November 30, 2009

The Good Student

badart

A while back I needed a reference letter from a professor from graduate school. I went to see the first guy I thought of, who was widely-known in the field and could have helped strengthen the application I was preparing. We hadn’t really hit it off so well in class, but I thought it was worth a try.

I should have listened to my first instincts. “Sure, I’ll write a letter for you, Chris,” he said. “I’ll tell them you were a good student.”

“Good student” is the kiss of death in any academic reference letter, so that was all I needed to hear. In academia, and life in general, no one cares about someone who’s merely good. I said goodbye, never followed up about the letter, and eventually found someone else who could write a much better one for me.

Good Student, Good Writer

I think of this story now as I prepare to head off for two weeks of vacation and planning. In addition to my notes on the year and ideas for 2010, I’m also bringing along a printed copy of my 54,000 word book manuscript. This time next year, the book will be out and people will be writing reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Somewhere, someone might actually be talking about it with a friend.

This thought terrifies me.

It’s one thing to edit a 1,000 word blog post; it’s another to edit a 54,000 word book. I feel resistance towards the whole concept. I want it to be completely, 100% done—but it’s not. It’s more like 90% done, maybe even 95%… but right now, I know in my heart that it’s only a good book, not the excellent one I want to see on the shelf at Barnes & Noble or Chapters.

But enough about me; let’s talk about you.

To go from good to excellent is not always necessary. You can do very well in many areas of life just by being good. In fact, I think that the pursuit of perfection can sometimes serve as a form of life avoidance. It’s often better to face your fear and just get something out there, perfection be damned.

There’s probably something, though, that you want to be better-than-good at. When it comes to that thing you desperately want to be proud of, you understand the difference between good and excellent very well. You can look at it and tell right away if it needs more work, even when other people are happy with it.

The solution in this case is to keep going, whatever it takes. Create draft after draft until you’re really satisfied. Embrace the purity of pursuing excellence for excellence’s sake. Above all, don’t settle for the good!

The Little Things

By the way, making something good is usually about getting a few big things right, but excellence is about refining all of the little things. That’s why you need to pay careful attention to revisions, whatever form they take in your own work.

I’m looking forward to the annual review that I’ll describe in more detail over the next few posts, but I’ll also be working on that final 5-10% of the book. Let’s close with words of wisdom from the great Lily Tomlin:

“Sometimes I worry about being a success in a mediocre world.”

I worry about that too. That’s why, sometimes, the good is not good enough. When it’s all said and done, it’s nice to have something you’re really proud of.

QUESTION: What are you striving for excellence? What are you happy to leave with just being good?

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Comment on this article

51 Responses to “The Good Student”

  1. Like others that read AONC, I’m striving to become an excellent writer also.

    It’s a task that requires intense daily attention. In order to achieve it, I accept “good enough” in a number of different aspects of life that don’t directly relate to the quality of my writing.

    I have some design knowledge and would love to have an excellent looking site, but for now, my writing is more important and a free WordPress theme is good enough.

    I would really like to make some income by beginning to monetize my site, but figuring out all the details of that right now would remove focus from my writing, so I accept that money will have to come later.

    I’m focused entirely on becoming a better writer, but I suspect that, before too long, I will have to accept that even my writing is “good enough” so that I may focus more attention on some of the things that I have been putting off.

  2. Perfection is a tricky thing. It can sometimes leave you paralyzed and sometimes keep you tweaking your stuff until eternity, yet it is a good thing.

    I’m striving for excellence in my writing, helping others, relationships and following my passion, while leaving the good to stuff like technology, the clothes I wear and those things that are necessary but dangerous if you spend a lot of time on them because they can rob time from the real priorities.

    I’m looking forward to your book and can totally relate with feeling overwhelmed, I’m writing a small e-book and that semi-terrifies me. If I were in your shoes I would probably be staring at the wall with my dog trying to talk some sense to me.

  3. This has been one of my favorite posts that I’ve read on your blog in the last few weeks. I think that I strive for excellence in my writing abilities or at least I will be more conscious of it after reading this. When it comes to my health, I’ve been satisfied with good, but excellent is probably something I should aim for. I think I’m going to make a point to be committed to excellence in multiple areas of my life after reading this.

  4. Excellent post today, Chris – love the line about ‘perfection be damned’. Look forward to seeing the book on the shelves, too!

  5. Voltaire said that “the perfect is the enemy of the good” – but excellent, being in between, is better than good.

    We can’t be excellent at everything, nor should we want to be – we only have a limited amount of time and energy. But we all have something we do that we’d like to be proud of, so we focus on being excellent on that.

