There are so many people out there looking for Prince Charming, for the right selectee, for the best writing sample, for the best me. Perfection is a goal that we all strive for. We might get close to it, but it is unattainable.
So, why waste so much time and resources looking for something that is elusive? Because we delude ourselves that we ourselves are perfect. Hubris is at play with this mindset.
Let me ask you how many times you have turned in a writing assignment at school or at work, and got it back with a zillion corrections – some grammatically correct, while others mere stylistic preferences. And when you made the requested corrections, how many times did you get the original draft with more corrections? And when you made these, you got your draft back with the language that you used in your original draft. There is insecurity and a low self-esteem by those practicing this behavior. You’ve heard of the popular saying of “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” And, yet, this exercise in futility goes on every day in the federal bureaucracy – all to the detriment of excellence, and the demoralization of employees.
And how many times have you been at job interviews where you answered every question asked, submitted a stellar application package, dressed to impress, and only got turned down without an offer? This scenario should resonate heavily with minority and women applicants. Isn’t it true that selecting officials have to take a leap of faith when selecting an applicant for a vacant job – after they reviewed the application package and conducted a 45-minute job interview? Often, this ideal candidate looks very much like the selecting official, and he/she is the one who gets the job offer. And, often, this ideal candidate turns out not to be the best candidate. And the minority candidate never received the promotion because the selecting official wrongfully thought that speaking with an accent was the equivalent of thinking with an accent. And the female applicant was kept down because to many selecting officials wearing a skirt meant not being cerebral and being too emotional.
Looking back when I was in the federal workforce, there was a deathly virus around that propelled many employees to seek self-fulfillment and happiness by securing a Senior Executive Service (SES) position. There was no consideration given to one’s qualifications, to the potential disruption of quality of life, to the well-being of family members. There are many examples of many unqualified applicants who slept themselves to the top and blocked the promotion of many with the best qualifications. To them, an SES position equaled ultimate success which had to be secured “by all means necessary.” But this ultimate success was self-centered and led many to broken marriages, addictions, and even suicides.
These selfish and delusional employees would have benefited greatly by the advice offered by that the mid-19th century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” The magic formula is to find a balance. Indeed, a balance between your professional life and the difference that you can make in others’ lives or your own life by remedying those parts of yourself that need improvement. A myopic sense of your self-worth ignores the key existential question that all of us will ask ourselves at one time or another – What is the purpose for my being here? Why me, and not someone more talented than I am? What is my contribution to life?
These selfish and delusional employees don’t realize that what really matters is not what they expect from life, but rather what life expects from them. The challenge becomes what they do and how they react to the growth-opportunities that life throws at their feet.
And how many times have you or one of your friends looked for a Prince Charming or a Dulcinea? And, here, a quote by American singer and actress Cher is on point “When you stop trying to find the right man and start becoming the right woman, the right man will find his way to you.” And, some go on and marry that someone whom they think is the embodiment of perfection, only to be disillusioned. And their remedy for the error is to try change the person to mirror the ideal mate. This arrogance leads to a disastrous end – as adults are incapable of making major changes to their personalities.
So often, you find individuals with wonderful significant others who emphasize the 10% that they don’t like while ignoring the 90% that is great. Who in his/her right mind makes it a point to find the ideal person that he/she had in mind?!!! They don’t make such persons! While I’m the first one to say that no one should ignore our standards when looking for a partner, I think it is realistic to lower our demands. For example, our partner may be a wonderful and caring parent but not a good handyman. Or, he/she may be lots of fun to have around, but you can’t stomach being around his/her family. What to do to restore the balance? If he’s not a handyman, there are plenty of contractors to do the work for you. If you can’t stomach his family, limit the times that you get together. If his family is out-of-state, stay in a hotel when attending reunions.
In all the above examples, the solution is for everyone to acquire a bit of humility by accepting the fact that no one is perfect. The sooner that they come to this realization, the sooner that they will enjoy what a wonderful world this could be.
I leave you with a wonderful poem by Nobel Prize–winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The poem addresses the need for everyone to take responsibility for his/her mistakes, and do something to improve himself/herself. Rather than blame everyone and everything for their imperfections, the road to recovery is to take ownership of one’s flaws. This is a much healthier process than trying to look for Mr. or Ms. Perfect.
Don’t blame anyone,
never complain of anyone or anything
Because basically you have made
of your life what you wanted.
Accept the difficulties of edifying yourself
And the worth of starting to correct your character.
The triumph of the true man
arises from the ashes of his mistakes.
Never complain of your loneliness or your luck.
Face it with courage and accept it.
Somehow, they are the result of your acts and
It shows that you’ll always win.
Don’t feel frustrated by your own failures,
And don’t unload them to someone else.
Accept yourself now
or you’ll go on justifying yourself like a child.
Remember that any time is good to start
And that no time is so good to give up.
Don’t forget that the cause
of your present is your past,
As the cause of your future
will be your present.
Learn from the brave, from the strong,
From who doesn’t accept situations
From who will live in spite of everything.
Think less of your problems
and more of your work.
Learn to arise from your pain,
And to be greater than
the greatest of your obstacles.
Look at the mirror of yourself
and you’ll be free and strong
And you’ll stop being
a puppet of circumstances.
And, here is the Spanish version:
NO CULPES A NADIE
No culpes a nadie, nunca te quejes de nada ni de nadie porque fundamentalmente Tu has hecho tu vida.
Acepta la responsabilidad de edificarte a ti mismo y el valor de acusarte en el fracaso para volver a empezar, corrigiéndote.
El triunfo del verdadero hombre surge de las cenizas del error. Nunca te quejes del ambiente o de los que te rodean, hay quienes en tu mismo ambiente supieron vencer, las circunstancias son buenas o malas según la voluntad o fortaleza de tu corazón.
No te quejes de tu pobreza, de tu soledad o de tu suerte, enfrenta con valor y acepta que de una u otra manera son el resultado de tus actos y la prueba que has de ganar.
No te amargues con tu propio fracaso ni se lo cargues a otro, acéptate ahora o seguirás justificándote como un niño, recuerda que cualquier momento es bueno para comenzar y que ninguno es tan terrible para claudicar.
Deja ya de engañarte, eres la causa de ti mismo, de tu necesidad, de tu fracaso.
Si Tú has sido el ignorante, el irresponsable, Tú únicamente Tú, nadie pudo haberlo sido por ti.
No olvides que la causa de tu presente es tu pasado, como la causa de tu futuro es tu presente.
Aprende de los fuertes, de los audaces, imita a los violentos, a los enérgicos, a los vencedores, a quienes no aceptan situaciones, a quienes vencieron a pesar de todo.
Piensa menos en tus problemas y mas en tu trabajo y tus problemas sin alimento morirán Aprende a nacer del dolor y a ser mas grande, que es el mas grande de los obstáculos.
Mírate en el espejo de ti mismo. Comienza a ser sincero contigo mismo reconociéndote por tu valor, por tu voluntad y por tu debilidad para justificarte.
Recuerda que dentro de ti hay una fuerza que todo puede hacerlo, reconociéndote a ti mismo, mas libre y fuerte, y dejaras de ser un títere de las circunstancias, porque Tu mismo eres el destino y nadie puede sustituirte en la construcción de tu destino.
Levántate y mira por las montañas y respira la luz del amanecer. Tu eres parte de la fuerza de la vida. Nunca pienses en la suerte, porque la suerte es el pretexto de los fracasados.