Thursday, March 01, 2007

learning to do things badly

Lately I've had to remind myself, again, about something I've spent years working on...

Learning to do things badly.

This has, and continues to be, a huge and important challenge for me, as I have a tendency to be perfectionistic... (is that how you spell perfectionistic?)... and a friend once confronted me about this tendency and suggested that, perhaps, what I'm dealing with is good-old-fashioned "pride"... and that, for my own health and the health of those around me, perhaps I need to learn to do things badly...

A vital lesson for me, and one toward which (I'm proud to say) I have been making tremendous strides... (no, wait...)

In any case, a current example is that it's March 1, and I'm still working on my "February" delivery of songs to my members... I need to do some more recording, but the challenge today will be to convince the snowmobilers and the wind to keep the noise down just a bit...

On a very different note, last week I had the joy and privilege of being in the room when my brother defended his PhD thesis (on "Heard and Overheard Prayer" in the Psalms - great stuff - hopefully I'll blog more about it sometime), and then heard the long-anticipated words: "Congratulations, Derek, you have passed the examination, with minor revisions..."

What a great day, and what an achievement! Congratulations, Derek!

Although... I don't know... it seems to me like you could still learn a few things about "doing things badly"... trust me, I'm an expert... with lots of experience...

(GRIN)

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4 Comments:

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Charleen Jongejan Harder said...

Ah yes,

A vital lesson indeed. Learning to strive for less than an A; learning to say 'when' - and get on with other priorities. Ah, a tough lesson indeed.

A friend has a story of her seminary days - she and a peer challenged each other to get a 'B' - and each would take the other out if they succeeded in so lowering their standards. They graduated without taking each other out for dinner. They couldn't let go of the 'A'.

I understand, my friend, I understand. What helps me most is Sabbath.

 
At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Jocey said...

I don't understand... why would you strive for mediocrity? Why would you lower your standards for what is good and just on any level? Why would you try to do less than your very best? Sorry, but in this age of mass deficiency and lethargy toward what is right, whether for ourselves, our children, our community, or the world, I do not believe it is the time to let go of our goals and objectives.

Why accept anything less, when the best is possible? We are surrounded by carelessness, inadequacy and inefficiency every day, everywhere, and at all levels, from our education system, to the environment, and all the way to the government, who certainly does not believe in perfectionism of any kind.

Although I agree that sometimes we personally have to accept our limitations and set our priorities, and know when to let go of the "small stuff", I'm sorry, but as I tell my children often, if you cannot attain perfection, at least strive for excellence in everything you do.

I will continue to do the best I can in everything I do… as I know, you will too, Bryan. You cannot and will not accept anything less… Am I wrong? :-)

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Bryan Moyer Suderman said...

Thanks, Charleen and Jocey, for these comments, both of which, it seems to me, are wise and true...

You're right, Jocey, that I do strive to do "the best I can..." I certainly don't "strive for mediocrity" in spite of my "learning to do things badly"...

But...

What happens when "striving for excellence" or "to do the best I can" in one area of my life is in tension with "doing my best" in other areas...? For example, when striving to "do my best" in my work (and, in my work, there's ALWAYS the sense that it could be done better... or more of it...) makes it impossible to "do my best" as a husband or as a parent...

Or, to use another example, what does "striving for excellence" mean when it comes to writing songs? I have some friends who are very gifted but who write very little, and share what they write even less, for a variety of reasons... one of which is that they never want to "release" anything out there unless they are absolutely convinced that it's the "best" it can be... And, quite understandably and predictably, that doesn't happen very often... (for many of us, almost never)...

After taking the initial "plunge" of starting to share my stuff publicly, and intending my stuff to be used by others, I have tended to adopt the opposite approach - I try to write lots, and send it out there, and see what happens... knowing full well that some are "better" than others... and that some that I might consider my "best" may not seem that way to others, and someone else might really connect with something that I'm not very satisfied with...

At another level, how can I know what is "good" or even "useful" (not to mention "excellent" or "my best") unless I "release" it and let it go and see what happens...?

Is that "lowering my standards"...?

I don't think so.

I recently read a biography of Ray Bradbury, who wrote a short story a week from his early twenties until well into his seventies if not beyond. Knowing full well that not every story was (or could be) his "best" - and not every story needs to be "released" to the public either - but that part of becoming "the best he could be" as a writer was to WRITE... every week...

That, I think, is more like the kind of "excellence" that I would like to strive for. While also striving for "excellence" in my family life, my community relationships, my relationship with God...

I don't really feel like I've expressed myself quite the way I want to, but I've gotta go... should I delete this and start over (maybe) some other time? Or should I post it and move on...?

What do you think?

 
At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Jocey said...

Hi Bryan,

We have just returned from our trek in the sun for some much needed R & R. I'm glad your tour is going well.

As for excellence, you bring up some very important, valid and interesting points. Of course, I still believe we should strive for excellence, but we also have to recognize ou limitations, strengths and weaknesses... and balance it all. We can't do everything... we choose what's important to us, our family and community. Sometimes, you have to set limits... but you still have to try to do your best. If something is worth doing, do it well. I guess in the end it comes to setting priorities...

Keep singing... Have a great tour! Stay safe.
:-)

 

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