Discovering Perfect

This is something I keep coming back to again and again. I run into it in my own pursuits, my peers and the precious people who hit me up.

I’ve said it time and time again:

There is good. There is great. There is beautiful. Yes. But forget about perfect. It doesn’t exist. Striving for it will drain you and ultimately stall your progress.

It’s an illusion, a false mindset.

This is by no means my idea – or even a new idea. Voltaire, for example, said it in 1770 in his poem “La Bégueule”:

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

We see false perfection everywhere. We grow up believing it and, subconsciously, live our lives contributing to the problem.

We want to create perfect things. We want to look perfect. We want to wait for the perfect moment to do something. We look for perfect opportunities.

But life just doesn’t work like that.

Perfectionism turns us into control freaks and we stop moving forward. Our imagination becomes stale and we lose inspiration.

Becoming good at something is all about the journey and embracing what unexpected things it brings. Ben Settle, a very succesful copywriter and one of the most straight up guys on the internet, has his own way of looking at it:

Money is attracted to speed.

So true.

How do we get rid of this false mindset then? Well, just as we grew into it, we must grow out. It takes time and conscious effort.

Rather than trying to create perfect music, focus on becoming better at the act of creating music.

Focus on the big picture.

Focus on your workflow.

Bring more meaning to things.

Finish more of what you start.

Utilize what you already possess.

Be good enough.

Learn to build momentum, and learn to let go.

Get your music out there and fight perfectionism.

Hold on…  What am I even talking about?

What is perfect?

What if it is only our modern perception of the term “perfect” that is skewed? What if perfect exists after all?

We saw what Voltaire thought back in 1770. Let’s push further back in time.

Aristotle talks about the definitions of “perfect” in his book “Delta” (this may not be the exact translation/interpretation, but it really got me):

  1. Perfect = Which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts.
  2. Perfect = Which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better.
  3. Perfect = Which has attained its purpose.

Which has attained its purpose.

Just think about that for a moment. What a beautiful thought!

If attaining a purpose is your new perfect… Everything suddenly seems simple.

Finding more meaning in things becomes your path to growth and improvement.

Find meaning in life, find meaning in your music. Oh, and do not just find meaning. Actively create it. Engineer purpose into everything you do (including every little thing in your music). Purpose will light up the path as you journey onwards into the fascinating unexpected.

Perfect.

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  • As I consider myself perfectionist It’s really hard for other people to satisfy me. However you manage to do this very well with this kind of mindset articles!

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      Happy to hear that. Thanks for the comment.

  • A Person

    Wow! Your so much involved in philosophy, are you? Which is a good thing of course. But now I ask, what makes classical artists great? They are so much given honor for their pieces and are regarded highly as legendary, the masters of their own field. I would often associate them to perfect but what do you think would have been the thing that made them that way? Is it possible to still be classical in this modern outlook era?

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      It’s a great question. I don’t really feel very qualified to answer that but I’ll try to give my 2 c… I think it’s a bit wrong to compare artists we have today to the great classical artists as many things in the society and culture are very different now. Even the way art was perceived and the reasons behind making it were very different. It was very few people who had the privilege to try and become artists back then, and those who did have that dedicated their entires lives on their craft. They were just people like us though, and I think there are still many absurdly talented people like that now. But it’s probably impossible to achieve a status comparable to the great classical artists within the modern culture of abundance that we are experiencing now. The world has changed, culture and arts are perceived differently and broken down to small sub-genres and niches.

  • oliver rhodes

    “To require perfection is to invite paralysis. The pattern is predictable: as you see error in what you have done, you steer your work toward what you imagine you can do perfectly. You cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can do – away from risk and exploration, and possibly further from the work of your heart. You find reasons to procrastinate, since to not work is to not make mistakes.” – See more at: http://www.dailyartmuse.com/2008/02/08/six-quotes-from-art-fear/#sthash.X61r7khs.dpuf

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      Spot on Ollie! Hope you’re good. Will shoot you an email soon.

  • erkiu

    have thought about that a lot in the past. It took me some time to understand how the perfection thing really works. it might be a very helpful article for many people. great job as always! I am always glad to see your articles on my email

    • Ilpo Kärkkäinen

      Thanks. Yeah, it is not easy for sure and the learning never stops.

  • David Goodman

    Great read I like the idea that mistakes and imperfection should be allowed and embraced. For me mistakes are “god leaks” when i say god I just mean letting chance chaos and the unexpected into the creative process. Makes for a more interesting listening experience.

    • Absolutely David! A lot of it comes down to the way you work too. Some people are very meticulous, where as for me I am always trying to find workflows that allow random accidents to happen.

  • Henry

    Great read, you helped with my writer’s block. Thanks!