    Not only are we leaving a high-quality, remarkable, and value-giving legacy project, but we enjoy the activity more. After all, would you want to stay on the bunny hill, or be able to snowboard down the thrilling black diamond run?

    For me, I strive to be excellent at music and writing. Because I’m such an avid listener that gets bored easily, I only have what I consider the best tunes in my library. My high expectations translate into music-making – would my own tunes stand out and inject something fresh amidst other excellent music? That same goes for writing: so many excellent blogs and books, is my site Lifebeat remarkable?

    Enjoy your vacation!

  6. Well…I’m still striving to find excellence in my life. To me, this would be in some sort of form of work. I’m testing and experimenting, but still haven’t found it yet.

    I think this article is a good example of how to be true to yourself. At the end of the day, it really only comes down to what you think. If you’re proud of the work you’ve done, it really doesn’t matter what other people think. Of course you want recognition and praise for your work, but you also want to be happy yourself with what you’ve done.

    For some people it’s easy to find what they’re good at…and beyond good at. For others it’s much more difficult and I fall into that latter category. Some people just give up and settle, which is something I’m extremely afraid of myself. My goal in the next year is to make some significant progress and change on that front.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your annual review.

  7. You’re absolutely right about good and excellent in editing. I thought I edited my book thoroughly, but re-reading it reveals many places where the writing could be marginally stronger and more concise. Some of that is growth–hopefully I’m a better writer than I was a couple of years ago. But some of it is settling for good enough at the end of a long process.

    In any endeavor, feedback is tough and self-feedback is especially difficult. But you’re correct–it’s that final 5% that makes the difference.

  8. Great post Chris! To answer your question at the end, I’m currently striving for excellence as a photographer. It’s where my passion lies, and where I think I’ll be happiest in the long term. I’m happy where I am in my day job, I’m not trying to be the top unix systems administrator, I’m happy to stay just “good” at it.

    Currently I am trying to make sure I spend at least an hour a day with photography related activities, whether it’s outside taking photographs or editing pictures or even just reading up on techniques. Both Trent Hamm and Leo Babauta have written posts talking about having to put in time to become an expert. The only way to expertise is through experience.

  9. Great message. I used to just go into the studio and paint, but over the years some themes have developed that I go back to again and again – revising the process until I feel that I have something that I feel proud to have my name on. I constantly revise my website so it presents as much of my best work as possible at any given moment. Regardless of how much financial success I ever attain, I take great pride in knowing that I’m really doing my best and continually improving as I go.

    You provide a great deal of motivation and inspiration. A lot of people write like the struggles just stop once you attain a certain level, but I think that’s a fallacy. The struggles just change as your stress tolerance goes up.

    Onward and Upward.

  10. A word of thought for current and future graduate students. The notions of good and great are entirely subjective. What you perceive as great the professor will often find as merely good, but thankfully the inverse is true as well.

    Chris, I look forward to your book!

  11. “The biggest deterent to excellence is good.”

    Can perfectionism be life avoidance? Yes. Can presenting less than your best be de-energizing and demotivating for your future work upon hearing honest comments? Yes.
    As I told my daughter growing up, “Your very best will always be just good enough for me.”

    But it is not about perfection, it is about our growth as we continuously improve to make our best.

  12. Thanks for this post, Chris! I could write about this for hours, but will keep this short! :)

    For most of my life, the fear of not being perfect has kept me from being creative, and doing creative work that fulfilled me. The word “perfect” should be banned. Nothing is perfect (although I can think of a few books and movies that came pretty damn close). I’ve learned to let go of the need to be perfect. However, it is important for certain big goals in life for me to do my best and go beyond what is expected. It’s originality in thought, format, expression, that is remarkable (not whether we’ve dotted all of our ‘I’s or crossed all of our ‘T’s) (which is a cliche and, by definition, highly unremarkable!).

  13. This was an amazing post. It was the impetus to finally get off my proverbial arse and get out of the status quo/mundane existence in which I’ve muddled in for far too long. If you ever wonder if this blog is worth your time and effort, never doubt that it is. Thank you!

  14. Chris – great timely writing for me. I’m debating going to a photo workshop in Zion in two weeks time. Two online photo pubs have already agreed to publish an article about my experience there.

    We are also debating organizing a 6 month long road trip in an RV, writing about and photographing the experience as we hit all the national parks in the continental U.S.

