Perfection, Failure, and Experimenting

 Schools have spent the years teaching you NOT to experiment. Think about it. The system rewards you for getting good grades. But we all have had the experience of torpedoing our grades due to ONE BAD DAY. You can be on it, “perfect” for an entire semester. And then destroy grade by having a bad day on the final exam.
This conditions us to believe that we must always be “on.” We can’t have a bad day. We can’t submit anything other than perfection. We can’t try something if we aren’t sure it will work. This is a holdover from the industrial days that birthed the modern school system. Who wants a factory worker at Step 14 of the assembly line trying new things? This screws up the entire model.
This destroys our ability to produce because (1) it scares us away from experimenting, (2) it teaches us to be perfectionists who have trouble actually “shipping” a completed project. Rather, we want (1) a clearly defined set of instructions and a rubric for how we will be evaluated, and (2) we work until the last possible moment before the deadline to perfect our product. Have you ever stayed up all night working on something the night before it was due? Procrastination is a symptom of perfectionism. Your mind finds other things to keep you busy, while the project sits out there un-started, because the mental picture of the completed project is so huge you’re exhausted before you even start.
Action habit: figure out what the minimum really is. No professor gives feedback when you go above and beyond other than, “Nice job, A.” You’re left believing that the only way to achieve is to OVERACHIEVE. If there were a grade higher than A, you probably earned it. The best grade you can get is one that meets 100% of the requirements , but you may have turned in an assignment that meets 150% by creating additional self-inflicted requirements.
The result is that you spend too much time on that assignment, so something else more important suffers. You could have been working on another assignment, or spending time with someone, or growing your business, or exercising, or experimenting with something else. All of these are more important that overdoing an assignment.
So instead, consider trying to get a 91% (in a course who gives 90% an A). Anything above this is wasted time and effort. How can you do this? (1) Challenge a professor to point out where you went “above and beyond” the requirements, and/or (2) allow yourself to get a “B” by turning in something less than perfect. See what happens.
Are you overworking without realizing it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *