The Price of Perfection

I have a thick skull.  I just do.  This morning I didn’t want to go for my run.  I just didn’t.  I didn’t go yesterday because I had a headache and this morning when I got up my thought process was; well I since I didn’t go yesterday I’ll just start back up on Monday.  In other words if I can’t be perfect (and stick to my predetermined schedule) this week, I won’t even try.

This time I persevered.  I got up and went for my run.  It felt like a slog.  My legs seemed thick and made of concrete.  And for some reason I ran my best time and I feel awesome for doing it.


I actually think that the entire diet and fitness industry would go bankrupt if everyone adopted a progress not perfection attitude.  Think about it.  People go on these “diets”.  They cut out all their favorite foods, restrict their calories, and when they can’t sustain this for any amount of time (and who could) they eat everything in sight in order to “prepare” for next Monday when they try to be perfect again.  The calories they consume from Wednesday to Sunday far surpass any calories they would consume if they ate what they wanted in moderation.  People pay all sorts of exorbitant money for gym memberships promising to go everyday and when life gets in the way (which it does) they stop going all together. Adopting a “do what you can when you can” attitude towards exercise would far out weigh working out hard for a few days and then sitting on the couch waiting for Monday.  Striving for this kind of perfection is causing diet and exercise companies to get rich and for America to just get more and more unhealthy.  Just love your body, take care of it, and stop trying to be perfect.

Did you hear that Amy?

My son had the all or nothing attitude.  He had musical talent out the ying yang.  He picked up musical concepts very quickly and that got him very far.  He played cello, sang, taught himself the electric bass, and eventually taught himself the upright bass.  He loved playing in the jazz band but the one thing he had trouble with was improvisation.  The trouble with improvisation is you have to work at it in order to be good at it.  You have to make mistakes and figure it out.  That was not something he wanted to do.  If he couldn’t just do it perfectly he wouldn’t even try.  It took a very carefree friend who played the guitar and a very patient but nudging teacher to finally get him to do it, and he was pretty good at it.

My daughter on the other hand would like to think that she is a perfection over progress kind of girl, but she isn’t.  She complains that things aren’t easy for her and that she isn’t smart but always finds a way to persevere.  She always finds a way to tackle that problem and very rarely gives up on anything.

Who’s kid is she?

Oddly enough my teaching and parenting philosophy about perfection is unwavering.  I think striving for perfection is futile.  Progress is the backbone of my teaching/parenting philosophy.  I have students who walk through my door proclaiming that they can’t sing, or they can’t sing high, or they can’t sight read.  The message they get from me is constant, you just can’t do those things…yet.  It takes hard work and perseverance to do anything worth while, but so many of them want perfection NOW.

Some of them don’t.  I had a male student who first came through my door in the throws of his voice change.  He was in my middle school musical theater class. He had a range of about seven notes.  (For those of you who aren’t music people young singers usually have a range of about 16-18 notes.)  But he wanted to learn how to sing.  He never gave up.  The first semester was not a whole lot of fun for him.  While the rest of the class was singing anything they wanted he was confined to the two or three songs I could find that contained all the notes he could sing.  He also had a lot of trouble getting his voice to do what his ear was hearing, in other words he sang off pitch a lot.   That is very frustrating for a young singer.  He could hear that he wasn’t singing the right notes, but he couldn’t get his voice to do what he wanted it to.  He never complained.  He got up in front of that class every day and tried.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.  I knew that if he would just keep singing his range would broaden and he would be able to sing anything he wanted, and somehow he believed me.  To my absolute joy he signed up for the second semester of the class and we went to work again.  By the end of that semester his voice settled in and he was really singing.  Good tone, good pitch and a much larger range.  He did it.  If he would have bought into the, if I can’t do it perfect now I won’t do it at all, he would have grown into that adult who tells everyone “I can’t hold a tune in a bucket”.

Do you know anyone like that?

Are you like that?

The price of perfection is most always failure.

I have so many students like the one above.  Kids who buy into my philosophy and just keep at it.  They dare mighty things because the next time they try to open that door it is easier to open.  Very few of them fail.  When I think about each and everyone of them I get all choked up.

They are my heroes.

They are who I want to be when I grow up.

More Later



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