    My photography is not up to the standards I want it to be – but it’s good enough.

    My writing is not where I want it to be – but it’s good enough.

    Your article is a reminder to get off my duff, put in the work, and produce something that is excellent rather than good. I can get away with the kinds of photos I am taking now; I get compliments all the time. But I know there is more I can do, better photos I can capture. Ditto with the writing.

    So I’m committing today to do work that aims at the excellent instead of settling for the good.

    Much appreciate your work.

  15. I will agree that somewhere between good and perfect lies excellent and this is what I will strive for in all areas of my life especially in my role as a father and as a person.

    That buffer zone between excellence and perfection leaves room for being human, making mistakes and correcting them, falling then getting up again. Excellence could also be defined as being ”good enough for me” in my own world. You can’t always strive for excellence as things have to get done sooner or later, because no matter how ”excellent” something is, there is always room for improvement.

    Being totally hnest about own own personal scale of excellence is what matters most at the end.

  16. For me, striving for excellence means keeping people in my life who have and are given authority to critique, advise, and mentor me. My writing improves when I get feedback from former profs, friends, and people I don’t know (thank God for comment boxes ;-) ). My teaching skills increase when I have someone observe my classes, when students ask questions or negotiate assignments, and when I spend time chatting with other professors.

    I believe the essence of excellence isn’t *what* we achieve, it’s an attitude adopted *while* achieving something great.

  17. I always appreciate your transparency when you are dealing with issues of doubt.

    I can’t say I am pursuing excellence. Rather I am pushing myself to be more in certain areas that are important to me.

    As I push those boundaries I have set for myself, my views and visions will expand so that, what I once thought might be considered excellence, has now been surpassed.

    My point is the idea of “excellence” is a moving target for me. It’s like climbing a mountain. Once you get to the top, you see there are other higher mountains to be climbed.

    Great work amigo,

    Dean

  18. November 30, 2009

    Chris Sweeney

    Yes but ………..

    80% of the good derived from your book will come from 20% of your content

    80% of your readers will think it’s good even if you think it’s excellent and 20% will think it poor or excellent regardless of what it is

    Excellence is a subjective perception within the mind of each individual.

    So what is your book for – to impart maximum good to the most people or to satisfy your own perception of excellence?

  19. Thought provoking post. I hear the term excellence tossed around and often wonder what it really means. Often excellence means rising to someone else’s standards, not your own. One of those dangling carrot things, where you’re being told to jump in order to get an array of generic goodies.

    Instead of chasing excellence, I prefer to engage with what brings out my enthusiasm, what makes me want to get up in the morning, what makes feel alive.

  20. It’s writing and photography for me (perhaps I should put me too, as I seem to be part of a multitude reading this blog that are working on these areas). But I’ve realised that if I want to consistently produce excellent work, I need to have an excellent state of mind, rather that pinging between elation and despair.

  21. Answer:

    I strive for excellence in the areas of my life where I believe I can create value for others. I just recently discovered my life purpose. It is to become a positive role model. That is where I strive for excellence.

    What does that encompass? That encompasses being the best me that I can. It is not trying to be like anybody else, it is trying to be the best me. It is setting an example in all of the things that I do: write, think, work out, give advice, etc.

    Other things I do not worry about. I never seek perfection with day to day tasks that do not any value to me or others.

    The best way to see if you should strive for perfection or excellence every time is this: is the additional effort trying to make this X thing work going to create additional value for me or even others?

    Guaranteed it is not an easy question to answer, but is worth the time.

    Best,
    Tomas

  22. It is important to recognise that we fall short of perfection. That can be an incentive to do better next time, whilst recognising that perfection is a long way off. So long as we always try to do better, we creep closer towards perfection. Whatever happens we should not be demotivated by missing out on perfection.
    Hope your book sells well, Chris.

  23. Thanks, Chris, for yet another thought provoking post. I agree that perfection is overrated and downright unattainable especially if you can’t limit the scope. It has made me crazy my whole life. Just now I am in the midst of what might be considered a mid-life crisis, trying to determine what is necessary, meaningful, and worth keeping as I move through this crunchy transitional period – very little stuff but a lot of ideas leading (hopefully) to a more satisfactory existence. Contemplating ambition as entry into the rat race, for what? Trying to figure out how to support myself once the safety net runs out. Ha! Thanks also to Giulietta for the additional words of wisdom. Here’s more from I think Walt Whitman-

    I exist as I am. That is enough.

