“Perfection is the enemy of excellence.“
Have you ever had a project you couldn’t quite finish? Why is it that sometimes the closer we get to being done the farther away the finish line appears? How many awesome ideas have never seen the light of day because someone gave up before they thought it was good enough?
Goals can be like metaphysical mirages — the closer we get to them, the further away they appear. Much like a receding horizon, they can seem like they are almost in reach and yet always a few steps away.
That’s one of the reasons why external deadlines often bring out your best work. When there is no choice but to hand in the project for better or for worse, the fact is the finish line gets crossed. Signing off on something that could have been better might seem like a crushing blow to your ego, but it’s far better than giving up altogether.
You’ve probably encountered a grumpy dilettante or two somewhere along the way. These are the curmudgeonly critics who commonly complain that the book/movie/song/painting that’s receiving acclaim is not nearly as brilliant as the one they’ve had on the back burner (or in the back of their mind) for years.
Sad to say, but the person singing this refrain has become a cynic. And cynicism is the voice of disappointed idealism. Because once upon a time, this would-be artist, author, filmmaker, or songwriter was brimming with good ideas and idealistic about their opportunities.
But it’s safe to say that something held them back. And while they are likely looking outside themselves, pointing to all the reasons the cruel world held them back, it’s far more likely that the saboteur lives inside and its name is fear.
For some, it is the fear of failure. For others, it is the fear of success. And oftentimes when pressed, the stalled-out cynic will confuse the two. It’s almost easier to admit to a fear of failure because the idea of fearing success points to even more deep-seated anxieties.
Much is made of our comfort zones, and stepping outside of them is not nearly as simple as it might seem. It’s like that old tale about the man building a boat. Year after year, the nearly-finished craft sat on the shore, while the builder kept finding ‘just one more’ detail to complete. When asked on his deathbed why he never set sail, the old man confessed, “I’m afraid of the water!”
It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and snipe, what takes more humility and courage is putting your work out there, warts and all, for the world to take it or leave it as it will. The Oscar-winning film, the Pulitzer Prize-worthy article, the Grammy-winning song all have one thing in common.
They were never perfect, but the person creating them was confident they were excellent and knew when to let go. And that’s the real distinction, knowing the difference between perfection and excellence. Perfection is a chimera that can never truly be reached. It’s subject to the law of diminishing returns, also known as The Pareto Principle, meaning that “ it commonly takes 20% of the time to complete 80% of a task, while to complete the last 20% of a task takes 80% of the effort.”
The other ineffable element to keep in mind is the zeitgeist. An average creator who is mindful of the cultural currents and is poised to strike while the iron is hot has a huge advantage over the persnickety perfectionist who insists on polishing their work long past the point of relevance. Timing is everything in the marketplace of ideas.
The bottom line is that excellence is more of a feeling or value than a destination. It’s not exactly easy to define, but it’s one of those things that you know it when you see it. If you find yourself teetering on the cusp of the completion ask yourself whose thoughts you’re referencing. If you’re worried about what other people think, chances are you’ll never get done. When you tune into your own gut feelings that reassure you that your work is excellent, it’s probably time to let it go out into the world and prove itself on its merits.
I catch myself having this little mental exercise fairly often. When I’m not writing or helping our Dance First members build their movement practices, I like to relax doing metalwork commissions and building welded sculptures. I’ll find myself spending hours obsessing over some hidden detail only to suddenly pull my head back and say “Whoa! My client is never going to notice this in a million years, they’re going to look at the piece as a whole and say it’s excellent!” That’s when I know it’s time to put away the tweezers and move along.
So if you find yourself chasing perfection, remember that the world at large only recognizes excellence. Perfection is an idealized notion that lives in your mind only. It’s much more fun to cross the finish line and move on to the next idea than it is to stay stuck in limbo lost in the weeds.
Have a great week! Much love till next Monday!
Dance First Member Spotlight – Nourish & Flourish with Catherine Llewellyn!
This week’s Dance First Members Spotlight shines on UK-based Catherine Llewellyn. Bringing to the fore her eclectic background and dynamic combination of modalities, Catherine offers a body of work and transformational teachings grounded in the spirit of the Human Potential movement. Building upon her Humanistic Master’s Degree by training in the 5Rhythms, Reiki, and Pellowah, she’s developed a rare collection of talents to serve.
Coming up on November 8th through 10th, she’s offering a retreat called “Nourish & Flourish – Fire up your Creativity” at the Village Hall in Wanstrow. A blend of Conscious Dance and Energy Healing presented in the Humanistic Approach, this weekend retreat promises to shift your relationship to your life and creativity and leave you better equipped to blossom.
I asked Catherine about how she first developed her passion for movement. “ I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dance! When I was nine my father taught me to waltz. I still remember the warm feeling of being held, and spun about the room. I felt safe, immersed in this beautiful dance, with my first most beloved man. It was a magical feeling. In my teens I became horribly self-conscious. My whole body felt awkward and ungainly. Somehow, two older girls took pity on some of us and taught us to dance disco. This time it was exciting, pulsing with energy and adolescent juiciness. Years later, my tutor on my Humanistic Masters Degree invited me to 5Rhythms. I was met right in the heart of my non-conformist, eccentric, non-compliant nature.”
About the workshop and what folks attending might expect, she says: “ This weekend is good for self-nurture, reflection and clarity, communing with others, self-expression and creativity. People come away feeling loved, understood and chosen exactly as they are. This plays out in a myriad of ways. Life choices, capacities for joy and love, and creativity are enhanced. Each person comes away with something different.”
Finally, we discussed how her different trainings and modalities synergies and support each other. “ The Humanistic approach sets the scene for profoundly respectful working. I offer you a space for personal exploration, solo and with others. Within this space of loving acceptance, you work at the pace and level that is right for you. The Energy Healing modalities honour the life force at an energetic level, enhancing healing and nourishment. My sensitivity to energies in the space allows me to facilitate the group to move through and with whatever wants to emerge. This, combined with the power of the human spirit, which you bring with you, delivers astounding revelations and creative breakthroughs. When we incorporate Conscious Dance into this already potent mix, we include all of the experiences, expressiveness, and boundless creativity of the body. The movement work helps us to process our experience, and takes us to the next level of exploration. As we move between these various modalities, we discover and release our unique creativity, and strengthen our sense of who we are and what we are about – whilst simultaneously opening to the unknown and the magical power of learning and the unexpected.”
Learn more about Catherine’s work and make plans to attend Nourish and Flourish in November. She sums up her life in movement and what she has to share as: “Space to be, as I am, with a bunch of other sweaty bodies being just exactly who they are. Utter freedom, I loved it, and still do!”
Nourish & Flourish – Fire up your Creativity
Nov 8-10, Wanstrow Village Hall, Frome Road, Wanstrow, UK