How to Be Perfect

How to Be Perfect

"Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Do not step off the curb until you can walk all the way across the
street. From the curb you can study the pedestrians who are trapped
in the middle of the crazed and roaring traffic.

Be good.

Walk down different streets.


~ Ron Padgett

Failure Counts

The Cult of Done Manifesto

Done Manifesto

By Bre Pettis and Kio Stark

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you're done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more.

Make Good Art

Excellent advice. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Neil Gaiman's commencement address to the University of the Arts (2012):


I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work. 


I don't know that it's an issue for anybody but me, but it's true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it. Except as bitter experience. Usually I didn't wind up getting the money either. 

No Regrets

The things I did because I was excited and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down and I never regretted the time I spent on any of them. 

The Diminishing Returns of Being a Perfect Freelancer

You get work however you get work, but people keep working in a freelance world—)and more and more of today's world is freelance—)because the work is good, and because they're easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. 

People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. People will forgive the lateness of your work if it's good and they like you. And you don't have to be as good as everyone else if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you.

Somewhere Else

Dennis Palumbo from"Dennis Palumbo and Kelly Get Unblocked," Waking from the American Dream #33, September 15, 2011:

"There's no intrinsic meaning to anything. We just decide what something means. And as a result, there's this idea that if I just work hard enough, I can just bang out all the dents and defects in me and I'll be terrific. And when I'm terrific I'll be lovable and what I do will be successful. 

See, my view is exactly the opposite.

I think that because we see what successful people seem to look like and the lives they seem to have -- I mean that's why tabloids are so successful, that's why reality shows are successful -- people are looking at these lives and going, "Oh, man. If I ever lived there..."

One of the most powerful things about what I do for a living -- I've been in private practice for about twenty-four years now -- I have people in my practice who are so successful, they're the kind of people I used to envy. And I would think their lives must be perfect. Well, I know from personal experience their lives are not perfect and that they still struggle with their art and still struggle in terms of how good they are, how talented they are.

Let me put it this way. There is a sentence that I think will take years off your spiritual journey and save you thousands of dollars in therapy bills. I probably shouldn't say it.

And the sentence is simply this: Everybody thinks that the party's happening somewhere else and it isn't.

Right now, like it or not, this is your party. This is it." 

Dennis Palumbo was formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter) and is now a licensed psychotherapist, Psychology Today blogger, and mystery author. His latest crime thriller is Fever Dream

Living with Regrets

"If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets, the point is to not hate ourselves for having them…We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly — it reminds us that we know we can do better.” 

~ Kathryn Schulz, from "Don't Regret Regret," TED Talks, Nov. 2011

[Thanks, Brain Pickings!]

See also:


All the Evil and All the Good and Everything in Between

Excerpt from Lady Gaga's Ideal/Reality/Belief Conflict by Robert Fritz:

The ideal/belief/reality conflict begins with an unwanted belief someone has, such as, “I’m a loser.” This belief is so unacceptable that the person automatically generates an ideal. The ideal is the opposite of the belief. “I’m a winner.” The purpose of the ideal is to argue against the real belief and hide it from view. There are only two ways to try to live up to the ideal, evidence and affirmation. Evidence is the list of real world accomplishments that argue against the ideal; “How can you be a loser if you keep winning all these awards?” Even as the list gets longer, the structure points back to the unwanted belief, “Who but a person who thinks she is a loser must prove she isn’t?”

The other strategy is to affirm the ideal: “I am a winner, I am a winner, etc.” So, over time, the unwanted belief is reinforced by the affirmation because the only reason to declare the ideal is to argue against the belief.

In reality, there is no way to definitively define a human being; good, bad, or indifferent.  Self-beliefs are not like knowing you live in Omaha because you do. And, since there is no possible basis in fact, self-belief is only what it is, something you happen to believe, whether it is a wanted or unwanted opinion.

So, here is the most successful rock star in years just before another example of her brilliant success, crying her eyes out. Self-honesty comes with the territory of being an artist. For most people in this structure, they can hide their unwanted beliefs from themselves for long stretches, only once in a while seeing it rear its ugly head. But an artist, any artist, rich or poor, successful or not, has to delve deeply into the truth of themselves. It takes the deepest truth there is. You have to dig down right to the core of yourself, and see it all. All the evil and all the good and everything in between. Everything exposed. No place to hide. No place to try to make yourself look good. You can’t hold on to anything - dignity, self-respect, faith. Those things are all an illusion in light of what you find. It takes a certain strength, maybe even courage, or you can’t get to something in art that nothing else can reach, something real.

