“We will chase perfection, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”
Successful people are always in the chase for perfection. As Lombardi knew, however, and as I’ve discovered more than once myself, what we chase is often very different from what we catch.
Early in my career, I planned on being a pharmacist, then making partner at a PR firm. Both goals were within reach, but I never caught them — as they came close I found myself rethinking my ambitions, then changing direction. I had to let go of the goals that had motivated me for years, and find different ones, chasing perfection in new and often unexpected ways.
If you are looking to catch the best in excellence, while not letting yourself get boxed in by chasing perfection, it is important to remember a few key guidelines.
Changing your path isn’t failing
Successful people — and entrepreneurs especially — are driven by their goals. It’s a fine line, though, between goals that inspire and goals that trap. The best stories about entrepreneurs are full of fresh starts and unexpected detours. If you find yourself disliking what you’re doing, or feeling frustrated even when things are going well, think about making a new plan. Changing your path isn’t bad or wrong or failing — it’s simply a new choice, and often the right one.
Never perceive anything as a setback
Circumstances can spiral out of control — plans tank, products fail, companies come apart. When something is running off the road you can be consumed by it, or you can realize that what you took to heart before isn’t your reality anymore, and the seeming chaos around you disguises a new reality. Don’t beat yourself up about it, don’t mourn the wasted time and the discarded mission. Negative experiences aren’t a setback, they’re a chance to make new decisions that are right for you.
However bad the situation, there’s always an angle
When things get rough, take five minutes and give free rein to let it all out. Find a private place, get mad or cry, let whatever’s struggling inside you get out. Then get to work finding the angle. There’s always an angle, and a path forward to success. Usually, it involves getting over yourself. Whatever your emotions, stop thinking it’s about you. Recognize that you’re in service to something larger than yourself — your company, your staff, the people who depend on you. That’s where you’ll find the angle you need, beyond your emotions, and outside of yourself.
Success looks different to different people
We can all relate to the true believer who challenges conventional wisdom and beats the odds. When we make these challenges, our parents, bosses, society at large – insert appropriate authority figure – sometimes just won’t see it our way. But often it’s our own internal schoolmaster that’s the barrier we need to overcome. We persist in judging ourselves by standards that once seemed essential, but have outlived their usefulness. In fact, there are many different ways to succeed. The important thing is being comfortable with knowing there is more than one right answer.
It’s a never-ending experience
Is it ever time to stop chasing perfection? No. Chasing perfection is the opposite of a hamster wheel or rat race. It’s about your never-ending pursuit of happiness. The sooner in life that we master the flexible mindset needed for continuous evolution, the better.
My career has had enough twists and turns all ready to make a running back proud. At those times when I had no control over my external situation, I could see that the one path I thought I would take wasn’t the only path — or even the right path.
I’ve never come close to attaining perfection, but Mr. Lombardi was right. By chasing it, from my days studying to be a pharmacist to my current role as VP of Marketing and Communications at Intel, I’ve caught excellence again and again along the way.