Perfection Kills Boldness

Be Bold
Be Bold

When I'm stuck in traffic, I cope by putting on classical music. Ergo, I listen to a lot of classical music. One day last week the "DJ" on my classical station was interviewing a conductor, and I wasn't paying much attention. (By the way - does the "DJ" label work in the symphonic world??) Annnyway,  I heard the "DJ" ask the conductor,

"How do you get such perfection from your orchestra?"

Good question. I was interested in the answer and the conductor's reply was brilliant.

"Oh, I don't strive for perfection, and I don't ask my orchestra to be perfect either.  I want them to be bolder and braver than that.  I want them to strive for excellence."


I've been aware of the "Curse of Perfectionism" and how it leads to inaction and discouragement, but I never thought of how perfectionism kills boldness.

As I listened to the conductor describe it, excellence is born from showing courage and boldness in your performance.  Perfectionism is about just hitting a mark.

Excellence tolerates imperfections if the overall output exceeds expectations; excellence is more than, better than perfect.  Excellence comes from boldness that goes beyond the quest for perfect.

Perfect focuses on how well the artist performs, while excellence focuses on whether the audience is pleased.

As I listened to the interview, I imagined a young artist trying to execute a paint-by-numbers canvas versus the artist who is using a free-hand way to capture an image.  The paint-by-number image may be more life-like and even "good," but it's creating according to what someone else prescribes.

In the same way, a child's original drawing is almost always more interesting than their coloring book drawings.

So often we get it backwards.  We want every "i dotted and t crossed" and forget about whether we've exceeded what others were looking for.  We think about how we're doing, not about how others are interpreting our work.  We think innovation comes when we get things right, but mistakes are tolerable when they turn into something beautiful.

This year, do yourself a favor, give yourself permission to be less than perfect, but always aim for excellence!