Letting Go of Perfection

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  1 Peter 4:10

I recently read the book, Failing Forward:How to Make the Most of Your Mistakes by John Maxwell. In the book the author offered numerous stories and examples of people who pushed through and past failure and achieved success in business and in life.

One story in particular really caught me eye, which I printed and posted above my desk as a daily reminder. The story was about a pottery class where the teacher divided the class into two groups – one group would be graded on quantity, and would have to produce pieces weighing a total of 50 pounds to receive an “A” in the course. The other group would be graded on quality, and would have to produce one perfect piece for an “A”.

Photo courtesy of cellar_door_films
Photo courtesy of cellar_door_films

At the end of the semester the students brought in their work, and the students who were being graded on quantity consistently also achieved the highest quality. They had spent all semester working with the clay, perfecting their art and learning from their mistakes. The group being graded for quality spent a lot of time theorizing and planning their piece, but didn’t actually dig in and work with the clay as often. I imagine the stress of being graded on quality took its toll as well, because trying to achieve one perfect piece is a daunting task!

This story was a great analogy for me as I was attempting at that same time to revive my first love of writing. I missed putting words to paper, analyzing my thoughts through journaling, keeping up with loved ones through letter writing, and just enjoying the feel of a new Papermate pen in my hand and a fresh spiral notebook on my lap. When I decided to start writing again I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to write about. I spent a lot of time theorizing about who my new audience would be. I spent a lot of time reading about new forms of writing such as tweeting and blogging. What I did not spend a lot of time doing was writing!

And once I did sit down with that spiral notebook, the words would not come. I couldn’t think of anything to write about, I couldn’t think of who my audience would be and I couldn’t think of which form of communication would be the best for me. And why? Because I was worried about creating that one perfect piece. After reading Maxwell’s book I finally let that quest for perfection go and I started to write. Slowly but steadily I continued to move my hand across paper each and every day. I started with three longhand pages every morning and kept going from there. After consistent practice the words started to flow just a little bit easier. I could now work with those words and enjoy them, not stress over a “pile of dead clay” while I waited to produce that one perfect piece.

From the Heart

Lord, thank you for the individual gifts and talents you’ve given to all of us. Please help me to use them to your glory and not fret over them.

Make a Start

Do you have a passion for something that you’ve not been able to enjoy lately, such as writing, playing the piano, or crocheting? Determine what your “clay” is and start to bring it out consistently, one day at a time.

Dare to Share – Let me know in the comments below what you’ve been neglecting lately that you’ll start to enjoy again and we can encourage each other!

2 thoughts on “Letting Go of Perfection

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