The Pursuit of Perfection
“What I’m doing right now, I’m chasing perfection.” Kobe Bryant
We all need heroes. There is something about the imperfection of life that drives us to seek it in others. Some of us also seek it in ourselves. Ahh, perfection, that grand and noble pursuit. Seems reasonable enough – Perfect. It has a nice ring to it. Problem is though, from everything they taught me in Sunday school, there has been exactly one perfect dude. Everybody else comes up short. Everybody. Even my mother. Now, I’ve learned a great deal over years, but more than anything I’ve learned (over and over again) that I am not perfect. Far from it.
Of course, seeking improvement can be quite gratifying, while being driven towards perfection, is a dead-end impossibility. I coach for a living and I can tell you it’s rewarding work to help people improve and believe in themselves in the process. Of course, the secret in doing so is getting someone that has already has that inherent belief deep down. The key is also finding someone with the humility to accept their flaws and imperfections. My job as a coach is simply unearthing the potential that is already there. Coaching in that case is just simply reminding them over and over again of that they can succeed and achieve. On the flip side, growth comes from balancing that support with constructive feedback that they can do better. My coaches do the same for me. They remind me what I already know to be true - I can do it and…I can do better. However, while we all can improve, none of us can be perfect. It’s in accepting our flaws and facing them that we make our biggest strides.
The truth is that the most successful students already have a belief that anything is possible.
They also have this belief with humility versus arrogance. Our fundamental beliefs are learned somewhere and that somewhere mostly what we were told by our parents. Sometimes a damned good coach/teacher or a combination thereof can help develop ones belief construct, but overcoming a lack of support from Mom and or Dad is a pretty tall order. That said, so is coaching a ‘perfect’ student. Indeed, when that perfection word gets thrown into the mix, problems arise.
I am not a parent, but apparently somewhere along the line it seems that the parenting manual was revised to tell kids that they are perfect. Nowadays every kid gets a trophy and every kid is a winner. Again, I am not a parenting expert, but the thing I do know about kids is that they tend to believe what we tell them. Hell, we adults do as well - Tell someone enough times that they are no good and guess what, they will believe you. Obviously there is a special place in hell for those parents that tell their kids that they are rotten. But is telling your kids they are perfect all that much better? Actually, the answer is yes, it is better, but still, that doesn’t mean it’s good. Interestingly enough, the rotten parenting can also result in one seeking perfectionism. It’s called the chip on the shoulder syndrome or ‘I’ll show you!’ Problem with chips though is while they motivate, they get heavy after a while. Sooner or later you gotta stop proving others wrong and prove yourself right.
While it may be a better result to seek perfectionism than destructive rebellion, the drive towards perfect street is a road to nowhere. Perfectionism simply creates a different type of self-destructive damage - Narcissism, lack of humility, and warped perspective among the outcomes. More than anything, it creates a lack of balance. The aforementioned Kobe Bryant is a champion and most certainly one of the top five basketball players of all time. But perfect? As my man Clay Davis said in The Wire “Sheeeit.” Even on the basketball court, he isn’t perfect and here’s the rub, he’s getting worse all the time– we all are. Every day you take a step closer to retirement, each passing decade you lose a step in your craft, and every day you are a day closer to your last day on this planet. Only your mind has the power of perfection and that power doesn’t come from you.
Look, I’ll refrain from throwing around spiritual mantras and anecdotes. I’m in no position to preach - I am just trying to find my way and seeking and striving myself. I have yet a lot to learn and much, much more wisdom to gain. What I do know, is the answers have a lot to do with the things that ‘perfect’ people don’t have much if any of - humility, ability to accept failure, and willingness to look a the shadow that we all carry around.
Hey, nothing wrong with being a pro athlete, a CEO, or seeking to be on top of your craft…I like to kick ass as much as the next guy and gal. However, my aspiration is that my ass kicking comes increasingly though with a sense of humility. Life has a way of forcing what we need to learn upon us until you get the message, as I have found out the hard way. Your body, your mind, or your heart will make sure you get that message some day. Some day, you wont be defined by your kick ass job because you wont have it anymore. Someday you wont have that awesome body or those stacks of ‘your’ money (you can’t take it with you). Even the love and support of your adoring ‘fans’ is fleeting. Someday you will have to answer the age-old question of “who am I?” and that answer is beyond those things. My quest is about that answer. I know that finding out who am I is mostly just about sitting back to listen to my heart.