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The pursuit of perfection

Discussion in 'Tilted Philosophy, Politics, and Economics' started by Veiled Apophenia, May 23, 2015.

  1. Veiled Apophenia

    Veiled Apophenia New Member

    To give you an idea of where this is headed, I'm looking for your personal preference regarding the efforts you put on work, fun and the breadth of knowledge/experience you are seeking in life.

    I suppose this is a dialog that I've played in the back of my mind for some years now; it's brought to the front now that I have an outlet for my thoughts and in light of 2 recent occurrences. The first was a conversation I had with a friend of mine who was born and raised in a country in southern Europe. The culture he grew up in emphasized leisure, relaxation and overall enjoyment out of life. He mentioned to me that his people never understood the Germans (though they respected them), because they were too focused on work. How can life be truly lived if you spend it working all the time? According to him, life is best lived if you are able to stop and enjoy things along the way, even if it comes at the sacrifice of your potential and whatever that may entail.

    The other thing was a documentary I recently watched entitled Jiro Dreams of Sushi (I tried to link to the youtube trailer but I apparently don't have the street-cred here to do so yet), which if you haven't seen, I'd highly recommend. The movie tells the story of an 85-year-old sushi master who believes that you must pick something in life, and master it completely. To reach perfection, or at least the pinnacle of your potential, is the only goal in life. The word/concept of a "shokunin" is used to emphasize one who masters an art, and works tirelessly at elevating their ability. He is a man driven by his own pursuit of perfection, and despite being regarded (according to the movie) as the most brilliant sushi (is it chef?) in current time, he is not satisfied with his achievements and it is clear that he will work himself to death doing what he loves.

    So, like most things in life, I suspect the answer for many of you will lie somewhere in-between the spectrum of hedonist to shokunin. Both have merits which I find genuine and worthy of pursuit, but you cannot have both (unless you are fortunate in that the pursuit of your mastery is hedonistic in and of itself).
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  2. Chris Noyb

    Chris Noyb Get in, buckle up, hang on, & don't criticize. Donor

    Large City, TX
    I've known people who were experts in their respective fields (myself excluded), and they were able to completely separate work from leisure.

    I'm a firm believer in the idea that you put in your best effort at your job, and make time to enjoy life. You can have both.

    This a great topic. It needs to be bumped so that it doesn't get lost. There is similar, but not identical, thread here; if I can find it I'll post the link.
    Last edited: May 24, 2015
  3. Lindy

    Lindy Moderator Staff Member

    I'm too opportunistic and pragmatic to be interested in the pursuit of perfection. Or enlightenment either, for that matter.

    Well, it depends on your work. If you truly love your work, and it is your work, not someone else's work that you are obliged to do to keep body and soul together, then you can truly live life while devoted to your work.

    Climate in southern Europe is more conducive to that. Of course now those easygoin' Greeks are needing those driven Germans to bail them out of their easy goin' ways.:rolleyes:

    I haven't found anything, so far, that I would care to master completely, to the exclusion of everything else. If I did so, what else would be left besides death?

    I would rather do several things well than one thing perfectly.

    Your sushi master is perfect OCD. Your southern european is the anti-OCD.

    If I had my druthers, at age 38, I would spend most of my time fucking, playing music, listening to music, reading, writing, making bad puns. Come to think of it, I am able to do those things frequently enough that I really do enjoy my life.:)

    As to my work, a lot of the time I just have to keep slapping my wrist to keep my itchy hands off of things.
    Most people have absolutely no idea how hard that is. To the capital constrained, like to the the grazing cow, the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence.
  4. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member

    Yeah, I believe too much in work-life balance to devote myself to the pursuit of perfection. The other side of this is that I'm better at what I do BECAUSE I have a good work-life balance.
  5. Veiled Apophenia

    Veiled Apophenia New Member


    I like it. In my world you specialize for 2 reasons: The first is that the speed of progress and vast fund of knowledge required practically demands it if you want to do it well (which you do). The second is that there is a tremendous amount of ego involved, and the "jack of all trades" in my work are somewhat looked down upon. Though certainly not be me, as I have chosen to join them. I enjoy knowing as much as I can about the things which interest me, and I enjoy spending time outside with my family. Life isn't long enough to do all the things we want to do, but what else can you do but make your choice and roll with it.

    I share a similar perspective. It's just that when I pick up my guitar, I want to play like I used to be able to. I want to throw out everything I'm feeling and just jam. To get that way again would take practice, which comes at the expense of my family time, my continuing education, the books I want to read, the trips I want to take and on and on... I feel like the older I get, the more I want to do, but the less time I have to really do it well.

