Half Way to Perfection

I love the concept of halfway there. The idea is that a distance between two things can always be cut in half, bringing them very close together in a few steps. Unfortunately, going halfway can never ever actually get the two items completely together.

For instance, even if a football team only has 20 yards to go, and gains half the distance to the goal each time, 4 plays would get them to the 1-and-a-quarter yard line. Those of you who know football will “armchair quarterback” the field goal unit onto the field, since it’s 4th down, but that’s where the example breaks down. The point is, no matter how many times you move closer by halfway, there is still halfway to go, so you never get there.

This is particularly applicable to the concept of perfection. Since nothing, and no one is ever actually perfect. True, there are some very close approximations, but everything could be improved upon somehow. Even a perfect cupcake could have fewer calories. Even the perfect diamond could have been created faster. Even the perfect relationship… or unicorn for that matter, could actually exist.

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I find that when my perfectionistic tendencies really get fired up it is extremely helpful to remind myself that no matter how hard I try, I’m not going to get anything all the way to perfect.

Repetition can sometimes help, since “practice makes perfect,” but only if there is potential for improvement each time. After all, doing the same thing, again and again, (but the wrong way) does not get anything closer to perfection. Instead, trying something slightly different throughout the repetitions may lead to process improvements and better outcomes. This is the point of batting practice. Even the best professional baseball players take batting practice frequently. This helps them maintain the good parts of their swings through muscle-memory and their coaches can help make minor differences to improve the results.

Once a process has been improved to an acceptable level, machines (properly maintained) can crank out the repetition without much risk of failing performance. They are great at doing the same task over and over without complaining, arguing, slacking off, or being late. For example, pitching machines are often used for batting practice. They can spit out pitches all day and not get tired. They can be adjusted for speed and pitch type, and they do a good job. A person pitching for batting practice would soon get tired and the quality of the pitches would suffer. That’s one reason why in a game situation, where machines are not allowed, two or three pitchers are usually involved. A “complete game,” pitched by one person is very rare.

Our business, Goat Milk Stuff, like many businesses, requires a lot of repetitive tasks. From measuring ingredients, to mixing and pouring, to packaging, these tasks are done day after day. I have often been advised to automate many of these processes in order to grow our business. Our competitors use machines to produce almost all of the soap that can be found in your local grocery or department store. We could use similar machines to accomplish many of the tasks required in our process. Although there is a large investment in the machines at first, they are often easier to maintain and less expensive than an employee.

While machines have their place, they’re still not people.
Individuals have an amazing ability. We are constructively critical. We recognize that whatever we do, or however we do it, it can get better. We can walk into a room and see what needs improvement. We have the ability to see the next halfway point. Machines cannot. They do not posses the potential for improving the process by which they accomplish their tasks. They’re not going to help get anything closer to perfection.
Machines can only do the task for which they were made. A dishwasher washes dishes. A vacuum cleaner sucks up dirt and crumbs. Try to clean your carpet with a dishwasher and it will say, ever so subtly, “That’s not my job.”
Lots of people work like this, too. They are “one-trick ponies,” who are only able, or willing, to do a certain task. They may see a floor with dirt on it, but will not sweep the floor because it is not in their job description. They may walk by three shopping carts in the parking lot, but wait to pick one from inside the store instead of bringing one in. Sometimes I’m like this, especially when I’m tired, overwhelmed, or distracted. This is when I behave like a machine- only doing the task I was there to do. This is not how I prefer to behave, and these are not the types of people I enjoy being around.
I prefer those who say, “How can I make this better, somehow?” Seeing a cart in the lot, they take it in. When presented with a dirty floor, they grab the broom. Given a stack of dirty dishes and no dishwasher, they will use the vacuum cleaner to try, at least, to suck the crumbs off the plates. It’s not a perfect solution by any stretch, but the dishes would be less dirty. They would be a little closer to perfection. This is the kind of person I try to be. This is the example I hope to set for my children and for those who work with us.
Greyden
The tasks that we do every day are not done to perfection. They cannot be. We can consistently do a good job, but never a perfect job. Perfection, therefore, should never be an expectation; not for others, and not for ourselves. The expectation is that each of us use our God-given ability as people, not machines, and look for how to make it better. We can see how far away from perfect things are, and work hard to try to move it halfway there. We can strive to be the kind of people who are examples… not of perfection, but of helping everything and everyone we encounter be closer to perfect, even by just a little.

Jim Signature

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  • Henna Maria

    Thank you for this post! I am one of those person who would always think “How can I do this better?” or “How can this be done in a more effective way?” sometimes I try to settle…because not every situation needs or wants improvement, but I really would like my children to be more on the “I can work on this” side, not on the one-trick-pony side (love that word) 🙂

    • goatmilkstuff

      Jim has a great way of putting things. 🙂 I’m glad it helped!! PJ