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define perfection for yourself

Last week I wrote about time management and self-management and how both subjects tie into my personal “big three” of accountability, valuing time, and honesty. I’ve mentioned before that I tend to look at my schedule in terms of week-long units of time, which enables me to better prioritize and accomplish the things I need to achieve.

But it can be hard. Honestly, sometimes it’s really, really hard. If you’re not careful, you can find ways to justify almost anything. In improv, there’s an exercise called “Justification Lawyer” that I’ve done a few times over the last couple years. I remember when I was in 401 at UCB and our teacher had us do the exercise. We were given an extremely difficult topic and had to argue in its favor. The point of the exercise was to show us that there are no villains in life but only people with different motivations; it was eye-opening. I had a professor in college who made us do a similar exercise in our American Government class, so my UCB experience felt like a nice callback to that previous memory.

My parents always taught me growing up that it’s important not to judge others - the old cliche about walking a mile in another man’s shoes. My American Government professor at Villanova and my teacher at UCB who had us do that “Justification Lawyer” exercise both provided their students with an extremely valuable tool to encourage empathy. How can you expect anyone to understand your point of view if you’re unwilling to listen or understand theirs?

So what’s my point? This is supposed to be a post on pivoting, Johny! Well, I’ll get to pivoting, but it’s incredibly important to first discuss flexibility because unless you are flexible, you won’t be able to pivot. I am nothing if not loquacious (something I’m working on by the way, notice how concise my last post was?!), so this post will deal more with flexibility as a precursor to pivoting.

I was with someone the other night who made a profound impact on me. In our conversation, the movie “Manchester by the Sea” came up. Now if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the rental, and I won’t give away any big spoilers. The person I was with said something that really resonated with me, though, which was that the main character had been through a lot of hard stuff but that even the smallest step showed growth.

It all comes down to priorities, right? Being value-driven? Whatever your values may be, those are the things that will dictate your choices. So where does flexibility come into play? Well, because you can’t just get stuck in one area of your life. For instance, this blog and my larger career, they're incredibly important to me. I’m not willing to give up on them because I believe in myself. But if I didn’t get outside and go have new life experiences outside of my blog, I wouldn’t have anything to write about. And since I believe that life is something meant to be lived intentionally, I make sure I stay balanced and flexible.

Flexibility is good because it can help you keep an ever-changing view of the world. If you walk a mile in another person’s shoes, a few things will happen: you’ll grow stronger because you’ll empathize with that person and her story; your world will grow bigger because you’ll see it through a new set of eyes; and you’ll either grow and change your mind based on new information, or you’ll grow more steadfast in your own personal values. Nothing bad comes from seeing the world in a new way unless you’re not honest with yourself about the things that are most important to you from the start.

Small changes affect much greater changes. No one is perfect, and I think I have struggled with that idea more than most. But I’ve come to see that it’s been the failures I’ve overcome that have shaped me the most into who I am. And that’s why I hope I fail so much more in my life.

If you watch the show “This is Us,” the character I relate to the most profoundly is probably Randall. Every character on that show is incredibly well-written, so it’s hard to pin down just one. I remember having a conversation a few months ago with a Garage Band teammate of mine on the subject. I remember telling her how much I love the show because I understood that constant drive for perfection. Now I’m not saying I’m still like that because I’m constantly working on Johny 2.0, but there are hints of it. It’s probably something I’ll deal with and work on the rest of my life.

But in working on myself and being more flexible, my definition of perfection has changed. I write a lot about external influences affecting life and how the most important things are internal - my old “starve your ego, feed your soul.” That’s what perfection is to me - working on oneself to be the best version of oneself, embracing failures and flaws and not letting anyone else tell someone that the things that make a person who he is are wrong. I’ve had a lot of that in my life - even up to a few months ago - and I won’t accept it anymore.

When I did UnderPaints Club with my friend Karin, I told her that my idea of perfection is people defining it for themselves. I want people to define their own futures without fear of others’ judgments holding them back. I want people to be happy and to realize that it’s the things they love most about themselves that should be celebrated, not hidden away.

So this wasn’t really a post on pivoting, huh? But there was some good stuff on flexibility! So I’m going to stop here (as I’ve once again written more than I’d planned.. I will forever be a work in progress, people!) and plan on attacking the idea of pivoting on Wednesday! Have an amazing Memorial Day! I’ll see you Wednesday! And, as always, if you have any pressing questions or if you want to discuss something further with me, feel free to subscribe below or reach out to me on the “contact” page. I’m so grateful that I’ve been getting a lot of really challenging questions and even better feedback from a community all over the world. I couldn’t do this without you! I’m here for you, and I love hearing from you, too! You’re the best, and you have everything you need inside of you! Please believe it!

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