Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Excellent versus Perfect

Did you know there is an International Association of Print House Craftsmen (which has several women members)? In the day of $99 ink jets and 24-hour print shops, these folks still “bleed ink.” What they construct with printing presses and paper is art – pure and simple.

If you didn’t know about the IAPHC, don’t feel bad. I didn’t either. One of the perks of my occupation is that I get to meet an expansive array of people from a gamut of occupations; some of which I had no idea even existed.

Take the Appraisal Institute. Never having the experience of buying nor sell multi-million dollar office complexes, I never realized that a spot-on, no variation, exact appraisal on the value of such properties — and hence the interest on the loan to purchase them — can cost one hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Decimal points really do matter. The folks of AI are dedicated to that.

Speaking of decimal points, one of the more mesmerizing people I have had the pleasure of meeting is Paul Kingsman, 1988 Olympic Medal Winner for swimming. That award would not have been his had he been five one-hundredths of a second slower. To understand what a short period of time is that, blinking your eye takes about ten times longer than the difference between Paul’s race time and the person who did not win.

Paul hails from New Zealand and now lives in Northern California. As a speaker and coach, he helps others become “distraction proof;” staying focused on what matters so they can achieve outstanding results, in any manner in which that applies.

I interviewed Paul, and although I expected good stuff, I was blown away by what I picked up. We discussed how some things can be simple but not easy. He also pointed out that mistaking “notoriety” for “substance,” especially in this media-consumed culture, often distracts us.

However, as a “recovering perfectionist,” what most resonated was “excellence versus perfection.”

In my interpretation, attaining excellence lets us evolve to new levels. Chasing perfection however, leads us to a frustrated place of stagnation.

If, for example, I wish to lose 30 pounds, the perfectionist sees black and white. Eat ONLY healthy foods in their EXACTLY proper proportions. Exercise WITHOUT FAIL and expect EVERY WEEK to weigh less. ANYTIME I fall short of expectations, it is deemed a failure.

When confronted with a major overhaul of my life and such a strong unlikelihood of success, I will decide the result — as much as I might say I want it — is not worth the effort, and remain cemented in stasis. It’s a plague.

Excellence however is much more forgiving, and allows us to learn from those areas in which we currently lack. It inspires us to reach further.

An “excellent” dancer at age eight will be better at 18, and even further skilled as a grown, trained woman. Each stage was indeed excellent, yet none perfect — as evidenced by the fact that she developed over time. Perfection is impossible; excellence is not.

This concept applies to anything at which we persevere. Whether the goal is financial, interpersonal, or better health, the irony is if I seek perfection, I’ll end up about where I started. The only differences are that I will be older and more discouraged. Yet, dedicating myself to excellence transports me forward with regularity and enthusiasm.

We are excellent in so many areas without being perfect in any.

That unto itself is an excellent notion.

To listen to the podcast about this column came about and to hear it read, follow this link.

No comments: