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Active Excellence


Perfectionism can be a real drag, as I'm sure you know, either firsthand or by watching some poor soul enslaved to their "OCD" try and try and still get nothing done. I am one of those poor souls. I would love to not be. So here is my philosophy to beat perfectionism: Active Excellence.

Pitfalls to Avoid

I shouldn't have to convince you that laziness is no way to live. So we'll dispense with that up front. But the opposite of laziness is this kind of obsessive hesitation, usually a flavor of perfectionism, where too much thinking and not enough doing results in nothing meaningful.

But if you bump into the person stuck in this rut and give them the right prompts, a veritable dissertation will spill forth from their lips concerning the thing they are obsessed with. It's certainly not for lack of knowledge that he ends up in this situation, nor for lack of interest. But something, surely, is lacking...


The trouble with doing things is that messes get made. And for some of us, that is the ultimate failure. But we really need to grapple with how idolatrous and myopic such concerns are. What reward does the Lord give to his servants for that generic tidiness that rocks no boats, offended no innocent parties, and yielded no spontaneous creativity? Can you name anyone in history who left a significant mark on humanity by their "tidiness"?

I hope you recognize, as I have, that the answer is obvious. Messes must be made or the mountains never move. The perfectionist desires to have an impact, to do something great, yea, to do something perfect! But his aversion to loose ends and ugly first drafts prevent him from putting the first foot down the path. And so, as laziness has been summarily spurned, so too must our tidiness!

A Way Forward

So the middle ground I propose between laziness and tidiness is Active Excellence. The excellence is our perfectionism under control, a servant to the task at hand, rather than the slave-driver hampering the progress. We can be inspired by our desire for excellence to continue working toward the end goal of something great, and this can be great fuel for keeping our hands happily busy in the work.

But the guiding light of this philosophy is the "active" part. Sitting and thinking is great when critical thoughts are yet unthunk, but when the information is all on the table, decisions must be made and options must be explored via real-time experimentation. Put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, hammer to nail, feet to pavement, phone to ear. Do one of the things that will move you closer to your goal. Of course, it might not work out (that's the messy part we can't avoid), but by staying active, we increase the chance of finding out early what works and what doesn't. Thus, we enable ourselves to try the better options sooner, and have confidence through experience that they are in fact better.

Stay busy, my friends! We only get one shot at this thing. Let's make it count for the King.


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