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It’s not brain surgery

By Bob Garner


If a brain surgeon were going to perform a delicate operation on your brain, perfection and precision would be highly appreciated. However, as the brain surgeon would tell you, (and as you will note in all the hospital forms that you have to sign,) neither perfection nor precision is absolutely guaranteed.


Perfection in doing anything is very difficult to obtain. Striving for perfection in trying to achieve your personal goal or work objective is not only difficult to obtain, but also unnecessary. What is necessary is striving for excellence and progress.


There is a subtle, yet important, difference between excellence and perfection. Excellence means doing the very best that you possibly can at all times. For work objectives, that means showing up on time for appointments, providing your customers with outstanding customer service, keeping your promises, and so on. For personal goals, that might mean a variety of things which you know you have to do in order for your goal to be achieved.


Striving for perfection in both your personal goals and work objectives means constantly stressing over whether or not you have done the best that you could do, compulsively anguishing over details, fixating on minutia, and analyzing and reanalyzing all of your decisions, etc.


The need for perfection stems primarily from having a fear of making a mistake or the fear of being looked upon as a failure. Both of these fears are feelings, and as I say in my seminars, “Feelings can be changed and whatever can be changed can be controlled.”


Here are a few steps to help you control your fears and strive for excellence, not perfection:


1)      Visualize successful people. Ask yourself if they reached their goals or objectives without ever making a mistake or without ever having failed. It might be a good idea to spend an hour or two at the library and look up some biographies and autobiographies of people who did what you are doing or are wanting to do. (Or, I can save you some time by telling you that every successful person has made a “ton” of mistakes and have failed many times.)


In my book, “Masters of Motivation,” (Sunday & Weiss Publishing, 2004) I discuss P.T. Barnum who came from nothing and died a multi-millionaire. (By the way, Barnum, never said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”) Barnum suffered many financial difficulties and even went bankrupt, as did another famous person, Mark Twain. Their mistakes and failures would have crippled most people mentally and financially forever, however, both worked their way back to financial stability, repaid every dime, and became rich and famous


I have read hundreds of books on the lives of successful people and I can’t recall any that were “overly” concerned with details. In fact, a book called, “Profiles of Genius” (Prometheus Books, 1993) featured a study on 13 creative men who changed the world. Not one of these men suffered from “paralysis of analysis” nor were they micro-managers. Instead, they were all risk takers and macro-managers who weren’t bothered by mistakes or failure and had flexible plans and strategies. Mistakes and failing are how you learn, and the willingness to keep going is what makes people successful. 


2)      Evaluate your goals or objectives and ask yourself if they are reasonable. Are you trying to accomplish too much at one time? Are you more concerned as to how you will appear to others, as opposed to focusing on the next step of your plan?


If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, take a step back and regroup. Trying to achieve too many things at one time is like trying to compete in a 50 - yard dash with a dozen eggs in your arms. You’re going to drop some of them, and you may drop all of them, and still not win the race.


If you are more concerned with how you will appear to others, as opposed to focusing on your next step in your plan, you are too concerned with others opinions, which is a complete waste of time and energy. Why do you need to worry about how others judge your goal or your work? Yes, with work, you may need your boss or customer to like what you do; however, if you are doing your best and striving for excellence, how can they justly complain? If they do, you can go and rework your plan. If they still complain, you either have a whiny customer that you’d be better off without or a whiny boss, which you also would be better off without.


As for your goals, how can anyone judge you or your goal, until you have achieved that goal? People wait until a book has been completely written or a painting has been totally finished before either is judged (usually by people who have never written a book or painted a piece of art).


3)      Have pride in your work or your goal, but don’t invest your entire ego in it and expect others to give you a standing ovation. If you are striving for excellence and have achieved your goal or work objective, step back and congratulate yourself quietly. Sure, we all need to be patted on the back and told that we did a good job. Hopefully someone will do that for you. However, the most important person to tell you that you have done a good job… is you!



You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to understand that, with regard to your personal goals and work objectives, in the majority of cases, perfection is not required - only excellence and progress. Progress comes from accepting the fact that mistakes will happen and that you may fail from time-to-time. Being willing to learn and grow from those mistakes and failures means that you are in control of your feelings and, therefore, your emotions. Excellence comes from doing the best that you possibly can every time; making sure that you aren’t trying to do too much: discharging your concern with regard to others judgments, and keeping your self-esteem high, while releasing the need for others to help you boost your ego. Unless you’re operating on someone’s brain or performing some other life-saving task, perfection is always appreciated, but it is not guaranteed, nor should it be expected by anyone, especially, yourself.


Bob Garner is the author of "Masters of Motivation" which has been called a “must read” by business leaders. The creator of a number of CDs that have empowered thousands, Bob writes for numerous business magazines and speaks extensively worldwide on motivation, sales, and success. Sign up now for his free monthly newsletter called "Personal Success" at