What Wondrous Webs We Weave - The Perfection Trap

Ned Hamson - 2003

The Perfection Trap may well be the most ingenious ever thought of or dreamt of by we humans. For unlike, the webs of spiders which are designed to trap and immobilize, the human's perfection trap is designed to let you get trapped over and over and over again - at home, at work, with friends - in almost any situation.

At home or with friends - You have heard or perhaps even experienced the personal lament: "There is nothing I can do that pleases (him or her). I try to be perfect but there is always something not perfect!" Or as I heard recently: "I do not know what to do anymore. I feel that everything I do has to be perfect, or I have failed. I am even afraid to go home to visit for fear I cannot face them because I know that I am not perfect." The pain from failing or fear of failing to be perfect is real and at times nearly unbearable - I know because, well... need I say anymore. None of us are completely immune from the Perfection Trap, are we?

The Perfection Trap at work - The Perfection Trap or Exactness Trap at work causes no end of problems for people and for the products and services that organizations produce. The belief that there can be zero defects or zero variation in anything causes more misfortune in business and government than perhaps any other belief or practice.

Some even think the objective of quality control or modern management is to assure that everything runs exactly as planned - 100% of the time. The Perfection Trap is, you see related to the Technology Myth that a machines are somehow superior or more dependable because they are not subject to the messy kind of errors caused by soft, emotional human beings who can and do require sleep, respect, an occasional pat on the back or backside.

The greatest experts of statistical quality control here in India and from across the globe will all agree with me. The belief or desire for static perfection is a huge error. Variation over time and under different conditions is not only to be expected and planned for, its absence may well be an indication that something is terribly wrong. Not too long ago, health researchers finally figured out that no variation in the rhythm of heartbeats indicated something was wrong and not that health was good. Even blood pressure, which we are all conscious of as an important indicator of health, should vary over the day. No variation, or no imperfection is now seen as a sign of ill health.

In truth, diversity or variation on a grand or global scale is the source of vigorous and adaptable life. Lack of diversity or variation in nature is a sure sign that an ecosystem is dying.

There are many in science and industry who, seduced by the machine or technology perfection myth/hope, attempt to "correct" nature's intolerance for sameness. When their companies are vigorously challenged by upstarts who offer the public choice, variation and entirely new product and services, they always seem surprised or too often try (and succeed) to use their money and position to purchase political power to stop or slow down "the next new thing."

If the perfectionists were right or did manage to get their way, ask yourself whether you would be satisfied with one choice and one choice only in everything you need to survive and enjoy life?

The latest rage or fad in "modern" science to developing "perfect" trees, live stock and I suppose grains and then cloning them in preparation for mass production, or industrialized farming. And now to human cloning - selecting the perfect combination of genes and/or DNA and then replicating them, or I should say -- it.

Two questions:

1. Would you want to live in a world made up of millions of copies of the same 2 or 4 perfect people?

2. What is nature's response to lack of diversity in an environment?

So this is perhaps a first ray of sunshine to dispel the darkness cast over many of us by the drive for perfection. Life needs variation. Life and good health depend on variation for survival.

Now what about the feeling that to please someone or yourself, we must be perfect or we have failed. I could quote many famous thinkers and successful people here to try and convince you that perfection is not the goal and, in truth, does not actually please anyone but I don't think that would convince you. Try being a different type of perfectionist, then. Be a perfectionist as a Thomas Edison type learner.

Edison is known as one of the world's leading inventors of the last century, so he is not a bad model, is he? His primary technique for inventing the electric light bulb - do you know it? He and his assistants tried dozens of different types of fiber to serve as the element that would heat up, then glow and give light for a reasonable amount of time. Each FAILURE was a step forward toward success. Success, learning and invention is failure or error driven, not perfection driven.

If you are a perfect Edison type learner, then each time you do not achieve perfection, the errors or imperfections you observe can serve as the basis for improvement and eventual success.

Take me back to the index page, Ned!
Copyright Ned Hamson, 2005