“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” Michael J. Fox
At one point, the title of my blog was “Progress Not Perfection.” It describes one of my philosophies, but was not comprehensive enough. It is a phrase I say almost daily and use in multiple contexts. Some take issue with it as they think it implies settling instead of striving. But for me it is all about striving. It’s about doing better today than we did yesterday. No one and no organization is perfect. Harvard and Stanford are held in high esteem as outstanding business schools. But are they perfect? If one was perfect then individuals would always choose that school over the other. The truth is they are very different and they both have cultures where students, faculty, and staff are always striving to be the best they can be.
Daily we are faced with challenges that seem to slow us down. We are in the proverbial swamp up to our neck in alligators and lose perspective. The challenges keep coming and we are overwhelmed. Remembering that our goal is progress helps to regain some perspective. Building on the daily perspective, it is also helpful in a broader context.
A few weeks ago as I prepared for my annual review with the dean, I reflected on all that I had done in the last year. It’s a long list. I was involved with over 25 committees and finally saw some progress on several strategic initiatives that had been lingering for too long. Yet I saw all the gaps. All the places where I could have done better or missed an opportunity. My teaching was good and I certainly should have focused a bit more on some research projects. See, I saw all the shortcomings and things I could have done better. Other things I could have/should have focused on. Many things still remain too be done. I still have lots of room for improvement. That bothered me.
After being frustrated with it for a bit, I thought, “Progress not Perfection.” Why am I missing the point when looking at my own progress? Could I have done some things better? Certainly. Could I have made different choices? Certainly. So the question became, how can I take the progress and learning from the past year and make the next year better? How can last year’s progress inform next year’s progress? I’ve got some good ideas and plans for the coming year. But do you know what? I suspect that this time next year I will have made progress, but will not have achieved perfection. That is perfectly fine with me. Are you focusing on progress and not getting hung up on perfection? Perhaps I am the only one 🙂