  24. @Chris Sweeney

    So true, so true. Thankfully Chris G. has written about the importance of listening to the tribe and writing for them rather than writing for one’s own ego.

  25. Great post, Chris. Lots of interest in the comments, too!

    As for your question … in general, I give myself much more leeway in areas where I’m just starting the learning curve. Anything worth doing well is worth failing at, multiple times, otherwise how do you learn? So in those areas, good enough, heck – even sub-par – is fine. Best to just get going and do it.

    On the other hand, in areas where I already have a good deal of experience – painting would be an example – I challenge myself to excellence. Still have to be willing to fall on my face from time to time, but the further along the learning curve you are the easier it is to incorporate change and growth gracefully.

  26. Yeap, good to start thinking about these issues now that 2010 resolution time is coming…

    Stuff I want to be excellent at:

    1) “Moral intelligence,” meaning a state where it becomes perfectly effortless and spontaneous to live a life in harmony with higher purpose, instead of narrow personal interest.

    2) Communication: listening, writing, speaking, media, and all that is closely related to these.

    Stuff I am happy being good at:

    2) Wine, coffee.

    3) Tango, bass guitar.

    Cheers!

  27. November 30, 2009

    James Nicholls

    Music, writing and dating. I also care about Cooking, Diet, Fitness, Gaming, Reading, Web Design, Computer Maintenance, Socialising, Academia and Housekeeping, but if I had to pick just 3 they would be those I highlighted. The others are things to support what really matters to me, or things I enjoy but am not interested in pursuing to excellence.

  28. I love that quote at the end!

    I suppose I also chase excellence, but only in what’s really important to me. I used to be all bummed if I didn’t get straight A’s, but now I’ve realized that 1) I won’t be good at everything I try, and 2) I’m wasting a lot of time to get from “good” to “excellent” when it doesn’t make much of a difference.

    Instead, I use the time to work on my writing, photography and work on my cars… Things were a little progress and a little change make a huge difference to me & the quality of my life.

  29. I’m so grateful for your articles! You really articulate well the same sentiments that I feel and even though I already feel them, they just inspire me even more. Thus, a million thanks.

    I absolutely refuse to be mediocre. Life is not fun if you’re simply *good*. I want to be amazing! I can’t wait for your book.

  30. Everything I write I keep pushing myself to perfection, and it’s actually becoming frustrating although I know it’s worth it. About 50-60% of what I write simply gets tossed, never to be seen in public and with each post I continually want to tackle bigger topics, bigger problems, but with more clarity than the less ambitious articles.

    In a lot of areas I’m fine with good enough. I read a lot, but am not a speed reader at all plus when I create videos for the blog it’s not as effortless as it could be, nor do I feel it’s worth the time and energy to make it so.

  31. I think too many people worry about how their yard looks and don’t think enough about how they’re helping other people. The reason for this might be that relatonships are complicated, but yard work is easy.

    I hope my yard looks good, but I want my parenting to be great.

  32. Hi Chris, thanks for the post.

    I usually keep up with all of your posts as and when they come through in my email :). Being a grad student myself, I HAD to immediately open up the email when I saw “The Good Student”. I must say, your post was thought provoking and very realistic.

    I’ve only recently decided to leave Grad School with a Masters (I was on the PhD program). This is a direct result of my trying to find something that I’m excellent at. Most people have advised me that you should get used to being “mediocre” when you’re in Grad School, or else you won’t get yourself anywhere. But I don’t really agree with that. One HAS to thoroughly enjoy the work they’re doing and be really good at it, especially if you want to get a PhD.

    Anyway, my battle for finding what I’d really to like excel at, still rages on and that’s why I’ve decided to step out and see things differently. Your post has bolstered my confidence in a way, thanks again.

  33. Perfect is the enemy of good.

    Reading 37signals’ Getting Real, or Godin, or Mavericks, Pioneers etc etc, you come to realise execution is key, and the perfectionist in us will always seek to make something we’re working on better.

    Perfection is ok, as long as at some point you can say “this is perfect enough”.

    I’ve just released a really long guide to integrating Facebook and WP. It’s 40 pages but could have been way more polished, had more content etc, but I just wanted to get it out there.

    I’m also doing a new iPhone app and this has been the biggest struggle because at heart I am a perfectionist. The problem with perfect, especially in this context, is it means more features, better features, and that means feature loops and complexity.

    For your book, I can understand the need to make this absolutely spot on, for your own feelings of accomplishment and also professional pride.

