Striving for Perfection - 40 Things I've Learnt in 40 Years

Striving for Perfection - 40 Things I've Learnt in 40 Years

Perfection is overrated.

As a producer of live shows, and commercials at 24 years of age, I used to be what you would call a perfectionist. The shade of a color had to be exact; the crease on a drape would had to be just-so; the music had to be at a certain decibel level....

You can imagine how frustrated I became and how unhappy I could be, if the slightest nuance was anything other than I had imagined. A whole show could be ruined in my eyes because the host didn't reach the podium at the precise point I wanted in the music. It didn't matter to me that no one in the audience was aware that anything was gone awry.

And this is by no means an ode to mediocrity. I still abhor giving anything that is less than stellar. However, I have found that I can still have very high standards without sweating the small stuff. It's about balance and priorities. Some things are not worth the extra effort if its sole purpose is the achievement of perfection. If at a place-setting, the knife is placed half an inch too far away from the spoon, does it ruin the whole? Will agonizing over that imperfection change anything? Indeed, will making the adjustment add much more to the event? How many people will notice the subtle 'imperfection'? I had to learn what was important and what was not. I'd rather spend my time making sure that the food is at the right temperature and brought in on time and served right, than checking how many inches the knife is from from the spoon...

Too many people accept mediocrity and that is wrong. But then an obsession for perfection is also wrong. I'm all for excellence, but beyond a certain point, the law of diminishing returns sets in, and anything after that is a personal quest for the impossible, because perfection is a moving target. Trying to achieve perfection is like trying to be God. You can come awfully close to it, but you cannot be it. There isn't just a fine line between excellence and perfection - it's a chasm!

As Harriet Braiker put it: "Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing."