What must Da Vinci think? Did he ever reach a point in his life as a painter and think “Eh, this Mona Lisa….not so much.” Did Edmund Hilary get to the top of Everest and say “Oh, looks like we took the long way around.” Many times you will hear of actors that cannot watch themselves perform. I get it. They might see themselves in a dramatic scene but know that they were thinking about the vegetable lasagna for lunch. These examples may seem to have nothing in common but stay with me for a second longer (or at least two paragraphs).
Great artist and architects or explores will have an internal voice that tells them that what they are doing is not good enough. This has to be the case, otherwise they would not become great. I wrote earlier about the tenacity of successful people and how they are often perceived as being lucky. I also believe that success (however you define it) is only achievable if you can recognize what it isn’t.
My first course in university was Biology 101. Professor Amspoker said something that struck me. “You can not necessarily define what something is, but rather what it isn’t!” Now this was in the context of taxonomy but I took that idea and ran it through the mill of all of my courses and really, life in general.
So, having freedom of thought, as we do, I connected the notion of perfection and that which is definable. “You cannot define perfection but you can only define what it isn’t.” Add a jigger of imagination and it is not hard to think that Da Vinci surely did not finish any of his art or inventions and place his hands in the air and state “Perfecto!” No, I think he looked at his work and saw the small brush stroke that was out-of-place. It would bug him every time he looked at his work. Over and over again he would see that brush stroke that came about when he had one extra espresso that morning.
People would praise him for his genius and pay him well, but deep down he would know that there was a brush stroke out-of-place. He would take the praise graciously (one would hope) knowing that the public had not picked up on his mistake. He would like to do it over again and this time he would get it right.
As we go through our individual journeys and each one of us creates something should we not think of perfection if we are to achieve any happiness? I have a third draft of a manuscript I wrote in front of me now and I truly am thinking about starting over. “Jeez, that would be some work.” But I think that I want to be able to look at it with a level of respect for myself and believe that it is as perfect as I could make it.
I highlight it on my desktop and start to move it across my screen to the waste basket for deletion. Like the hand of God stopping Abraham from sacrificing his son, I stop and get pummeled by an idea I had not thought of before this time.
The perfection is in the process and not the final product. There is no such thing as perfection but only perfecting. Each bad brush stroke we leave behind is a marker. It will show us how much closer we are getting to perfection. I can only conclude that we should celebrate these out-of-place brush strokes and know that next time “only one espresso please.”