Working for perfection

Sometimes I drive myself crazy in search of perfection. I do not mean that I’m searching to be perfect but I find myself working hard to make sure that things in my life are perfect. An example of this is the project I just finished, a kitchen table and chairs. I started a project of making a kitchen table about a month ago. I began by cutting down one of the Cedar trees on my tree farm. Note-Texas Park Rangers advise me to cut down as many Cedar trees as possible. At first I did not understand why the Park Ranger would tell me to cut down such a beautiful tree. What I found out was that the Cedar tree consumes about three times as much water as any other tree. Since there has been a longtime drought in the area, the park rangers started advising people that Cedar trees should be reduced in numbers. I particularly like the color of the wood of the Cedar tree. It is a softwood tree that usually grows tall with one main tree trunk, much like a pine tree.

After I cut down a Cedar tree I cut it into several workable pieces. I was able to cut a 20 foot long four inches by 7 inch beam out of the tree. I also was able to use parts of the tree for the boards to be used in the kitchen table. As I started the project I thought that I was keeping the design very simple and that it would not take long for me to make the table. But during each phase of making the table I would get stressed by the fact that something did not go together as planned. After each phase I would look at my work and get a little depressed because things did not go perfectly. Usually at the end of the day I would look at the progress and find some sort of imperfection. Sometimes at the end of the day I would review the project and beat myself up mentally about what I did wrong. Most of the things that I did wrong could not be repaired; a good example of this was cutting a board only to find that there is a large crack revealed inside it which made it unusable. The biggest irritation on this project was when I poured some resin on top of the table so that the table would have a clear and smooth surface. Even though I researched via the Internet on how to pour resin onto a project, I did not do so well. I found out that resin is just like water and it will leak through any crack or opening and end up dripping down the wood and most the time on the floor. I worked hard to make sure that there were no bubbles or uneven surfaces. But as the resin dried it was obvious that I did not get rid of all the bubbles and that parts of the resin layer were uneven. This led me into a real tailspin and as I set with my wife one night trying to carry on a conversation I just kept staring at the floor. I just kept going back in my mind to the mistakes made on the table. I continue to work on the table surface in a vain effort to make it perfect. I finally came to the realization that – it is what it is. I was not going to put this table into any kind of competition nor was I trying to sell it. I just wanted to build a kitchen table for use in my house. As much as I kept telling myself that the project did not have to be perfect I would still get upset that it did not turn out perfect.

This brings me to my thought for today. Why do I and others get so stressed about not being perfect? I know that perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone has the same idea of what is perfect. I had to realize a long time ago that I certainly wasn’t a perfect fit for a basketball player, and too short. I tried to make up for this by hustling harder and faster than others. I wanted to be a perfect father. But what is a perfect father? Was it the image of a father that I watch on television? I wanted to be successful in my career by making it to chief of police. But that did not happen either, I was an average detective. All of these things help drive me to go as far as I could go. So why do I get so upset when I work on a project and it did not turn out to be perfect? I think it is because in the above-mentioned there were things which were out of my control. There were all kinds of variables that came into play that made me the person that I am. But I always felt that I was in total control when I started a project. This kitchen table was one of those projects that I thought would be a simple and straightforward project. Yet, each time something would go wrong or not the way I thought it should go I would get upset. There was no other person, place or thing that I could look at to make me feel any better about the project. I would go to bed at night thinking about the project and trying to come up with some sort of fix for the earlier days mistakes. Finally, after finishing the table my wife put a picture of the table on Facebook. Many people responded to the table with praise and positive comments. Some of my family members even called me to congratulate me on such a fine job. But for some reason, I could not take the praise and would quickly tell them about the many imperfections in the table. Why do I do that? It seems like I can only see the mistakes that I’ve made. I do that when I reflect upon my life, I seem to remember all the mistakes and negative times more than the successes and good times. After finishing a project I am quick to point out all my mistakes. But usually after some time I see past the mistakes and see only the project. I either forget about the frustrations of the mistakes or just cannot see them anymore.

Why is it so important that the project be perfect? Why do I remember more negative and bad times in my life and career rather than the good times? Why can’t I just let it be? I wish I could follow the advice of,” don’t worry be happy.” I did not mean that I’m not a happy person because I feel that I am at a good place in life. But I do seem to get so serious and obsessed about what I do that I forget that not everyone will see my mistakes or flaws. I am lucky that I have a wife and family to keep reminding me of the good things. They seem to not see the flaws and are always complementary of my efforts.

So why do I see perfection, I don’t know.

Pops

3 thoughts on “Working for perfection”

  1. I think we all want perfection, and we strive to achieve it, whether we do or not isn’t the point. It’s that we continue to do so…. Can you I amagine what this world would be like if we didn’t continue to do so???
    We have pride in who we are and that leads to perfection!

  2. I had this talk with a friend this week. She has a son who is 10 years old with autism is walking on his toes all the time, to the point the muscles are too tight to stretch and he will most likely need surgery to correct it so he can put his heal down. She did not want to have the surgery but wanted to let her son be as normal as possible because people always would point out to her how bad it was to let him walk on his toes and was asking my advice. The kid didn’t care that others pointed him out. I tried to tell her in the best words that I could to wait on the surgery, because at this point it would only change the perception of others and he would have a lengthy recovery. Who cares if he is not perfect, he is happy and there was no need to change him for right now. Sometimes chasing perfection for others can be just as hard on you as chasing perfection for yourself… at least thats my 2 cents

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