Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It May Not Be Perfect, But It May Be Good Enough

To my son Tommy,

Perfectionism is a cruel obsession to have in this messy, mixed-up, imperfect world.  You would think it is easy to spot a perfectionist and perhaps by the classic definition it is.  Just look for the guy who compulsively tries to better something at the detriment of all other things in his life even though the object of his compulsion will not benefit much from the extra attention.  But there is another form, one I like to call the futility doomed perfectionist.  This form leads to apathy because the person thinks if he can't do it perfectly why do it at all.  These guys are much harder to spot because their failures and their lack of trying can disguise that the true reason is because they want everything to be perfect.  This is one of those things your dad struggles with constantly.

Throughout my life I have rationalized not doing something because if I can't do it perfectly than why do it at all.  This silly excuse, this "all or nothing" concept, manifests itself in procrastination and fear of failure, and it makes certain that perfection will never be reached.  I won't even reach the "good enough" or "close enough for government" status if I allow this thought to pervade my mind.

In the past it has put a damper on all areas of my life.  My education suffered in my grade school days, my work suffered in the years after my school years, even my religion suffered because it couldn't live up to my high expectations.  At times it paralyzed my life, but I am here to tell you that there is hope.

Yes I struggle with it constantly but I am winning in my struggles.  I have come to accept this imperfect world and even embrace the imperfections.  It is a good thing too, because in the computer world, my chosen profession, especially in the programming world, perfection is unattainable especially in the first drafts.  It is the reason there are beta testing groups and patch and program updates.  Embracing the world as it is allows me to see so much more and grow so much more.

Occasionally I find my high standard creeping back in.  It usually manifests itself in a minor form like staring at a dirty room and doing nothing about it, not lifting a single finger to pick up anything, because I don't have the twenty hours that would take to clean it thoroughly.  Occasionally it creeps higher in my life and challenges long held beliefs by showing that the logic behind them is not perfect and that some cherished analogy is flawed.  Thank goodness I received some good wise counsel which pointed out that when trying to explain the unexplainable, the incomprehensible, that any metaphor or analogy is going to limp a bit and don't let that imperfection become a barrier.

And that is the challenge.  Don't let the imperfections of the world stop you in any way.  By not demanding perfection in everything, I can accomplish anything.  I can even write a letter to my son each and every day, complete with all the imperfect ideas and half baked thoughts and spelling errors, and trust that the meaning and love behind the words will wipe away those little imperfections.  Love has a wonderfully amazing ability to do just that.

Sincerely with love from your imperfect dad,

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