Excellence vs Perfectionism - post by Leah Grams Johnson
Leah - in an excellent place!
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One Thursday afternoon, Judy and I were having lunch at her dining room table when I brought up the topic of “striving for excellence, versus grasping for perfection.” She asked me to write this blog post and further discuss the idea as it pertains to being a vocalist. I would like to include: any craft that a person desires to dedicate themselves to, and grow within that field.Let’s begin with excellence, and I’ll add an important word: to humbly strive for excellence. Excellence is a personalized mindset and a way of being. It is fluid, open, curious, awake, and responsive. It is also a life-long process, and the process is everything. It means doing the best we can while staying in the flow of our own “river” (as Judy would say). Are rivers straight? No. Do they twist and turn, change with the seasons, contain obstacles, collect debris, and surprise us overall along the way? Yes, all of these. But a river keeps moving, and that is the key.
In striving for excellence, we are doing the best we can, but we're allowed to make mistakes as well as to change. In fact, we understand that mistakes are imperative to growth. There is a spaciousness around it which gives us permission to be human. This brings me back to that key word, “humble.” When I trip on the laces of my own ego, I remind myself that to be an artist is to be a tool for something far greater than me. So we must make mistakes, learn from them, forgive ourselves, and move on. A river doesn’t wait for us to grovel— it continues to flow.
PERFECTIONGrasping for perfection on the other hand…
Perfection is steeped in fear. It is fleeting. Perfection does not make room for mistakes, and therefore it does not encourage growth and change— responding instead with judgement. It is stagnant and close-minded. Perfection is a circus ring, and we are walking the tight rope. It feels as if everyone is watching, waiting for us to fall. And as we gingerly take each perfect small step to resist falling, we become paralyzed while living from a place of fear.
Singing, songwriting, and performing are my crafts. My trades. Like being a mason or a seamstress. They make up my unique “job”, and I do my best to show up to my job with gratitude— expressed by working daily on my crafts with both humility and fire. But I’d like to extend this idea of excellence in craft and let it overflow into other areas, such as self-conduct, morality, relationships, responsibility, and self-care. Tom Waits said, “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” I agree. What if we tried striving for excellence in the art of compassion, and then went to sing? Kindness, non-judgement, and wisdom deserve just as much effort to be excelled at than that elusive high note.
If art is a direct expression of the human spirit, and the sharing of that art is one of the best ways to create connection and authentic common ground between hearts, then “perfect art” appears to be an inhibitor to the prime directive of the artist. We have no business being perfect.
You can find Leah and her music at www.LeahGramsJohnson.com.
Here we are discussing the voice and horses:
Labels: all things vocal, Judy Rodman, Leah Grams Johnson, perfection vs excellence, perfectionism