Perfection or excellence? You choose

I recently saw this sign stuck on a mirror in a local business: “Remember how good perfect felt? Why don’t we do it again?”

When I read that, I felt utter revulsion. I wanted to run right out of there and not come back.

For me, a recovering control freak, it brought back scenes from years of trying to control everything and everybody so I could have a perfect little world. Through all that, I came to understand that there is no such thing as ”perfect.”

Maybe you’ll disagree with me because, unlike me, you have been able to get a grip on everything in the universe that threatens to destroy your area of perfection. Maybe that’s the glow I’ve seen coming from your corner of the world.

More likely it’s the glow from gases at the waste recycling plant.

There are five definitions listed for the word ”perfect” on Here’s the one that I think best reflects the word’s meaning: ”Entirely without any flaws, defects or shortcomings.”

Can you see yet why I didn’t like that sticker? No? Then let’s work through this together.

What can you think of that’s truly, according to definition, perfect?

Ah, yes, a baby. A baby’s perfect, right? Why yes it is, at least to its parents and grandparents.

Until the first time it screams for no reason and none of you can get it to stop no matter what you do or it projectile vomits all over your new, thick, pile carpet. Not so perfect.

A wedding? Our cousin’s wedding was absolutely amazing! Six hundred guests, dinner plus a late night, opulent buffet. Beautiful clothing, wonderful photos.

Then the dancing began and suddenly things weren’t so perfect anymore as the groom’s parents knocked over the wedding cake. Screeeeeeech! End of perfect.

The perfect life? You totally have it all! Beautiful, big house, more money than you know what to do with. The requisite two children. A car collection to rival Jay Leno’s.

And then there’s the tornado. It rips through your yard, slams into your house, tosses one car on top of the other. No more perfect.

Then there’s you. You’re pretty good looking with lots of friends. You have a great job and are on your way up the ladder of a Fortune 500 company. Everything you do just gets you closer to the top. You’re in control and on a roll, destined for perfection.

Then you go to the doctor and he tells you you’ve got six months to live; sorry but there’s nothing we can do for you. Not exactly the picture of perfect, is it?

You see, there are all kinds of lies we tell ourselves and try to force upon others about what life will be like when everything is just ”perfect.” The idea of having to be perfect in an imperfect world is just one of those lies, one I abhor because I know it’s not true.

So then, if perfection’s not possible, does that mean you should just schlep aimlessly through life? No that’s not what it means.

You have another option.


Why excellence and not perfection? While perfection is something that is virtually unattainable and can become self-defeating, excellence is a commitment to becoming the best version of yourself you can be. Excellence encourages you to do your best no matter who you are.

Big IQ, little IQ, muscle man, weakling, rich, poor, deformed, informed, blond, gray-haired. Well, you get the picture. Anyone, regardless of who or what you are, can try to do your very best and achieve excellence.

In fact, I think we should, to the best of our ability, try to shoot for excellence because reaching for it means we’ve given 100 percent of the very best of ourselves. Through the process, we may even make it possible for those around us to achieve some excellence of their own. When we do that, we can be proud of a job well done.

So, then, what might that sticker have said that wouldn’t have sent me racing away from it? How about this? “Excellence: Anyone can achieve it.”

Jagunic is a Cortland resident.