Bob Ross

96. IN SEARCH OF PERFECTION

I’m an artist, though not nearly as prolific as I used to be. In my basement I have thousands of dollars in supplies. All mediums, tools, and colors wait patiently for my return to the tablet or canvas.  The variety is so extensive that I had to buy a huge tool chest (no taboret is large enough) just to hold and organize some of it. When the mood strikes, I’ll sit down and express myself; meticulously taking my time with every movement. It’s weird but I can go back to a picture I started years ago and continue working right where I left off. I like that about myself because there was a time when I had no patience or desire for continuing such endeavors; if I couldn’t finish it in one sitting I’d tear it up or throw it away and all too often never even start over. It’s also a (slight) burden because I know I don’t have the drive finish some things that might turn out quite well. It’s almost as if I gain more satisfaction from the experience than the finished product. In either case I’d rather own the latter deficiency. Why? Because for me it lacks a lot of negative self-judgement.

As much as I would LOVE to embrace the idea of not judging oneself, I still find this skill useful as long as I don’t initiate self-punishment when I see a need for improvement. There’s no doubt it’s difficult to not step over this line. There are times where I feel shame for not perusing my dreams, and this attitude does nothing for making my life a better place to live.

Years ago, when I first started plumbing, my supervisor said something to me I still use on a daily basis. I was obviously grouchy about my progress as an apprentice because no matter what, I would want my work as perfect as possible. He noticed this behavior and came to the rescue with this philosophy, “As long as what you’re doing will function and is to code, accept it and keep going. When you’re done, stand back for thirty seconds and ask yourself how will I do it better next time?” This mindset keeps the creative juices flowing without the added burden of becoming frustrated.

Do I still occasionally take things apart and start over? Not really; used to though. When I do start over it’s normally because someone else put together what I would never. I’ve got some things on my job now someone else did that I’m going to change. I’ll never tell them though; doesn’t matter anyway.

I feel the secret of pursuing perfection lies in the acceptance of what we think are flaws. The greatest example (that I know of) at expressing this is Bob Ross. Yes, he was an artist too, but unlike how I used to be he saw “mistakes” as opportunities to change an occasional misstep into something beautiful; or perhaps a better definition may be that he chose to find and recognize perfection in chaos. When we do so we aren’t lowering our standards by accepting an inferior product or outcome, far from it. What we are doing is learning how to adapt, accept, and progress, and this is a superior talent for moving through life, at least in my opinion.

Look to the what the universe has surrounded us with. Is anything truly imperfect? One cannot point to a tree and say, “This is flawed”. It may indeed be diseased, dying, split from lightning, or damaged by a storm, but its state is never imperfect because it simply is what it is. Everything is part of the natural flow of the cosmos, including your creations and accomplishments, your actions and reactions. Don’t negatively judge them, remember this automatically invites self-punishment, use them instead as stepping-stones to guide you where you want to go. Knowing what we don’t want is a wonderful companion to moving toward what we do want, but there’s a huge difference between progress and foolishness. I’ve said this before, and I mean it again. One cannot invite improvement by walking backwards and constantly judging where we were. This is called the path of excuses. Turn around and move towards the future……a rear-view mirror will do just fine for remembering and reminding us of what we’ve moved beyond and all those “happy accidents” will eventually become the building blocks of tomorrow.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

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