    This is advantageous if your business is one that would benefit from a good work-life balance. Most of them would I suspect, but not all.
  6. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member

    I work in a high stress field where burnout is a very real thing, so yes, I would say it is important. I can't get better at my job if I burn out early. As a rule, I don't take work home. If I have to, I do some curriculum design and planning at home, but never anything else.
  7. Levite

    Levite Levitical Yet Funky

    The Windy City
    ^^^Unsurprisingly, this.

    But also, I don't believe in the concept of achievable perfection. And while I could imagine it being nice to be recognized for my work, I have zero interest in being acknowledged "the best" at anything.

    Probably this has to do with a whole lot of different things, but at least one major element has got to be that I don't rely heavily on externally generated validation, nor do I have a significant portion of my identity or self-worth wrapped up in employment or success. I think people who are deeply driven to "be the best" to be recognized as "perfect" at something or other are trying very hard to fill needs of valuation and validation that they are for some reason unable to internally generate by instead seeking for sufficient valuation and validation from others around them. And unfortunately, very few people indeed are likely to ever achieve sufficient external validation to potentially offset a lack of internally generated self-worth, nor does it often help if achieved. For evidence, just look at Hollywood stars and recording artists and whatnot-- they tend to precisely fit that personality profile, and routinely become infamous for gross excesses, hideously public identity crises, and personal meltdowns and breakdowns of epic proportion.

    One chooses work that, ideally, pays the bills and allows one to survive, while at the same time allows one to do something meaningful and helpful to others-- and hopefully, this work is something that one finds enjoyable more often than not.

    But self-worth and validation-- and stability and happiness, for that matter-- don't come from what one does as work (unless one is fortunate enough to be one of the lucky few who are able to do for a living what they love best to do, what generates meaning for them from within, what they would choose to do above all if given the choice). It comes from relationships. It comes from helping others and adding to the world around us, one moment at a time, one interaction at a time, one other person at a time.
  8. redravin

    redravin Cynical Optimist Donor


    How do you manage that?
    The sheer volume of paperwork that Jadzia brought home every night was staggering.
    I would often wind up helping grade papers.
    The amount of tests and projects that 25 to 30 kids at 5 classes a day is freaking amazing.
    There is no way to get it all done in one prep hour.
    The people who suggest teachers are out the door at 2:30 are out of their tiny little minds.
    Jadzia would stay until 5 or later to help kids (and provide a safe place for them to keep off the streets).
    Then she would come home and work on grading papers.
    Work/life balance for teachers is a very complex thing.
    I swear every event I went to that involved teachers, no matter what it was - baby showers or funerals, all they talked about was their jobs.
    Last edited: May 26, 2015
  9. snowy

    snowy so kawaii Staff Member

    One thing I think a lot of teachers forget is that they control the workflow. Not every piece has to be graded. Not every piece has to be fully evaluated, either. In my experience, explicit feedback is only helpful if the kids really listen. Even if you spend tons of time trying to point out their errors, they're ultimately only going to open the paper up to see what their grade was. So I've retooled what I do to make THEM do most of the work in finding their errors, correcting their work, and resubmitting for a final grade. Conferencing over papers also takes far less time than giving them lengthy feedback, so I opt to do that instead. I can read very quickly, find errors quickly, but marking them all up is time-consuming. I typically use our state scoring guide, evaluate, and conference. Verbal feedback in that nature allows me to use the "praise sandwich" effectively: here's what you did well, here's where you struggled, here's what you did well.

    Plus, not grading everything keeps them on their toes! Additionally, I would feel terrible if I lost a piece of student work at home--so I don't take it home. If I have to, I run a copy of the work and take the copy home. This policy has saved my bacon a few times now, because it allows me to stand my ground in the face of kids and parents.

    No, there is no way to get it done in 1 prep hour, if you're on a seven-period day, as I had to do for one job this winter. I learned to stay late in the middle of the week, just an hour or so, to catch up. I learned to use my prep on Friday to run copies for Monday. I adjusted. I still never took any student work home. The teacher I was working for required at least 3 weekly assignments that generated an unholy amount of paperwork. Had it totally been my classroom, I would not have done that. One of my mentors has the students collect all of their daily assignments and larger assignments into a notebook just for that class, and then does periodic evaluations on the notebook. It's perhaps the most effective system I've come across yet.
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  10. Stan

    Stan Resident Dumbass

    In IT, at least, there is nothing fulfilling about the job itself, it's just a means to an end. I like what I do and I'm reasonably competent; but perfection isn't possible. Even if it were, technology changes constantly.

    My job can suck up every hour of my time, if I let it. Managing and insisting on work-life balance is important.