I was finishing an assignment for a world history project and showing it to my grade 6 teacher. “Is this good enough?” “Well, since you asked if its ‘good enough’, then it obviously isn’t.” I took my assignment back and kept working on it. Fast forward 7 years, I am sitting in a university physics class. My instructor notices many students handing in their assignments late. What does she blame for this problem? The red spider known as procrastination. The habit of putting tasks off to the last possible minute. A big, hairy, scary red spider. A spider that follows you everywhere. A spider that bites you at the most important times. But what was my physics instructor’s solution to procrastination? She handed out a one page article to each student. The article was about how perfectionism causes procrastination. And this is the biggest lie that school taught us. It’s the biggest lie that has been spread by school to society. And it’s a lie that I hope we will correct. Meet Mr. Perfectionism. Our schools fight him with the mightiest knives and swords they have. Why? What does Mr. Perfectionism believe in that academia hates? Mr. Perfectionism believes in a perfect world: A world full colour, full sound, and full clarity. He believes in a world where all our questions are answered, and everything is figured out. What does academia believe in? It believes in a world where knowledge is constantly proven wrong. The only thing we know for sure, is that what we know today will probably be proven wrong as more research is released. It believes that we can never reach a perfect world because we will never figure out everything. We do not know for certain whether the speed of light is the speed limit of the universe, because it takes just one contradictory experiment to topple the entire foundation of modern physics. Over and over they have drilled in our brains the notion that our understanding of the world is constantly evolving, and that we will never reach a perfect understanding of the world. So they have tried to slay Mr. Perfectionism in two ways. First, they have tried to stop you from doing your best work. They have told you phrases such as: “Mistakes are good”, “Don’t spend too much time on each assignment”, “It doesn’t have to be perfect”, or “Make sure you hand it in on time, even if you’re not completely done.” How many times have you heard those phrases? A hundred times? A thousand times? They have created a toxic environment where turning in “good” work is enough. To succeed you just have to complete the criteria and check off each box. You are never asked to turn in work that is flawless or beautiful. Second, they have turned perfectionism into the cause of the thing we hate most: the big, hairy red spider. If perfectionism doesn’t cause procrastination, what does? Better question, how can we overcome procrastination? I know of only one way: belief. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the need that we must strive to fulfill after all our other human needs are met (food, shelter, etc) is “self actualization”. It is the need to reach your full potential in life, and to try your best in creating your best work. Look at all the physical objects around you. Look at your computer, your lights, your table, and your pens. All these objects are perfectly designed, easy to use, and flawless. You expect them to be. That’s the only reason why you purchased these items. You didn’t walk in a store and buy beta versions of objects with design flaws. Everything you bought is perfect and beautiful. Now ask yourself this question: How many times have you produced an object, created a piece of art, or made something that was truly perfect and flawless? Ten times? Five times? Just once? Never? Do you believe that in your lifetime you will create something that is perfect? Steve Jobs certainly believed, and he created three perfect products: the Macintosh computer, the iPod, and the iPhone. Donald Trump believed in perfection, and he built dozens of skyscrapers. Elon Musk definitely has belief, or he wouldn’t attempt to build the perfect electric car. When you believe in perfection, it will be stuck in your mind. You will constantly be thinking about how to create something that is perfect; not a moment will spare without it entering your mind. The harder you try to get the thought off your mind, the more intense it becomes. And it will force you to take action. Procrastination will be impossible. The first few times you try to create something, your creation will not be perfect. There will be flaws. It took Steve Jobs 4 tries before he created the perfect computer. But pratcise makes perfect. Perfection will be the guiding light that will lead you towards your destination. And belief will be your fuel.
“I like thinking big. If you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.”
“Believe big. The size of your succses is determined by the size of your belief. Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success! Big ideas and big plans are often no more small ideas and small plans.”
Donald Trump and David Schwartz are best selling authors for a good reason. They have a simple message to tell: Think big. But the human mind has trouble with big numbers. It’s hard to determine what is big and what is small. I have a simpler message: Believe in perfection and you will succeed. Think big, and think perfection. * * * Supplementary reading: How to fall in love with procrastination Strive for, but do not demand perfection