As I have said before, hasn’t the self-esteem gang ever read a biography of the most accomplished people? If they had, they would be forced to reject their own doctrine. And so, Lady Gaga, with her unwanted belief in tact, went on stage to a sold out crowd and blew their socks off, because, at the end of the day, what you think about yourself doesn’t matter a bit in the creative process.  Not one bit.

Read entire essay here...

See also:


Before & After: My Imperfection is My Nature

Photograph by Amy Arbus for The New York Times

From “Last-Minute Doubts, New York City,” interviews by Joanna Miller, The New York Times, May 1, 2011:

ANNA MEDVEDEVA, 24: The photo was taken the night before my breast-augmentation, chin- and neck-liposuction surgeries, and I was very confused and was thinking, What are you doing with yourself, girl? I spent all that day at home preparing for surgery. I was alone with my fear that night, and I was thinking that I wanted to change my decision. So I tried on the bandage that I would have to wear on my face after the surgery. I felt scared and called my best friend, who really helped me so much. My friend and I talked as Amy took pictures of me. In some, I was nude, and when the light went through the window from the street and I saw myself, I thought, I’m already perfect. My imperfection is my nature. Now, after everything is done, I love it so much. I look to the mirror, and I’m like: “Wow, you’re so sexy. I want you, girl.”

AMY ARBUS: A week before this photo session, Anna told me she was having plastic surgery, and I asked to do before-and-after pictures. Toward the end of this shoot, she started getting nervous about the surgery, and I said, “You can still change your mind.” She was on the phone a lot with her girlfriend, and when we were done, she was looking to see if she had heard back, and that’s when I took that picture. It was the last one I took.

Giving Ourselves a Break

Excerpt from “Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges,” by Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times, Feb. 28, 2011:

Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?

Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind That simple question is the basis for a burgeoning new area of psychological research called self-compassion — how kindly people view themselves. People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising.

The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.

This idea does seem at odds with the advice dispensed by many doctors and self-help books, which suggest that willpower and self-discipline are the keys to better health. But Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field, says self-compassion is not to be confused with self-indulgence or lower standards.

“I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent,” said Dr. Neff, an associate professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin. “They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”

Read the entire post…

See also: Rekindle Warmth Toward Yourself and Others

[Thanks, Matt!]


Excruciating Vulnerability

“When you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.”

~ Brené Brown, from “The Power of VulnerabilityTED Talks, June 2010

A Very Organic Process

"There are all kinds of stories and myths that have arisen about this. Most of them are nonsense.  And it became ever more apparent to me, as I worked my way up through this system, that I was not becoming a superman and I wasn’t becoming a saint and my morality was not becoming perfected.  And what was happening here was a very organic process that I’ve more recently come to think of as what I call a physio-energetic process.  There is some energy that arises in the body and can be developed in stages.  And that’s what’s happening.  All of the stuff, all of the stories that we layer on to that, that if you reach this stage, you’re going to act a certain way or you’re going to be incapable of committing various immoral acts, that’s just fantasy island...I’ve completely given up on the notion that you’re going to develop to the point of being incapable of lying, for example, or of being incapable of anger or lust."

~ Kenneth Folk, in conversation with Vince Horn, "Ordinary People Can Get Enlightened," Buddhist Geeks Podcast (Episode 156)

Love and Its Near Enemy

Most of us think of love in terms of the comfort, passion, closeness, or beauty it will bring us. We imagine the enjoyment of passing hours and days with our beloved, who pleases us in touch, smell, and conversation. Perhaps we even think of living happily ever after. Unfortunately this is not love but its intoxicating sibling, idealization. Buddhists use the term “near enemy” to mean a superficial or misleading twin of a valuable state or attitude. In Buddhist parlance, then, we could say that idealization is the near enemy of love. If we mistake idealization for love, we can be harmfully misled in our connections to others and ourselves.

The special self is the creation of idealization. Exceptional, extraordinary, perfect: these are not the descriptions of any real human being, a person with weaknesses as well as strengths. If we have heard repeatedly how talented, beautiful, smart, or promising we are, we may grow up with an intolerance for weakness and difficulty in others, and a greater intolerance for imperfections in ourselves. Within such a self-esteem trap, we are unable to connect with others or embrace ourselves in the messy ambivalence of love.