You know how job interviewers sometimes ask trick questions? Like:
“What is your biggest weakness?”
It’s a ridiculous question. Nobody would reveal their actual greatest weakness in a job interview. “Gee, well, since you’re asking, I tend to be most productive when my hands are cupping my balls,” or, “I always steal compulsively from my employer’s stationery cabinet,” or, “Well, I’ve never told anyone this, but I watch a lot of porn. Like — a lot of it. Generally featuring people doing it with animals.”
If faced with such a question, anyone with half a brain will take a positive trait and simply disguise it as a weakness. Once, while interviewing for a graphic design job, I whipped out my favorite ‘weakness,’ which I knew was really a strength:
“I’m a perfectionist,” I beamed.
“Oh?” said the interviewer, glaring over his stylish graphic designer spectacles. “How so?”
“Well,” I said, “I tend to sweat the small stuff. Details are my obsession. I won’t let a job go to print unless I’m 100% certain it is perfect. I will slave over every job, big and small, until it sparkles like drag queen glitter, until it glistens like the golden hairs on Adonis’ chest, until it spangles like the —“
“Stop talking. You’re hired.”
The thing is, I didn’t have to lie one bit — I am a perfectionist, I do toil over every task. Only thing is: it really is a big weakness.
What’s so bad about being a perfectionist?
While it may be a coveted asset in a graphic designer, it kinda sucks horse balls in most other areas of my life. Cleaning the house, buying a new pair of shoes, cooking dinner —everything I endeavor ends up in misery if the task is not done to perfection. My biggest enemy — me — comes down like a sack-o-bricks. For example:
- If I spend money on clothes I don’t wear: Why are you wasting money — tsk, tsk!
- If I miss a spot while cleaning: Are you lazy? Or just plain stupid?
- If a cooking endeavor ends up tasting like braised slurry with dung beetle au jus: You’re a tragic failure! Back away from the kitchen! (If you’re wondering, braised slurry with dung beetle au jus is best paired with a shiraz, like: a whole bottle.)
So, I spare myself from myself by eating out, steering clear of shopping, and avoiding housework.
Being a perfectionist is
bad horrible frustrating debilitating.
I’ve spent the last three years writing a book. Yes, you read correctly: I said three years. I’ve been tapping at my keyboard for a bloody long time. You see, a book contains a lot of words. And, being a perfectionist, I’m a girl who can spend the meaty part of a week editing a single paragraph.
Writing a book is not like graphic design. When I’m designing logos, brochures and websites, I have a boss or a client who says either, “Not quite right,” or “Yes, perfect.” I thrive on this dynamic. With parameters set by the client, I can pump out designs until I hit the sweet spot.
With writing, there’s nobody to tell me Great! or Horrible! apart from my own mind, which cannot be trusted because it tends to careen dangerously between ‘This is absolutely brilliant!’ and ‘This is utter crap!’ (often within the same sixty seconds).
So, now, I’m starting to wish that my weakness was porn or stationery kleptomania. If stealing from the stationery cabinet was my shortcoming, I’d not only have a lot of free Post-it notes and staplers to share with you, I’d also have a purchasable book to offer you, my dear reader.
I sailed the Pacific with a man I met in a bar named Ivan. Ivan is possibly the most accident-prone individual I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He sunk our dinghy, lost our dinghy and ran our dinghy into a coral head at full speed. He was stung by an array of sea life, he nearly cut his thumb off while opening a coconut with a machete, he was pummeled in the lips by a tree branch, and he once shot an islander with a spear gun (by mistake). But wait — there’s more! …
(Yes, it was an exhilarating two years at sea.)
I now have the wisdom to know that Ivan is not accident-prone, he’s action-prone. His mistakes are a byproduct of DOING STUFF. While I was busy reading How To books, Ivan was jumping in and learning through trial and error (granted, a lot of errors, but still …). Ivan didn’t wait to learn everything about sailing and mechanics before he embarked on his dream voyage across the Pacific. He just did it. And his dream was realized.
Today, I came across this photo online:
Oops! Wrong photo.
I mean this one:
We tend to scorn ourselves and others for getting it wrong, but a grandiose mistake should be punctuated by popping a champagne bottle. Making a big mistake means that you’ve attempted a major pursuit and that deserves a celebration.
It’s inaction that deserves scorn.
So cheers to taking risks and making mistakes. Cheers to shooting islanders with spear guns. Cheers to releasing the tight grip on my manuscript and for trying to give up the dizzying tail-chase of ‘perfect.’ Cheers to all the fuckups reading this. Cheers to swearing like a sailor because I am a sailor. A tragically bad sailor, true, but still a sailor.
PS: I’m concerned that I went to far with my animal porn joke. If so, cheers to taking risks and making mistakes! Hello? Anyone? Are you there?
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