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The Perils of Perfection

“Success: Fall down seven times. Get up eight.”~ Chinese Proverb

Live performances are incredible events. I’ve always admired the ability of live performers to put on flawless performances – or are they REALLY flawless?

Imagine for a moment that the big “production” has come to town. You want to take that special someone out for a fantastic evening so you’ve put up the big bucks for a pair of the best seats in the house. The day of the event is filled with anticipation. You arrive at the theatre and take your seats; eagerly you start reading through the event program. Finally the curtain rises and the show is on.

The music is fantastic and dramatic. The performers are brilliant. You’re completely absorbed. In the next moment the female lead is being lifted in dazzling fashion by her male counterpart. He then releases her but on her landing, she stumbles.

MID-performance, she STOPS.

“Dick, how many times do I have to tell you, you’ve gotta release me THIS way!”

Dick, the male lead, appears surprised.

“I just HATE it when this happens!” she screams. “I just CAN’T seem to get this right with you. It’s SOOO frustrating. Working with you is BRUTAL.” The audience is now totally confused. “Is this part of the musical or not?” they wonder. Dick’s eyes get wider, his face flushes. He’s stunned. Jane goes on, “I’ve practiced SO hard. I’ve worked SO hard. This is my BIG chance. I’ve got so much riding on this and then you throw me like THAT! WHAT will people think if we screw this up, huh? Huh? What do you have to say for yourself!?”

By this time the conductor is beside himself. The music trails off aimlessly as he freezes, baton in hand, mouth ajar.The audience is dead quiet. Jane plunks herself down on the floor, crosses her arms and pouts like an iron-willed toddler.

Can you imagine? You wouldn’t know WHAT to think would you? You’d be dumbfounded, perhaps embarrassed for Dick and the rest group, perhaps also for Jane. You might then laugh at the immaturity of it all. Then you’d remember all the dough you’d dished out for these great seats and your mood might change again.

But is this as unlikely a scene as it first appears? Sometimes we beat ourselves (or others) up for mistakes. Mid-performance, we stop. We take ourselves out of the game (or dance) we’re up to and complain about ourselves or others.

The best performers on the planet continually make mistakes. One of the things that make their performance SEEM flawless is how quickly they get back in the saddle when they slip. You might not even notice their error and even if you do, you’re quickly whisked away by their next great moment.

Ultimately, striving for perfection is a paralyzing and terribly unfulfilling game to play. It’s a game you can RARELY win at and those around you suffer along with you.

Don’t “pout”. Strive for excellence instead.

People notice.

Coaching Fieldwork:

Where in your life are you complaining or just “talking about” a result verses doing something about it? The reality is if you’ve got an unwanted result that you aren’t moving forward from you’ve taken yourself out of the game. We’ve all done it.

Try this:

1. Inquire: “Where am I being hard on myself or other for something gone awry? If I’m honest, where am I ‘pouting’?”

2. Then ask yourself, “If I was striving for excellence instead of the perfection here, what would I do about it?”

3. Do it. Get back in the game. The universe rewards action.

Jamie Broughton