Perfection is the art of being perfect. It is something to be strived for. Or is it? Perfection is a complicated thing. Some love it, some hate it and some get really, really stressed about it. But the truth is, perfection can mostly cause more damage than good, more work than triumph. Expressing yourself, being you and trying your hardest is really the best, most perfect thing you can do. Really.
First thing, I want to tell you about my experience, and how perfection has marred 3 miserable months of my life. It has taught me a lot, and I want to share this with you. I was just out of college, feeling refreshed and excited to get started with a fascinating job in journalism, my boss a rewarding kind of guy and my colleagues extremely encouraging. My first task? Write a short article on some studies that a group of students made into analysing an artwork. It was a very simple task, simply me having to interview these two guys called Isaac and Charlie who had agreed to talk to our press about a subject passionate to them-the study of artwork, which is of course a topic that some find very confusing and some beautiful. Anyway, my mind immediately started buzzing. I hoped I wouldn’t sound strange when I talked, I hoped the questions I asked wouldn’t sound too pushy, I hoped everything would be perfect and my first job in my line of work would go perfectly. But that is the problem. Because perfection takes a while, and sometimes, sometimes, perfection can hurt. It can really, really hurt.
So, I went and interviewed them and everything went fine. My voice cracked halfway through, sending panicked thoughts flooding my mind, but Isaac laughed cheerfully and continued talking and that was the first hinting in my mind of how things lacking perfection can still go fine. The next few days still made me stress, heighten my anxiety and made me feel almost sick, however. Our task was to interview quite a high up person who worked in Google (I cannot disclose the name) on how a particular software was going, and I remember I almost retched there and then when I messed up a whole bundle of questions. I remember the worried looks from other people in the room as they patted me later on, and told me everything was fine, how I shouldn’t expect to be great as this was my near first time on the job. But I still felt horrible. I still felt how I should have got it right, should have got it right, should have got it right. Weeks went by and my situation was getting worse. I wanted to slap myself when I got things wrong, I honestly wanted to punch the wall. I felt that whenever I made a mistake it was my fault, my fault, I couldn’t stop wanting to be perfect. Goddamn perfection. It really made my life hell. And then, I think 2 or so weeks later I was going through the script of a few of the interviews I had done in the past and I came across the script for that art study with Isaac and Charlie. I sat down, grinning, remembering my voice crack. I got quite engrossed, as the topic had been quite interesting, to do with an abstract artist and how he specialised in really letting the paint loose, making his feelings move. I remember so clearly, the moment I came across the page when Charlie was talking about the abstract touch to all of his works. The touch of not seeing anything, but seeing something. And then the one quote, the one quote that changed me. ‘This artwork found something deep inside of me. This artwork discovered me, not showing me a picture of a house or a tree. This artwork expressed itself, in a raw, emotional way, and I think the whole study believes that this artwork is abstract, and the element of no perfection in it makes it perfect. Perfect, perfect to me.’ This was a rather emotional quote from Charlie, but I think I only skimmed through it in the actual interview. Now, however, I see what he means. Trying to be perfect? It can be frustrating, but it can be satisfying, but all in all? Expressing yourself, loving others, simply being you is better than anything perfection could ever be. Because you are you and perfection cannot change that.
I went on for another 2 years in journalism and then left randomly (strongly to do with my strict mother who was quite a strict kind of mother) for an apprenticeship with Robby Black, a very clever mathematician who was a master in many of the different kinds of features of quadratic equations and all of the things to do with computers. He was brilliant in tutoring me on some interesting computer science and programming concepts, and guided me through like a master, which he was. I loved every moment of leaning with an aching back and watching Robby slam away at a scratchy old board about all complicated equations and interesting concepts. And then he retired, and I was left alone by the scratchy old board with my own chalk in my hands. And, at the start, I truly, truly hated it. I felt that since Robby wasn’t there everything would be terrible, and I made it terrible with my thinking that, and on it went. But I got there in the end and quite enjoyed it as time went on-I got a solid, computer-based job in a high department and on I went with life. But I always remembered, and still do, the rules of perfection that I made for myself all of those years ago, and have published in this article. All in all, I want you to remember what I have said, and to understand the deep message it has to say. You do you, and that is all there is to say.