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Monday, June 27, 2011

Ramblings

Maria and I had a business question once and we called a friend for advice. Our friend is a member of SCORE, an organization of retired business executives who provide free business mentoring. He referred us to another SCORE member who, well, let's just say that he's had an illustrious career and you've all heard of or used one or more of his creations. This gentleman was kind enough to come to our home for lunch and spend a few hours with us.

We don't remember if we ever got our question answered because we don't remember what our question was! But what we do remember is getting a shift in perspective. After talking with him, we began to frame our choices within a larger perspective. For instance, we still remember his questions, "What do you want to be doing in ten years . . . in twenty years?" Those are important questions that are easily lost in moment to moment urgencies.

But the advice we remember most of all, and one that we refer to time and again, was from his story of visiting an office of the space agency of the then Soviet Union. He described a cyrillic quote above the entrance to the space agency that translated, "Don't let better tyrannize good enough." (At least that's how we remember his story.)

This morning at breakfast I was reading a blog and its author, quoting Voltaire, wrote "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

"Maria," I said, "That's where his quote must have come from!"

We got talking about how a concept of perfection blocks so many people from enjoying something because of fears they couldn't do it perfectly. And what if you did create a perfect something? What a devious curse that would be for everything that followed!

Maria joked, "If you didn't try to create art because you thought it wouldn't be perfect, well, get in line!"

Then I looked up Voltaire's original quote. He actually said, Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien. "Better is the enemy of good." How many of us don't do something because we think someone else does it better, or we "should" do it better?

When we teach a Zentangle class, we always remind people to focus on what they are doing and not to compare it with others. We encourage each person to appreciate and enjoy putting pen to paper and to focus on each individual stroke without worrying about how the final result will appear.

With Zentangle, there's no need to allow "better" (or even worse, "perfection") to hold you back from the "good" of enjoying putting pen to paper . . . one stroke at a time.

We are ever so grateful that we have never seen a perfect Zentangle!


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20 comments:

Sandhya said...

I really like the quote..."Better is the enemy of good"..anything we do, there is always a scoop to do better......but unless we do, we won't know what "better" could be...
Thank you for sharing it...

Jan Boyd said...

I am always happy to be reminded of this quotation -- and to discover that the true translation is "better", rather than "perfect" makes it even more apt. Striving every day for the best I can do is what I should expect of myself. And yes, creating the "perfect" something would be stultifying -- would you then just stop? What a sad day that would be!

Marie aka Grams said...

Thanks for the timely reminder. We need to hear that about every six months, don't we?

Darkskye said...

A wonderful story, wonderful post, and a quote that does need to be repeated now and again. This is something I've been learning. :) Thank you :) And may I add to it -- don't be afraid to share 'good', even if it's not 'better' or 'perfect'. Just because it's not 'perfect' doesn't mean someone else won't like it. I've shared several pieces that I only thought were okay, but they've proven to be others' favorites. You never know what someone else will get out of your pieces, be it a smile, a bit of inspiration, or some profound realization.

JoyceT said...

Was it Emerson who wrote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds..."?

Enthusiastic Artist said...

True dat.
Thanks!
--Margaret

i am the diva said...

i love this post so much!

Jane Monk said...

I know my search for something "better" in my own art has often left me not creating anything. I have also found that saturation of other artists work in my field of vision (ie - the internet) creates an overwhelming urge in me to stop. Sometimes it is good just to create and appreciate the art that you do - a bit like a zentangle really! Thank you for the post - very thought provoking.
Jane x

Kathy C said...

Great post! The fear of not being perfect can lead to such inertia.

I like this quote from Hannah Arendt, the German-American philosopher and political scientist:
"In order to go on living one must try to escape the death involved in perfectionism."

Shelly Beauch said...

In Nelson Mandela's book he wrote "tension is the enemy of serenity". Perhaps striving for perfection just brings on more tension. Thanks!

Lois Heinani Stokes said...

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That's how the light gets in.
~Leonard Cohen

Zentangle said...

WOW, Lois, that was the verse in our Christmas card last year (or the year before...) love it. m

coppercountrycrochet said...

A very nice reminder (which I need often!) of just what Zentangle is all about and one of the reasons I love it. Cari

Heather Victoria Held said...

Very thought provoking Rick and Maria. I think it helps to emphasize exactly what Zentangles have done for individuals. You have presented us with something that breaks down those thought patterns and barriers of creating something that is absolutely perfect. I think there are generations of art students who have been thwarted in their endeavours by instructors who expected perfection.
Thanks so much for the gift that you have given so many of us!
xo,
Heather

Melissa Hoopes said...

Keep rambling please—this is something I need to hear often ;)

Ginny said...

Re comparing what you've put on your tile to others' -

If you had been doing a meditation or yoga with a group of people, would you turn to others and say,
"Gee, I think you were more relaxed that I was. You had a deeper meditation than mine."

Of course you wouldn't - you can't compare it.

Granbeads said...

Your Ramblings post stopped me dead in my tracks. My two tangler friends and I have discussed perfectionism 'ad nauseum'. There is so much wisdom in your article that I have printed it out to paste into one of my Moleskin journals. (There are lots of words, wisdom, and prayers in those journals intermingled with zentangles.) I'm working on an 11" x 14" piece to be entered into a local art show tomorrow, and moving right along with one stroke at a time. I don't have time to start again, so if it is pleasing over all, then I'll be done! To heck with perfection! Thanks so much for your very wise post.....

Tinkered Art said...

So true - and sometimes in the moment so hard to remember to practice. Thanks for the reminder.

When teaching there is always an opportunity to address this - usually at the point when you hear a student groan when a stroke goes awry. A bit of humor helps - I'll often ask them to tell me about the last new thing they tried that they did perfectly on the first attempt! That almost always brings a knowing smile.

Rhea said...

If that post didn't just describe me to a "T" ! I've always considered myself a procrastinator - but really it's just fear that I won't do something "good enough" or I won't like it when it's done - whether it's decorating my house or beginning a pen & ink project. Thank you for putting me into perspective for myself!

Trece said...

Actually, I believe the quote actually translates "The BEST is the enemy of the good". It has to do with the superlative adjective. At the least, it doesn't mean perfect.