Redefined Perfectionism

I am a Christian.

But before I go on, let me tell you that this write-up is not about religion. This is about some noteworthy lessons I learned from my pursuit of following Christ and adhering to His teachings. As a Christian, I have time and time again fall short of the standard that Christ has set; of the standard that is perfection. But these shortcomings will not stop a true Christian from being a Christian. We do not sit in despair of our sins and failures, but instead we repent and strive hard to be better each and every day. We know that it isn’t possible for a sinner like us to become like Christ, but it does not stop us from trying anyway. It does not stop us from following His examples and teachings, just to be like Him in the few points where we could imitate Him.
This for me is what adhering to perfection is like. We will never be perfect in this imperfect world. Our biases and perception will hinder us at becoming perfect. But it should not stop us from doing our best. Otherwise, it would only make us lenient in the quality of the things that we do. Worse, it will give us an excuse for making a mistake or accepting a work that is good enough, or being too afraid because we are most likely to fail anyway.

I have learned that lesson the hard way when I was just about 2 years in Kyocera, and was just starting to take a leadership role in a project. I have made a small mistake during the final release that placed the application’s release indefinitely on-hold. It was a small mistake in my opinion, but the impact of it was great in the client’s perspective. It was just a simple mistake that could have been prevented should I have paid more attention to what I was doing. It was my first leadership role, and our project has not been released! It was quite a hard blow to the shaky confidence that I was still starting to build back then.

It is that experience that led me to seriously pay more attention, especially to testing. I have made it a personal goal to always top in the bug registration count even though I am not a software tester. Because I know that testing the application is one way of perfecting it, at a given state.

I could not forget that experience, but I know that I needed it. I needed to fail because ultimately, it became my stepping stone towards changing my attitude towards work, so that I’ll be transformed from careless to careful, from unfocused to meticulous.

But at some point, that experience also rendered me afraid to make mistakes again. And the idea of failing again rendered me unable to take initiative for a while. You see, in my work, there are tasks that haven’t been done before. Many MFP operations that when executed incorrectly, could get the MFP broken.

And I was thinking to myself, “Will the failure really ruin me?” I wouldn’t know. But the fear of it was starting to, because I couldn’t finish my tasks since there were operations that I was too afraid to execute.

To err is human, they say. But as humans, we have a natural ability to deal with failure. But the fear of it, somehow sometimes, makes us settle for lower acceptance level, thereby disabling us to reach our full potential. Sometimes perfection just gets too difficult or too painful or too stressful, that we settle for the norm “good enough” and the results that come with it.

That is where the greatest danger that Michaelangelo said lies.

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but it’s too low and we reach it.”

-Michaelangelo

Adhering to perfection therefore is not just about not making mistakes, but completing and polishing our works to the best and highest level that it can be. However, perfectionism has such a negative connotation to most of us. So I’ve learned to redefine it through the right driving force of why we do things. As with many things, what drives us in what we do, the “why” of what we do would determine the quality of how we do it.

As a Christian, adhering to perfection (that is, being Christ-like) is not just about not committing sins, it’s about love. Love for the poor, love for your work or mission, love for your neighbor, love for God. And it is that love that will enable us to do our mission completely and excellently. Because our God and the mission that he entrusts us deserve nothing less than perfection.

At work likewise, perfect is the result of doing something that we love. Because the work that we love deserves nothing less than perfection too.

Lastly, perfectionism is an attitude developed from small things and applied to a larger job. Trying our best is not good enough. Seeking perfection is wondering what do I have to do to get better, or how do I get more polished results. Adhering to perfection means not submitting a work that would render you thinking about how you weren’t able to confirm this or that, and stress over it because it may have errors. It means submitting a work which you could proudly be confident about because you know for yourself that you have exhausted all the possibilities thinking how you can trap and correct its errors for it to be polished in the highest level that it can be.

For the record, I have broken many MFP’s, and 1 of them is broke permanently. But I have learned many more ways to troubleshoot them. I am stating this to say that I am not perfect, but adhering to. And this is a lifelong pursuit that I’m committing myself to, not just professionally, but personally.

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