Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

25 January, 2010

PERFECTION IS UNATTAINABLE, BUT IT SURE AS HECK CAN HELP MOTIVATE US


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How is it that some of the best quotes come from people in the world of sports?


Take the subject of perfection, for instance.

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." --Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach.

"Tomorrow I'll be perfect."  --Dave Stieb, former pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.

"If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be."  --Yogi Berra, former catcher and manager of the New York Yankees.

At one point, very early in my life, I was naive enough to actually think that "perfection" was attainable and died a thousand deaths every time I fell short of that lofty goal.  It took quite a few years for me to accept the fact that I was not capable of perfection in the true sense but if I used it as motivation in my undertakings it helped me in achieving ultimate goals.  That is precisely what Vince Lombardi was saying.  By pursuing  perfection, we attain excellence.

I was well along in my newspaper career when I finally learned that I didn't need to be a perfectionist parse in order to succeed in life, but that I could succeed if I totally applied myself to being as perfect as possible.  In so doing I removed a lot of pressure from myself.  I even got to the point where I could live with imperfection in my life and in the life of others.  Like good old Yogi, the most quoted of all sports figures, put it...It's not a perfect world and if it was "it wouldn't be."  (Typical Yogispeak that leaves you hanging until you've thought about it for a minute.)

I think my perception of perfection (that rhymes, doesn't it) actually sunk in one day as the Prince Albert Daily Herald was rolling off the press.  We all -- editors, reporters, photographers, the composing room team, the press room, proof readers --worked very hard with that particular day's edition.  A rare occasion in publishing where everything clicks and comes together, dare I say, perfectly.

In pat-on-the-back fashion, I commented to my publisher boss that I thought that we had just produced the perfect newspaper.  "Don't kid yourself Dick," he responded.  "The perfect paper has yet to be printed."

We ended up both agreeing that newspaper production depends totally on input from imperfect humans, start to finish, and as such is never perfect.  There are bound to be warts and wrinkles, type gremlins, misspellings, innocent factual errors -- a dozen and one things that come out of the woodwork each day to drive newspaper management up the wall.

I never forgot that particular incident and it helped me accept the inevitable in publishing -- errors will happen, there will be mistakes -- but that does not mean we stop trying our level best to achieve excellence in our work.  That principle can be applied to everything in life.  
   
Dave Stieb was a classic example of someone who used a strong drive for perfection to get the maximum out of himself every time he took his place on the pitcher's mound.  During his illustrious career Dave pitched a number of one-hit and no-hit games.  In 1989 he had a potential perfect game (27 consecutive outs with no one reaching first base) broken up with two out in the ninth and final inning.  In the dressing room after the game he did not dwell on the hit that kept him from achieving the ultimate, rather he vowed: "Tomorrow I'll be perfect!"  It was that determined attitude that made Dave Stieb one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the Blue Jays.

After several years in retirement, Dave actually attempted a comeback in pursuit of that elusive perfection that had motivated him for so long, but after a season in a secondary role he finally left the game for good knowing that his best was no longer good enough.  In the end we all face reality in our lives, better if we can move on with grace. 
"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will."  --Vince Lombardi  

There is a tendency in today's society to put too much pressure on young people to be perfect at school, in sports and in their social lives.  Performance should not be judged in terms of grades, marks and records, but on how hard the young person has worked and how much they have improved.  Young people should know that it is okay to be themselves, that they do not have to be what they think others expect of them in terms of actions and appearances. 

Life should not be about the need to be perfect.  It should be about being true to one's self and being the best person possible in all endeavours, utilizing all God-given gifts to best advantage.  And being proud in spite of the certain imperfections that exist in all of us. 

One student who gets the point has written:  "If you have extra skin under your chin, don't wear a ponytail.  It will just make it worse."  In other words you are unique, don't spoil it all by being superficial.  If you were perfect, you wouldn't be! 

I'll be the first to admit that this Wrights Lane post is not a perfect piece of prose...After all, I am only human.  Next time I'll be perfect! 

"A principle is the expression of perfection, and as imperfect beings like us cannot practise perfection, we devise every moment limits of its compromise in practice."  --Mohandas Gandhi 

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