    Hopefully you can delineate crazy perfection from good-enough perfection. Can’t wait to see it!

    -t

  34. Really nice, Chris.

    To answer the question, writing is way up there, comfortably ensconced in second place on the priority list right now (I’m 80,000 words into my novel draft), but the first priority for me is development of character. I feel like everything else flows out of that for me right now, and it’s a project that I know I’ll never finish, so I don;t have to worry about post-project depression…

    Perfection is something that I gave up on a long time ago, so I keep it realistic. Excellence is a nice benchmark but, as Chris mentions above, these are subjective concepts. I know that my writing will be judged at some point, if only in the marketplace, but I can’t really control that without trying to make my art conform to someone else’s standard, so I shoot for writing I’m ‘happy’ with knowing that I’ll never be truly ‘content’.

    That discontent keep me reaching for a new benchmark of excellence while working until I’m happy let’s me actually enjoy a decent sleep most nights.

  35. Like you, and like a lot of people here, I’m a ‘good’ writer who aspires to be an ‘excellent’ one. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever make it to that point.

    If you’re familiar at all with the Dunning-Kruger effect (the less competent you are, the more you overestimate your abilities, whereas the more competent you are, the more you underestimate your abilities) you can perhaps take some consolation in the notion that if you have enough self-awareness to see where you fall short in a given task, you’re likely to be better at it than someone who is completely and utterly assured of their own greatness.

  36. I have all the confidence in the world that your book will be FABULOUS! Because you put the sweat and tears into each paragraph. You are an excellent writer with magnificent content – and while that last 5% is hell, as you said it will make a 100% difference. Let me know if you would like any help with “stepping it up” – I was an editor in chief in another lifetime.

  37. Haha, well I think that worry is perfectly normal for any writer. Par for the course really so you’d better get used to it as I think you have a few books in you:)

    Definitely happy to let the house fall about around my ears and aim for excellence in loftier goals.

  38. This is so true when it comes to songwriting and music. There is a big difference between a “good” song and a “great” song and the best songwriters of our time can tell the difference.

  39. On my bathroom mirror I have a saying. I have moved about 3-4 times in the last few years but I always put that little piece of paper on my bathroom mirror so that I can look at it everyday. It says:

    “Good is the enemy of Great”

    Your post reminded me of it.

  40. Hi Chris – thanks for your post – great to hear someone else’s angst about getting it to the point where you can be proud of it!

    For me, my writing comes from the work I do with people – the insights they have, the broad principles they seem to validate – am I trying to be an excellent writer or an excellent faciltator of unleashing people’s brilliance?

    I have to say, it is the working in the moment where I find and hone my excellence. It’s like jazz improvisation – living in the moment, on the edge and continually surprising myself with what comes forth from myself and my clients.

    Writing for me is sharing those amazing moments of insight – capturing in words the pure excellence of dancing in the moment.

    I look forward to hearing about your planning process – I’m in the middle of taking all my clients through a reflection/planning process where they review their year, bank their learnings and achievements and then put aside 2009. It’s amazing!

  41. I believe that a distinction needs to be made between striving for perfection versus striving for excellence. This is NOT semantics and instead an area which typically results in barriers to growth in the lives of far too many people. We push ourselves in order to be “perfect,” at whatever it is that we do, until we find someone who has already surpassed our level of success, which now sets us in a tailspin as we feel out of control, empty, and frustrated. Perfection is based on comparison, while excellence is based on individuality.

    I understand your emotions about the book, because I am also going through the same process right now, but what I realized is that the longer I STRIVE for perfection, the longer it will be before people will have the opportunity to read my work and have a paradigm shift take place in their lives. So the question I ask myself on a consistent basis is, “Is this book written for YOU or THEM?” My answer is simple, because I WANT THE WORLD TO READ MY WORK!

  42. I agree with Chirag, there’s not much point in doing a PhD if you are interested in pursuing a research career (rather than just doing it to pass the hurdle in order to teach at college level) if you don’t think you are capable of some excellent work. I don’t expect all my research work to be excellent or even good, but I hope none of it is bad. Upfront I have an idea of which of my projects are more likely to be excellent but other researchers and policymakers might find the stuff I am less pleased with as being more useful. So it’s worth doing it all.

  43. Jared – right you are. The idea here is to work not for perfection (geeze, talk about OCD, NOT!) but rather for excellence. That’s what I noted in my earlier post. I can see much, much room for improvement in my photography, and I can learn how to raise the bar from “hey, nice photo” or “gee, I really like your photos” to “darn, that is one superb photo”. Not that I am aiming to please others, but to deliver excellence in photography in a way that people recognize easily. Not that I am aiming for perfection, because in my mind, perfection is a flaw in the make-up of Man – and no one, anywhere, can achieve perfection.

