Perfection

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
– Leo Tolstoy

The entire concept of perfection is as divisive as it is dangerous. That may seem an odd thing to say, but first you must understand my perspective. The word “perfection” gets thrown around in many different contexts. To some, it’s the idea of something quite excellent, others use it as mere hyperbole and cheapen its significance. The idea of absolute perfection is something which is objectively without any flaw. Were such a thing to exist, it would be universally accepted as faultless. True perfection is not a matter of opinion and is not subjective in any way. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but something truly perfect would be to the awe of everyone, everywhere.

Perfection doesn’t exist in this world.

I believe I can state conclusively that there has never been irrefutable evidence of perfection ever existing. It’s a concept to ponder, but you cannot hold it in your hands. Please understand that I do not mean to decrease the significance of anything you might hold dear – loved ones, artistic creations, or a natural spectacle. I’ve never suggested that amazing and unbelievable things don’t exist, only that nothing is actually perfect in an objective sense.

The intention here is neither pessimism nor apathy; I merely mean to caution. It’s not uncommon to strive after the best or towards your own, personal best. This, of course, is a very beneficial trait at times. So long as we are reasonable in our expectations, striving to do our best will drive us to accomplishments we might only guess at. The opposite can be just as likely, however. When we demand true perfection from ourselves or those about us, we set ourselves up for disappointment, frustration, and exhaustion.

Whether the matter is a new car, a new career, or a new song, we can only ever achieve our best. While it may sound mundane, this is actually a phenomenal accomplishment; I assure you that your best – your true best – is good enough. If we call perfection “100%” on an objective scale, then let’s say that your best might be a 95. Every person is different, so adjust accordingly as you like. Regardless, let’s say that 95 is the absolute best you could ever achieve despite decades of effort and an unlimited budget. In any endeavor, there is such a thing as diminishing returns.

The rule goes that 20% of your effort realizes 80% of your potential and the remaining 20% of your potential requires the final 80% of your effort. In everything you pursue, have a reasonable and realistic expectation of your ability. I think it could be sustained that it is rare to encounter anything that is worth the full 100% of your greatest-ever effort. This isn’t an excuse for sub-standard workmanship or lethargy. This is, on the other hand, permission to step back at a point and say, “There, that’s the best I can reasonably do”, and mean it and leave be. This message isn’t to those that never try, it’s a plea for acceptance in those that never forgive their failings and short-comings.

Perfection, true perfection, does not exist. Instead, maintain very high standards and do your best, accept your inadequacies, and move on to your next project without a weight on your mind.

Thank you for your time.

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