Pragmatism Over Perfection

October 04, 2012

I used to be a perfectionist.

When I did anything that fell short of my unwavering, unattainable “standards,” I would push and stress until I reached the very end of what I could accomplish, often because of exhaustion or external factors, not satisfaction.

That is a very difficult way to live.

One thing I learned in art class is that I always have a point where I go too far, and begin to ruin a project. It is an important, almost invisible line that you cross when your efforts begin hurting the result instead of improving. I feel the same concept applies to my other pursuits as well. “Perfection” is a burn of time and emotion, for usually little to no gain.

Over time, I have learned the value of pragmatism.

Building a brick building is a matter of laying one brick at a time. Pragmatism insists that every brick you lay (within certain guidelines) brings you closer to completion. If the going gets tough, it is legitimate (and acceptable) to pause that part and move to another part of the building where you may be able to lay bricks at a steady pace again. Finding the weak point, then driving it through. This can be rewarding, effective and productive, even if it seems like you have a short attention span.

Hammer, screwdriver and wrench: simple tools that do their jobs effectively. It is alright to have more than one tool for different purposes. Although Swiss army knives “are cool,” a full-size (and cheap) knife or screwdriver will likely be more effective if you can spare the space.

If a client asks for “help across a river,” they may not need a bridge. Perhaps it is a small stream, where they just need a hand while they jump over? Perhaps it is wider… is there a board available?

An engineer might mistakenly build a bridge that supports a tank. Does your client own a tank? If they did, could it drive over the river without a bridge? (Tanks do that sort of thing). Grabbing a 2’ x 4’ and laying it across is possibly a fast, simple and legitimate answer to the problem.

If your project or client demands a living room, do not build a house. Leave the “door open” to build a house, but do not spend time architecting something your client might never require. If your client will always leave their lights on, build them a light switch anyway. If they will never move their furniture, don’t nail it down. People do change their minds. Do not bring grief when they decide they want to turn the light off or rearrange the couch.

Music is a sound. Do not fall victim to the temptation that “doing things that are hard” makes your music better. It is all about how it sounds. Using “cheater” chords may actually sound better than the “real” chords. Sheet music is not required for most songs. Music is something that you hear, it is ultimately not something written on paper.

Games are played. Art is seen. Do not allow “rules” to trap you and keep you from achieving great results. Bear in mind that good (and pragmatic) principle can lead you there as an an open-handed balance between “standards” and experience.

Keep moving forward.


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Written by Joshua Granick. Lover of all things cute and quirky. Writer, speaker and empathetic problem solver.

©2022 Joshua Granick. All rights reserved.