  44. November 30, 2009

    Mini Verma

    Excellent! Very true, for and till that moment, when and what we are doing. We all have infinite potential to strive for excellence and above and beyond. What we do today to our best of ability still has more room to achieve more for the next time, and still the next time. Is that excellent enough? So, being there completely to get the most in what we do, each day , every moment we find more and more of this that we call excellent. For all those who are striving each day, hour, minute , second, may this be ongoing and everlasting effectiveness in unleashing and releasing what we have a within us bountiful store house of energy,knowledge ,wisdom,vision and most of all EXCELLENCE.

  45. A very timely article for me, Chris! I often let ‘good-enough’ be my level of achievement. But the truth is that ‘good-enough’, isn’t.

    I should really lift my game, in all areas of my life. Work, study, financial responsibility – the lot.

    I think excellence in character can also be worked toward. I know there are parts of me that I’m not happy with yet, and so I try to develop these areas often.

    What am I happy with? Frankly, not much! It’s time to lift the bar in all areas of my life.

    Looking forward to hearing about your review process, and reading your book (if I can get it here, that is!)

  46. This is such a wonderful post! I just started following you recently, and the point you make here really hits home. I am “perfecting” a mystery manuscript right now. After about twenty years of writing just good stuff, I finally realized I needed to work harder to make something excellent. It’s scary, because I don’t know if I will get to excellent right now, but I’m honing and polishing for the first time.

    Please let us know how your work on your book goes as you finish revisions. And thanks so much.

  47. ha! Chris, the dilemma of strategizing-to-win vs. planning-til-death haunts me many times! In fact, I just commented to a client about the dilemma this morning.

    But, A) You are a samurai. I am waiting expectantly for your book! B) Remember ‘War of Art’; the greater the resistance, especially at the finish line, the more important the victory.

    Kill it, baby! Own it, man.

    P.S. Since my birthday is on Nov. 17th, I let that start my review/planning process. That way, during the holiday when things go crazy, I can roll with it because the review/planning process is pretty much done. I all it November-of-Necessary-Planning, so that I can enjoy a December Down-time. BAM!

  48. The “fear of mediocrity” has haunted me for many years. For me it first took understanding that not wanting to be mediocre in anything that I do was also causing me to not move forward in some cases. It has taken me a while but I feel I am getting better at the balancing act between getting something done and not “just settling”… it is not in my nature to just settle for good enough. I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, instead I take a lot of pride in my work no matter what it is that I’m working on (unlike many people in this day and age).

    This post really hit home for me and I especially loved the section about “The Little Things”. More specifically, this quote “Making something good is usually about getting a few big things right, but excellence is about refining all of the little things”. I liken it to developing my horse-man-ship and being in Information Technology for so many years… the fancy stuff comes from solid fundamentals.

    Great post Chris!

  49. Chris I recently finished a poetry ebook “The Disappearance Of Hate”. It took me a while to complete it because I didn’t think it was perfect. Then a friend of mine asked about the book. I decided I was putting it out. I had to take a stand with my procrastination and fear.

  50. Excellence is the pursuit of perfection.

    But perfection is an illusion that we know we can not attain every time we do something. If we could then it would become normal and not perfect. The essence of art is to try to capture the seeds of perfection within your art, be it painting, music, writing, etc.

    You may write a book that one person reads and is deeply moved by yet another person, at a different point in their life, might read the very same words and be unmoved.

    The perfect work of art is one that touches everyone on a deep and profound level regardless of that person’s own subjective understanding of the work.

  51. Excellence needs to be reserved for one main thing that is not on a deadline.

    Something where you don’t care how long it takes. Something that will be great when it’s finished but nobody’s waiting for it, nobody needs it today.

    And everything else, everything that takes time and effort that you could be using for your project in excellence has to be done “good enough”. If you have a relationship and something else that you want to be excellent, you have to notice how far you’re willing to settle for “good enough” for your relationship. You need some kind of balance. More so if you have children. How much time with your children are you willing to sacrifice for your excellent project? Your children will mostly create themselves regardless, but how much do you want your support for them to be just good enough? It will have to be to some extent, because they aren’t going to wait while you figure out how to do things perfect for them. Everything you say and do is a new first draft.

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