad, but I believe you wouldn’t mind being served by a perfectionist. You wouldn’t mind having your meal cooked just right at a restaurant, or having road users keep to the traffic code. We love to enjoy the fruits of the perfectionists in our world as long as they do not start pointing out our foibles – for they can do this to perfection. The perfectionist has a valuable place in society, but it comes at a price.

The perfectionist is not only hard on those around him. The recipient of the most severe bashing is himself. He lives in constant fear of going wrong. He hesitates in making decisions because he cannot afford to err. Mistakes only mean he has to answer to his harshest critic – himself. He opts out of opportunities that are unfamiliar or whose outcomes are uncertain. He resists learning new things because he cannot be perfect on the first try. He builds a temple to perfectionism and truly believes that the world would collapse around him if he were to let go of these strict standards. It’s a mental prison that sometimes ends up being a physical one.

Well here’s how I believe the perfectionist can ease up on himself. By simply realizing that imperfection equals opportunity for growth and variety. If everything and everyone were perfect, then there wouldn’t be new innovations. The world would remain the same, and you most certainly wouldn’t like to wake up to the same world day after day for a lifetime. People’s minds wouldn’t develop beyond their current state. Imperfection spurs improvement, growth, insight. Imperfection provides challenges that give us purpose in life. So in actual fact, if you’re perfect, you’ll perish. Best of all, imperfection creates balance. The fact that you’re not so good at some things makes you all the more appreciative of things that you’re good at.

Accepting weaknesses in some areas of your life allows you to be more productive in your strong points. Accepting that you are going to make mistakes and learning to forgive yourself for them allows you to coexist with other people in greater harmony since you’ll in turn be able to forgive and accept them despite their shortcomings.

Categories: Ideas, Personality Tags:

An Enreprenuer In Pursuit of An Idea

February 27, 2009 4 comments

I think all who have had an exciting idea at one point in their lives never forgets that honeymoon feeling. When you can see it from beginning to end in your mind and are convinced 100% that it’s a winner.

For some, the feeling is so strong and so alluring that they go ahead and take it a step further. They start doing research. They bounce it off their close friends and family to gauge the possible viability. It may end there in the midst of drinks and some sobering point of view from some quarters. It’s back to more regular stuff and the exhilaration is just but a memory.

Still some go further. They do not want to look back later and realize they were onto something, but didn’t pursue it. They are still believers and want to see how far they can get. They start investing real money, real time, real social currency. They start putting together their baby. They start learning subjects that would never cross their minds otherwise. This can be a real drain on their lives, since an idea requires quite a bit of investment in personal energy to even have a chance of lasting beyond the first few months. For a number of people, this is too much. They make the tough decision to let go. Figuring that they are not willing to take resources from other areas of their lives. Maybe another time, another place.

It takes some degree of stubbornness to get this far. Perhaps even short sightedness, inexperience or naivety. But there are those that want to see where this goes. They are the ones that continue climbing the mountain because “they are already there damn it!” They have a hard time letting their investments go that easily. They still believe in the idea. They can still see its viability. They continue putting in more. But the world of ideas can be treacherous. They find themselves fighting battles in life that have little to do with their idea, but still cause a drain on resources. Layoffs, downturn in the economy, rocking of personal relationships – especially in the family. For some, this is too much. With sadness in their hearts they let go and concentrate on managing the more critical crisis in their lives.

Then we have the totally insane. Once they lock onto something, only death has a chance of prying it out of their grasp. They are not just strong believers. They are risk takers, gamblers. The higher the stakes, the more appealing the potential reward. They have the will to literally re-write the story of the planet in order to create a place for their idea. Setbacks mean almost nothing to them. They will remodel their lives, break relationships, go bankrupt in single minded pursuit of the idea. Those around them don’t know what to think. Should they be angry at them for starving so many other important life aspects or should they admire them for such maniacal persistence? It’s a tough call since you really have to be certifiably insane to be able to pull off the kind of innovations that change society. At the same time, people in need of serious help exhibit similar characteristics. For these, it’s not belief that drives them, but delusion. Escaping boring reality.

Which of these are you?