When I was 5 years old, my parents got me into an accelerated education program in Rockford (the Academy/Gifted program). Myself and about 50 others kids stayed in the program all the way through high school. We were expected to be the best at everything: the best thinkers, the best writers, the best academics, the best human beings. The curriculum was intense, and most of my nights and weekends were dedicated to research papers. While other kids were starting to drink booze, I was drinking several pots of coffee so I'd have more energy for homework.
(Yeah I was real hoot back then.)
The upshot to the rigorous workload was that college was a cakewalk. I breezed my way through Northwestern and Columbia and had so much free time that I was able to write songs and cook for my dorm, skills that have led me down the path I'm on today.
The downside? I struggle not being the best. It incapacitates me. It debilitates me. It cripples me.
And it annoys the hell out of my friends and family.
Nobody likes being around a stressed-out perfectionist, especially the stressed-out perfectionist. I can't tell you how often I sabotage my happiness by measuring myself against a gold standard that few have achieved. Which is just sad. I've been missing out on life because my fear of not excelling prevents me from even starting.
So this week at my building, I let go of my standards. My Uncle Dave and I framed in my restaurant booths. Are they the best booths? No. They're probably not even above average. But I had a great time doing it, and I got the job done. Reader, if you also happen to have a nasty case of perfectionism, let's keep in mind how destructive that habit is. Being average isn't a bad thing: it's where all the best once started.
I've learned in my short time on this planet that there's always going to be somebody who's better than you. I know a hundred better songwriters than me (who I can't wait to see on the Grammys tonight!), and there are thousands of better restauranteurs. Rather than let those facts take me down, I'm trying to use them to motivate me to keep going, and to enjoy every minute of my average journey. As we go through this week, let's be inspired by those people who are better than we are, and remember that we deserve contentment at every stage in the game. See you next Sunday. -Em