Pursuit of Perfection

April 18, 2018–I was backstage at a recent show speaking with the child of a national recognized performer. You would know who this is, but since I wasn’t conducting an official interview I won’t reveal names.

“At age 24, my dad had won a Grammy,” this person said. “I’m 21, and what have I accomplished?”

There were so many things I wanted to say. I remember when I turned 21. I stayed up all night writing and recording a song. It went like this:

Twenty-one’s done and I’ve just begun, Living my life, being no one.

That sure didn’t win any Grammy.

But in our society, 21 is such a milestone, it is no wonder when we reach it that we think some wondrous truth will be revealed. Not so. Truths don’t begin to come out of hiding until you’ve hammered many failures into experience.

On those days when we reckon up, looking back on our lives from the trailing end of the demographic curve, we don’t always feel like what we accomplish amounts to much.

Each day turns into the next, and we focus on getting to work on time, paying taxes, and doing our downward dogs.

I think of the hours spent racing a stopwatch to meet a deadline, finish a project, or use the coupon before it expires. Here’s a tip: You’ll never beat it. The watch always wins.

I once wrote another song about regrets. I slyly disguised the meaning by making it about a careless zookeeper who left the aviary door open. I called it “No egrets.”

No Grammy nomination, there, either.

But if I had a “do over,” here is one thing I’d do different: I’d stop trying to be perfect.

We are drilled to pursue perfection. On the athletic field. In church. In school. Lordy, school is the worst. Everything we do in that institution is graded on a scale of 1 to 4. Students become focused on the scale rather than the learning. The measurement becomes the accomplishment.

That is wrong. Don’t believe me? Look around at your daily life, your marriage, your job, your family, your friends. See any perfection there? If I can make a guess, I’d say the amount of perfection in your life would be the same as the number of Grammys on my mantle. If I even had a mantle.

And yet, despite our flaws and failures and average grade point averages, we are wonderful successes! The fact you are reading this means you made it to this day on the timeline, and you possess the knowledge to read the newspaper plus the wisdom to read my column. What a fantastic achievement! You not only read, you walk, you talk, you eat, you rid your body of waste products, you have ideas, you earn a living. I’ll bet sometime in your life you even created something worthwhile, be it a quilt, a card, a child, or a bad song.

Celebrate that.

So here’s my profundity: Perfection is the enemy of success.

What more could I have achieved if I hadn’t worried about grades? The repercussions are insidious. Did I decide to not take a class because it was too hard? Did that decision lead to entering a less than optimal career path? Did that mean I earned less money over a lifetime? Did I miss an opportunity that was seminal to my magnum opus?

Did I forfeit a kingdom for want of fingernails to grab onto the difficult choice?

See where that thinking leads?

Don’t know why this concept is so hard for us to understand, or why it takes so long to learn. It should be self-evident: even when you focus on perfection, you never achieve it. No one, ever, in the history of history, has been perfect. So what hubris to pursue it!

So here’s to mediocrity in all endeavors. Embrace your shortcomings, flaunt your failures, celebrate falling short.

In the end, you will enjoy more success. More important, you will enjoy more.

Kairos: Apart from the crowd

April 11, 2018–Wouldn’t it be fun to find a place away from the crowded downtown, where you can share a four-course fixed-menu meal with interesting companions, while listening to live acoustic music? Those are the reasons Joe and Sharon Grimes started their Second Saturday Series at Kairos–The Celebration Barn. “One of the things we wantedContinue Reading

The new old Altdorf Restaurant

  April 3, 2018–Whenever family from north of Willow Creek came to town looking for an authentic Fredericksburg Main Street experience, I took them to the Altdorf Restaurant. Nothing said “gemutlichkeit” like the outdoor biergarten, shaded barrel tables, smiling staff, and comfortable ambience. There was something on the menu for those wanting real German schnitzel,Continue Reading

Marketing, Naked

Mar 28, 2018–I’m often asked to help market events. The temptation as a consultant is to justify the label of “expert” by making what you do seem complicated. But I’ve learned the shortest path to results lies in simplifying the concepts and flattening the process. Random examples: Want to get healthy and lose weight? EatContinue Reading

Native son’s music comes home

Mar 21, 2018–During the mid-1800s, the Texas Hill Country produced talented men and women, particularly in the fields of ranching, industry, cattle, and the military. Yet many still don’t know it was also the birthplace of a classical music composer who became a contemporary of the European masters. This person had the tongue twisted nameContinue Reading

Guy Forsyth: Putting the Show in Showbiz

  March 14, 2018–Guy Forsyth gave an unexpected response when asked what inspired his on-stage performance style. “Vaudeville,” he replied during our phone conversation. “If you look back, a lot of our favorite musicians were folks hitting their stride in the 1930s and 40s. Those people understood the showbiz aspect of music. Not that theyContinue Reading

Free Art: Out of the Gallery

Mar 7, 2018–When Bart Simpson told his dad he hated art, Homer commiserated. “Oh, everyone does, son. That’s why they lock it up in museums where no one will ever visit.” Hill Country artist Seth Avant is putting art back out on the streets where everyone can enjoy it. It’s called Free Art Friday. “OneContinue Reading

The Simple Life: A Simple Lie

Feb 28, 2018–I overheard some older folks talking fondly of “simpler times.” Balderdash. There were no simpler times. Never in history has life been so simple. Examples: Cars What was simple about tuning your car? You had to change the points and spark plugs, set the gaps with a gauge, replace the rotor, and adjustContinue Reading

Liverpool Legends: Feel 16 Again

  Feb 21, 2018–In 2001, Marty Scott was playing with a Beatles tribute band at a Chicago festival. A week later, he was sitting on a couch next to Paul McCartney. How’s that for fantasy? “Pretty scary” was how the ersatz “George Harrison” described it. “Louise Harrison was a guest of honor, and I wasContinue Reading

The Church of Burns

  Feb 14, 2018–Last Sunday morning, I was poking around online, seeking inspiration. I clicked on a link and found myself looking inside a radio studio listening to Amazing Grace. I had stumbled on to Sunday Mornings with Doug Burns on 107.9 FM KFAN. I felt like I was sitting in his kitchen. Burns wasContinue Reading