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Perfectionism - Forces of Mediocrity Pt. 2

Feb 01, 2022

by Melody Stacy

 

Last week, we kicked off a series on the forces of mediocrity. A collection of strong inertias that, as we are seeking greatness, try to pull us back to the status quo.

In the book Four Thousand WeeksOliver Burkeman shares a powerful force-of-mediocrity fable.

An architect in Persia designed the world's most beautiful mosque. All who saw the design were mesmerized and wanted to buy, steal, or build it. After locking himself in his study for three days, staring at the plans, he burned them.

He may have been a genius. But he also suffered from one of the most common forces of mediocrity:

Perfectionism: (noun) a disposition that regards anything short of perfection as unacceptable.

Overtaken by the thoughts of compromises that would inevitably come when his plans collided with reality, the architect chose to keep his perfection in his imagination over sharing his genius with the world.

Forces of mediocrity are strong. Perfectionism has a particularly strong grip on many high-achieving leaders.

Perfection and excellence are not the same

Moving forward on our path to greatness requires a bias towards action. And action happens in reality, not in our heads.

Any attempt to bring our ideas into concrete reality must inevitably fall short of our dreams. (Oliver Burkeman)

Done is better than perfect because perfect never gets done. And that makes all the difference.

Excellence gets done.

Perfectionism debilitates our best intentions.

The next time we are feeling paralyzed by perfection-wielding inaction, we can remind ourselves that at the heart of anything worth doing is the understanding that this might not work. This sentiment gives us permission to do our best work rather than ruminate over all that may go wrong.

This might not work. (Seth Godin)

We nurture curiosity in order to calm worry.

Then we can decide on a small first step. A lead domino that, when completed, will make all the other steps easier or irrelevant.

Perfectionism is a strong force, but curiosity and action are stronger.

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