I often espouse a general philosophy in my life of pursuing a discipline of one sort or another. But it’s not to ever approach any level of perfection. You start, you go in knowing that as human beings we never can achieve perfection, and so I feel like mastery of any skill or art form really more involves becoming much better at covering your mistakes.
While I may not have necessarily been able to provide you with his name, I would have been able to tell you that Nick Offerman is “that guy” from Parks and Recreation. In addition to playing department director Ron Swanson on the NBC sitcom, Offerman has also appeared in such movies as The Founder and television programs like Fargo and Childrens Hospital.
And then you try to do even better next time.
It is through failure, rejection and criticism that the artist can emerge in his or her greatest form. The notion of the tortured artist, the one who suffers for his or her craft, is a very real one. Not all sad artists create great art, of course, nor do artists need to be sad to create great art. That’s a societal myth. But I digress.
No matter how much of a virtuoso a person becomes I feel like if they’re still in the mentality of a student pursuing their discipline, then they’ll never finish ripping out a Beethoven symphony or playing a game of basketball and say, “There, I’ve done it. That was the perfect rendition.” Instead, what keeps us living and what keeps me vitally engaged is a constant pursuit of betterment. So I gave up on perfect a long time ago, and now I’m just chasing halfway decent.
With any sort of creative or professional endeavor, we must recognize that the goal posts are constantly moving. What might be “good enough” today won’t be anywhere near “good enough” tomorrow. As a blogger, I will never get to a point where I think I’ve written the perfect blog post, one that cannot ever be improved. That’s impossible. But I can do better each time I sit down at the keyboard.
Accepting that you will never achieve perfection in your craft is not the same as accepting you are destined for mediocrity. Instead, it’s about embracing your flaws as part of what make you who you are as a unique individual, and then working to improve on your shortcomings. As Emily Haines of Metric once said, we must “realize that every human being is flawed, but through art they can be perfect.”
And through your art, you can be happy. Make mistakes. Even if Eric Clapton will never play one of your ukuleles.