One of my guiding personal principles has always been perfection. Realistically, I do know that perfection is not possible, but I do believe that the goal of perfection is integral to success. I believe that in all aspects of your life, you can strive to be incrementally better than you were the last time. You can run that mile just a tad faster or lift just a little bit heavier weight. You can look at your leadership skills and find ways to supplement your knowledge as you move your team into the next phase of their success. You can find an additional hour or two to give of your time and energy to help those in need over and above what you have done previously. You can work to continually improve yourself and those things you manage in your personal and professional life.
My mom tells stories of my refusal to play in the sandbox at an early age because I did not want to get dirty. Now - I can trudge thru the mud with the best of them, but I do it on my own terms and with my own way to prepare. In other words, there is a perfect way to get dirty, and then there are the days you did not plan to get dirty where dirt hinders perfection.
My 16-year-old daughter is a sharp shooter. With Guns. I don’t have a house big enough to display all the awards she has won. The sport that she likes to compete in rewards perfection – it's called “shooting it clean”. They shoot in stages, and her score is a combination of her time and missed targets at each stage. So, the faster and cleaner she shoots, the better her score.
It is not always possible to shoot a clean match no matter how good you are. There are outside factors that you cannot control – wind and weather, bad ammo, guns that misfire no matter how well you maintain them. All she can do is focus her skills and knowledge, draw on her practice and hard work, and chase the perfection. She tries to shoot each stage and each match incrementally better than she did the last, and definitely better than her opponents. And you know what? After every stage, and every match, she is full of the joy and the excitement that she gained from just participating.
As I get a tad wiser, I realize that it’s the pursuit of perfection that is the real goal, and not the perfection itself. Looking at your performance - picking out the perfect parts and analyzing the imperfect ones to see what can be done about them – but also looking at your overall score. Did you give it your best effort? Did you do incrementally better than the last time? Did you fare better than your opponent? Was the overall outcome positive for all involved? Accepting that you may not stay “perfectly clean” but that a little bit of unplanned dirt can actually be a good thing. That the combination of the clean and the dirty bits of life can be educational and rewarding.