The 365 Commitment

Day 204 – Persistence is the New Perfection

When I was younger, it was all the rage to be perfect. To have the perfect job, the perfect car, the perfect wife, the perfect schedule, and the perfect fitness routine. You name it, perfection was the ideal. I was only able to achieve one of those ideals: the perfect wife. Ok. Ok. That was a shameless attempt to protect myself from future recrimination. Seriously, my wife ended up being perfect, and I will explain why and how later in this article. The point is that chasing the ideal, or the perfect obtainment of something was my ambition. If I could have the perfect fill-in-the-blank, then I would be set. I see this type of thinking a lot. Here is the perfect investing strategy. The perfect morning routine. The perfect way to write content, the perfect marketing methodology, and the list goes on. We are forever adding to our perfectionism.

Now that I am older and looking back at all the discarded havoc strewn in my life with my many failed attempts at perfection, I see differently. I see what was successful and what was not. The successful items did not get there perfectly or with perfect means. Rather, they got where I wanted to go through persistence. At the end of the day, or should I say, the end of many decades, it was persistence that paid off, not perfection. I might say this: given enough time, persistence leads to perfection. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, we might argue that the Intelligent Being that rules the universe got there not by being perfect but rather by being perfectly persistent.

Who is to say that perfectionism is a state of being? Why do we consider the perfect ideal static and stationary when the reality is that perfect most likely describes a process rather than an outcome? Perfection is not an achievable state but a continuous process on which only the persistent embark. Is this organic life not in a short summary? Organic life is imperfect in a myriad and countless ways, yet when considering the survivability and longevity of life, you would contemplate the creative life force as perfect. Perfect in its imperfections.

So, humans can never be perfect as an end state because we are never static. We are evolving, growing, improving, dying, and being born. We are, by our very nature, ever progressing, so we can never achieve this idealistic state of perfection. However, we do have a superpower, and that is persistence. We can pursue an objective with the passion and commitment that only an organic species would know how to. We can pursue something despite setbacks, despite all logic that indicates failure. We can be wasteful, and we can exploit abundance. Only we know what dogged determination really is. So this begs the ultimate question: is perfection even an appropriate pursuit?

I am torn about this question because I have been chasing perfection in vain my entire life. It is like an old bad habit that you cannot kick. I even find myself trying to create the perfect routine even today. I will spend hours agonizing over how to do something perfectly while avoiding actually doing the work. This is the disease that those of us who were trained to be perfect fall sick to all the time. The desire to have things perfect before you ever begin has been one of the greatest sources of frustration in my life. So now I have learned a new way of existing. Persistence is the new perfection. Rather than being perfect or even starting out perfect, I now know that persistence is what creates organic progress.

Persistence works out the problems, issues, and inefficiencies. It is the river that runs through the canyon, where, eventually, all rocks and boulders become smooth. Persistence is progress, which is never straight but always meandering through the diverse paths of life. If you can believe this, then you can discard perfectionism as a state for which you can achieve. You can now view perfection as who you are and what you are part of. An organic human species, which, on the whole, is perfect already. So, perfect is not an end or a beginning state for anything you do; rather, perfection is who you are by being persistent. Instead of creating the perfect starting point, be perfect by starting now and keep striving through all the difficulties, challenges, and setbacks.

I was talking to someone a few days ago about getting married. He expressed some reluctance because he did not know if the woman he was living with now was “the one.” Restated, what he was really saying, was that he was not sure that his girlfriend would be the perfect wife. I am really glad that my wife did not have the same view about me. Looking for the perfect husband, she would have skipped past me without hesitation. When we got married, I had not contemplated the idea of having the perfect wife but rather was just excited to start a life together. We were absolutely NOT perfect for each other at the start, but we became perfect for each other over time. Despite the hard times, our persistence and commitment to the relationship have created a perfectly imperfect relationship. Persistence is what has paid off, not starting with perfection.

Any human relationship, or any human endeavor, can be measured in incremental progress, and the only way to pursue that is through persistence. We will never reach perfection, and we certainly will start out with the perfect way or the perfect process. The concept of starting with the ideal is simply the naivety of youth. It took me a long time to learn this lesson, and now I am doing what I can to reteach myself to pursue rather than pontificate. To be persistent rather than to be perfect.

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