EXCELLENCE VERSUS PERFECTION
"Nobody is perfect" ..."Everybody makes mistakes" ... "To err is human."
In this enterprising century such time worn excuses are still being used, and accepted for human performance. In school we soon learn that 100 percent is not necessary; 70 percent is passing. This attitude carries over to the job. An employer gets only about 70 percent from the average employee.
And the exceptions-- the rare few that do strive for defectless results, are seldom commended. Why? Because perfection, being a deviation from the norm, makes bosses apprehensive, and co-workers resentful.
But suppose it were the other way around-- mistakes becoming the rarity instead of the standard by which one qualifies for the human race. By wide-spread flawless accomplishment, wouldn't we soon zoom to prosperity?
Yes, of course, everyone thought. The concept was once publicly promoted and put to the test, as a key feature of "The Great Society" proposed by President Johnson. At the onset of the space program it had become vital that errors be prevented. The astronaut, maybe thousands of miles from earth, could not afford that one dimunitive error some assembly line worker may have allowed himself.
So "The Zero Defects Program" was born. Endorsed by the U.S. Department of Defense, forcing both government and private industry to re-appraise old standards, the plan was put into practiced across the nation. Zero Defects Seminars became mandatory.
And the results? By promoting flawless performance, rather than relying on detection and correction, thousands of organizations reportedly saved billions. And in reporting the phenommenon, the media pulled out all the stops. I specifically remember one newspaper headline in enlarged bold letters: "Perhaps The Most Money Saving Concept In History!"
It prompted me to write a magazine article on the subject (previousy I'd written only for The Government). And so popular was the subject, it won a prize in the annual Writer's Digest article contest-- later becoming the cover feature for SUCCESS UNLIMITED magazine.
But now ... What happened to the idea? Why are we all not working like an army of ants (in our respective vocations) in pursuit of perfection? Why don't we hear anything about The Zero Defects Program today?
Because, down the line it was proven that for fallible human beings perfect is rarely possible, or practical. In many cases production was curtailed by the intense concentration on perfection, leaders discovering that the perfectionist craze was cramping creative musles--and blocking imagination."
This conclusion corraborated,across the board, The Zero DefectsProgram was ultimately dropped. The better answer to the cry for improvement became "Dedication to Excellence and Efficiency."
Although some people still harbor an inherint desire to be perfect, most believe there is something fundamentally wrong with straining toward an unnatural condition. While the rest of the population fall somewhere in between.
As a motivated writer, wherever you fall, you may be caught in an inspiration/restriction compromise. Bound by the restrictive details dictated by editors and publishers (irrespective of talent) we all work under this pressure. In order to see our creations in print, we must conform. But we needn't strain for perfection. Time and experience tells us it is not the most profitable response to a burning literary ambition.Today, the experts advise working with "unbridled imagination, and calm precision," improving day by day with an eye on excellence.
In her book BIRD BY BIRD, author Ann Lamott reiterates... "Perfection has been proven a mean idealism. It cramps our mental muscles."
So, if you've been up-tight, straining for the peak impossible, keep in mind that your competitors won't make it either, and relax the pressure on yourself. Everybody makes mistakes. But we all make less of them when we don't strain.
Excellence versus perfection ... Excellence wins.
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