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Nothing is perfect.

Nobody is perfect.

You’re not perfect, and you will never be.

The people you love aren’t perfect, and will never be.

The job you have isn’t perfect. And in reality, nothing in our world is perfect.

So, with grace, love, and compassion, take a look at any notions you have of perfection and politely tell them to f*ck off.

Get it out of your head, because perfection is the enemy of good. First quoted by Voltaire, this truism should be written on the wall of every school in the land. I think one of the reasons many children dislike school is the focus on marks and getting 100%. Anecdotally, I’ve met many students (including my own children) who achieved a perfect score on a test but who then say they have no real understanding of a topic or concept. They have achieved perfection by one standard, but by the one that should matter the most (i.e. comprehension, understanding, and real-world implementation), they’re still struggling.

Perfection is unsustainable and expecting it is unhealthy. I’ve met plenty of people who feel that if they can’t do something “perfectly” then they shouldn’t do it at all. Many endeavours will fail. Possibly more than once. Remember the story of Thomas Edison and his efforts to create the first incandescent light? He is said to have failed more than 1000 times before succeeding. If anything, we should embrace failure instead of focusing on perfection. If you fail, at least you’re trying, and continuing to try in spite of failure is the only way you have a chance to succeed.

Cultures differ in how they treat mistakes. True story: I lived in Japan for a couple of years, supporting myself by teaching English. I taught conversational English, which attracted smaller numbers of students than other English classes that focused more on reading and writing. Why? Because Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on not making mistakes.

It is normal for people learning another language to make mistakes, yet making mistakes puts people in conflict with years of internalized beliefs about mistakes being bad. Not wanting to look bad by making mistakes was more important to many Japanese than the benefits of learning to speak English. That’s why my classes were small.

Funny story as part of that: As a foreigner who did not speak perfect Japanese, I was occasionally complemented on my Japanese language ability. My wife speaks worse Japanese than I do, but because she is white, she got more complements on her language ability than me. I was born in Canada and have some Japanese heritage, so those same people who complemented my wife’s Japanese ability would then turn to me and say “You need to work harder to speak properly”. White privilege, anyone? 😉

Perfection also varies depending on the perspective. For example, what is the “perfect” vehicle? For some it will be a Ferrari, for others it will be a minivan, and for others, it will be a bicycle. You can generalize that to pretty much anything, from art pencils to body types. Since any notion of what is perfect is subjective and variable, it’s not something you should worry about attaining.

Progress and change is messy. Thinking you need to be perfect will paralyze you when things don’t go the way you’d hoped. Better to be flexible, resilient, and fearless so you can overcome the inevitable obstacles on your path to success.

May you enjoy your perfectly imperfect life 🙂