"Perfection is an all-or-nothing game; you either succeed or fail, period...Excellence is a way of being, not a target you hit or miss."
Saujani, Reshma. "Brave, not perfect : fear less, fail more, and live bolder." New York : Currency, 2019.
THE MEAT (The Main Idea)
Perfect is boring. Simply put, the author of Brave, Not Perfect, Reshma Saujani, is saying, why settle for boring when you can be so much more? This quote emphasizes that the pursuit of perfection leaves no room for middle ground. It's depicted as an unforgiving standard where anything less than flawless is perceived as a failure. This all-or-nothing mentality can create anxiety, self-doubt, and stress because it sets impossibly high expectations that are hard to meet consistently.
Saujani also implies that perfectionism can be detrimental. It can lead to burnout, fear of failure, and a constant sense of inadequacy. Perfectionism sets unrealistic standards that are difficult to maintain, and this pursuit of perfection can sabotage personal and professional progress. In fact, perfection can be attributed to stunting your growth (let me be clear, not your physical height but rather the possibility of something beyond the goal you set).
Excellence offers a more flexible and sustainable approach. It's not about achieving a one-time perfect outcome but about consistently striving for improvement and doing your best. Excellence isn't a target but rather a way of doing. In the doing, is where we learn, grow, and become better versions of ourselves. So, I say perfect is boring. Strive for better- not boring.
THE CHEESE (Added Depth)
Perfect is boring. Yup. I said it again.
On my wedding day, I was determined to make everything flawless, from the venue to the decor. But fate had a different plan, and a candid moment forever changed my perspective on perfection.
We were on a tight budget, and while touring a banquet hall for our reception, the coordinator asked about our budget. I confidently mentioned around $5,000. Her audible laughter and her story about her extravagant $25,000 reception that her father had paid for left me fuming. It took all my willpower not to react, but instead, I calmly replied, "I see. So, you're saying this is not our reception site," and turned and walked out.
From that moment, I became even more determined to pull off a budget-friendly wedding. And you know what? We did it. Our venue had ten enormous crystal chandeliers, out-of-season multi-colored purple lilacs, a six-tiered cake lit at each layer, and thoughtful thank-you gifts – small battery-operated clocks that read 'Thank you for spending a little time with us on our big day.'
But here's where imperfection entered the scene. Our meticulously planned thank-you gifts meant to be displayed beautifully on each table, ended up in their boxes on a plain table near the entrance. It was far from the perfect picture I had in my head of what this should look like. My wedding party and I frantically unboxed each clock. As we did, we laughed about how my "perfect" wedding was "ruined" because guests had to pick up their own gifts and remove them from the boxes on their own. We actually laughed so hard that my bridesmaids had to rush me to the bathroom before I had an accident in my wedding dress.
Here's the point: When I look back on my wedding, one of my fondest memories is this imperfect, flawed moment. Not the perfect cake or table settings, but this wonderful, unexpected, and downright funny mistake. It was in that "mistake" that my wedding became more excellent.
Had I stubbornly pursued perfection, I would have missed out on this excellent memory that still brings a smile to my face 23 years later. It serves as a reminder that life's imperfections, quirks, and unexpected twists often yield the most cherished moments. In the end, had all the clocks been perfectly displayed on each table setting like I wanted, I probably wouldn't even remember the thank-you gifts. Perfect is boring; I choose to embrace the delightful and sometimes unexpected journey of excellence.
THE OLIVES (A Surprising Element)
What do the Eiffel Tower, Eminem, and Spanish mosaics share in common? They are all purposeful creations born from a unique approach to excellence—each one a testament to the intentional pursuit of their vision, regardless of conventional notions of perfection.
"Eyesore." In 1889, Gustave Eiffel unveiled his audacious creation—the Eiffel Tower. Critics disparaged it as an "eyesore," challenging the city's architectural heritage. But today, this iconic symbol of excellence stands tall, attracting over 7 million annual visitors from around the world. The brilliance of the Eiffel Tower lies in its unwavering commitment to its visionary design, not conforming to traditional standards of perfection.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Eminem's "Lose Yourself" achieved the distinction of being the "Longest-Running Single at Number One for a Rap Song," holding the top spot for 23 weeks and selling over 19 million copies in the United States. Yet, it wasn't crafted from a standpoint of embracing imperfections. Eminem's lyrics vividly portray vulnerability and the embrace of life's complexity. "Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there's vomit on his sweater already..." It doesn't shy away from the messiness of life; rather, it invites us to seize the moment in all its raw authenticity. "You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go."
And then, there's the beautiful art of Spanish mosaic work. It is a craft built upon intentional imperfections. Here, perfect pottery is purposefully broken to use those fragmented pieces to craft something far more excellent. The world of mosaics doesn't compromise on perfection; it thrives on the beauty that emerges from embracing the unexpected.
In these examples, you'll find that the intentional pursuit of purpose, creativity, and the courage to create around unconventional notions of perfection can lead to truly extraordinary outcomes. Perfection is an unattainable ideal that often stifles creativity and progress. I choose to embrace excellence. It's about what comes from the journey to wanting excellence, not perfection.