Tag Archives: perfectionism

How important is perfection?

Are you a perfectionist? If so, in what areas?

I think it would be difficult to be a perfectionist in everything, indeed, in anything.

I have never considered myself to be a perfectionist, though others have occasionally labelled my attitude to work that way. I do have certain standards that I like to meet, and I always strive to attain them, to do the best I can. I concede that my expectations of spelling, grammar and punctuation correction may tend towards perfection, but if I can, why would I not? Of course, the occasional imperfection will slip through. It is difficult to catch all when we are editing and proofing our own work. However, if I spot any, I will quickly change them, embarrassed that I let them escape.

There are many areas in which I am far from a perfectionist – especially housework. I’ll do what needs to be done, but only if I must; and my idea of need may differ vastly from yours. I am often reminded of my mother’s words when I’d completed a household chore; for example, sweep the steps, when I was a child. She’d comment that I’d given it a “lick and a promise”. These days, housework rarely gets more than a promise, a promise I’m not good at keeping.

As a teacher of young children, it was not perfection I was looking for in their work, but for the best they could do. I expected their work to reflect their development. If they were capable of the calculation, spelling or of using the correct punctuation, I expected them to use it. Opportunities to revise answers and responses were given and improvement was encouraged.

I’ve hedged around this topic a few times in posts; such as, Is contentment compatible with a growth mindset? The end, Phrasing praise and What is failure.

But how do we decide when good enough is good enough and that we have put in as much effort as the task requires? I know there are many who agree with me about housework, but what about other things; maybe like, hanging a picture, following a recipe, parking a car, making a payment, checking copyright, or painting a room?

I recently watched a TED Talk by Jon Bowers entitled We should aim for perfection and stop fearing failure. Bowers provides some different perspectives on the topic of perfectionism, challenging an adjustment to thinking.

He begins by discussing typos. We’ve all made them, haven’t we? The seemingly innocuous typo can give us a good laugh at times. But it can also do a lot of damage.

Bowers tells us that “one little typo on Amazon’s supercode produced a massive internet slowdown that cost the company over 160 million dollars in the span of just four hours”, and “an employee at the New England Compound, which is a pharmaceutical manufacturer, didn’t clean a lab properly and now 76 people have died and 700 more have contracted meningitis.”

Bowers says,

“When did we come to live in a world where these types of typos, common errors, this do-your-best attitude or just good enough was acceptable? At some point, we’ve stopped valuing perfection, and now, these are the type of results that we get. You see, I think that we should all seek perfection, all the time, and I think we need to get to it quick.”

traffic

He talks about the need for perfection when behind the wheel of a vehicle. How many lives are lost daily through inattention, through lack of perfection?

credit card

He talks about the need for credit card manufacturers to demand perfection. How would it be if even 1% of our credit cards didn’t work properly?

book

He says that “if the Webster’s Dictionary was only 99.9 percent accurate, it would have 470 misspelled words in it.  If our doctors were only 99.9 percent correct, then every year, 4,453,000 prescriptions would be written incorrectly, and probably even scarier, 11 newborns would be given to the wrong parents every day in the United States.”

He goes on to make many other statements that I’m sure will get you thinking too. At less than 11 minutes in length, the time commitment is far less than the potential learning gain.

When I watched this video, I was contemplating my response to this week’s flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Charli shared a “possibly spam” email received as an entry into the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest #2: Little and Laugh. You can read the email in Charli’s post, which also includes the challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fictional story about The Real Nanjo Castille. (The spammer).

I thought the email to be a little too clever to be real spam, too many clever word choices, phonetic spellings, and our favourite: bitchcoin, that could be purchased for ten dollars, $20 or £20. And the poor writer has an identity crisis, not sure whether to spell his or her name Nanjo or Najno.

I wondered about how the performance of this child in school might be viewed and what profession might be suggested as a goal.

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

A job for Nanjo?

The parents waited.

Start positive, she reminded herself.

“Nanjo has a wonderful imagination.”

They smiled.

“Very creative too, especially with spelling and punctuation.”

They exhaled.

“Has trouble understanding money though, and his knowledge of number facts is non-existent – “ she hesitated, then continued quietly. “I can’t think of any employer who’d have him.”

“Pardon?”

“I mean, employment, suited to his – ah – special skills.”

She cracked.

“I’m sorry. Your son is unemployable. His spelling and grammar is atrocious. He can’t even spell his own name, for god’s sake! I don’t think he could even get a job as a spammer!”

Make sure to check the results of Contest #2 at the Carrot Ranch. I’m not the winner. Nor is it Nanjo. Could it be you?

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.