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Progress Over Perfection

“Give yourself permission to focus on progress, not perfection.”
Robyn O’Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother’s Shocking Investigation into the Dangers of America’s Food Supply — and What Every Family Can Do to Protect Itself

Progress over perfection. It’s true for eating, true for writing, true for getting used to a language. You will never be perfect — nobody is — but you can and will cease to suck and you can, if you choose to continue progressing, keep getting better forever. The way you do that is by incrementally sucking less. That is the definition of progress, of improvement — suck reduction.

And that, according to David Deutsch, author of The Beginning of Infinity, is the real meaning of human perfectibility. Not that humans and our creations will become perfect, but that we can always become even more awesome than we used to be, always improving, always (asymptotically) approaching perfection. You can solve all of your problems, and those solutions will create new problems, and you can solve those too, on and on, ad infinitum et ultra as Buzz Lightyear never said.

[ The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World (9780143121350): David Deutsch: Books]

You can always improve; you can and will stop sucking. Both these things are true. It’s all been said before, but like a safety briefing in an aeroplane or an open water swimmer course, it’s always — always — worth saying again. Because the second you think you know it already is the the second you need to be told it again — kind of like how people who think they can’t afford take a rest are the people who most need to rest right this instant.

Verily (what? I say “verily” now unironically — what’re you gonna do, fight me? I’m the 1990s DMX of blithely using archaic adverbs son!), in my personal experience, truths that inspire or tire are truths that, in actuality, are not yet ingrained in us; only after you hear something so many times that you are not only sick and tired of it but could literally recite it verbatim — only after that is happening have you even begun to truly internalize a truth 1.

You know how, like, a joke can be funny, then you keep repeating it and it stops being funny, then you keep repeating it and it becomes funny again?

Hilariously dry comedienne Tig Notaro has demonstrated this phenomenon under “laboratory” (lol) conditions at least once: [(243) comedy dissection Episode 13 – Val Nigro on Tig Notaro – YouTube]

It’s like that (and that’s the way it is). You need to go past being inspired by and tired of a truth and come out on the other side where it’s fully internalized, bluer than the sky.

YMMV, though 😉


  1. Hanh? See what I did there?

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