Perfect is the enemy of the good – By @sthomasgb

Sebastien Thomas

By Sebastien Thomas



Perfect is the enemy of the good

“Do this. Don’t do that. Concentrate on this. Ignore that. Work longer. Work harder. We’ve all been overwhelmed by well-intentioned advice that borders on the belligerent, meant to aim us towards the perfect.”

I’ve just read Erik Kessels new book “Failed It!” cover to cover in about an hour (it’s not me, it’s a short book). He insists that failure is key to creative enlightenment. And I agree. 

But we’ve got three weeks left of the course, and now, more than ever, we’re being told to seek perfection.
But while we’re all looking for it, none of us will reach it. It’s unattainable. 
I don’t agree with all of Marc’s methods, but I do trust his intentions. 
We got a dressing down on Friday, because of the lack of care and effort we put into some of our work.
My initial reaction was “Fuck you Marc, you have no idea how hard I’m trying”. 
But then I reflected on my partner and I’s week and we had not been productive. Time is of the essence, and we hadn’t used every minute to maximise our efforts.
I used to row at a high level. I trained 12 times a week while working 9am to 5pm. So that meant waking up at 4:30am and then training after work, often finishing after 9pm. I’d then rush home to eat and get straight to sleep before it started all over again.
I remember we had an absolute ball buster of a coach. An ex-Australian international lightweight rower who was known for his short temper. He won’t be reading this so I’ll be honest. He was a bit of a cunt.
After one particular piece on the water he confronted me, calling me out in front of the other 8 guys in the boat. He picked on some of my technical aspects and suggested I wasn’t trying. It was humiliating and I felt like shit.
But during the next piece I felt like his eyes were only on me. I also felt like the man rowing behind was staring at every stroke I took. Examining every twitch in my muscles.
So I reacted, and changed what I was doing in the next piece.
I distinctly remember pushing beyond my limits to the extent that I vomited over the boat into the Thames afterwards. I’d ‘emptied the tank’. In the process we’d improved on the previous piece and achieved a better time. 
Our coach had pushed us, and me in particular, to the limit, and we responded.
We’re at a crossroads now, and I feel that we have more in the tank.
Admittedly everyone responds to different forms of motivation. But I know that now more than ever, my partner and I need to put everything into our book. Pull in the same direction, and hopefully we’ll achieve something we’re proud of in the process.
I’ll end on a quote used in Kessels’ book from Vince Lombardi.
‘We are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it… In the process we will catch excellence.’

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