My brother once told me that a teacher he had 6 years after I did, told him, I was the worst student in her drawing class. I took me years to realize how much (negative) impact she had had on my creativity.

For years, I had the feeling that I could not make drawings or make paintings. And yes I am a bad painter and I always had the feeling I should not have passed kindergarten, as I can hardly draw with lines… Yet the message I heard was: you are not a creative person.

When I write these words down now, they make me smile, no – they make me laugh, laugh out loud. Me, I am not creative? I am a very creative person. Yes, my creativity does not manifest in the same way as that of some of my classmates. That does not mean I am not creative and it surely does not mean I don’t care about quality.

In my writing I have the same “problem”, I have always been very bad in languages. I speak Dutch, French & English. I read all three. Yet I am unable to write in any of these perfectly.

I make lots of mistakes when I write. I have some friends who go crazy when I write a DT mistake in Dutch. Some of them have tried to teach me for at least 15 years. The result of their teaching was that I felt bad and I started to avoid interacting with them in writing.

These days I stopped feeling bad about it. Yes I know I make mistakes when I write. Yes I know it makes most people crazy. Yes I want to write better, I know I can’t and so don’t bother teaching me, I have been trying for 33 years, I can’t. Please accept me as I am.

Now make no mistake, I do care about quality. I do care about getting my message across. Yet when I notice that I keep myself from writing because I don’t see my mistakes for the first 3 months after I wrote them, or I stop interacting with people because they care more about their language then me, when I notice that, that is when I am in trouble.

I ‘m convinced I have something to add to this world. I am very much aware that I am more popular as a speaker then as a writer. And that is fine with me; but it won’t stop me from writing.

If you think my idea’s are worth nothing because I am not able to write a perfect sentence, then I think you have as much to learn from me as you think I have to learn from you.

Last year I worked in Bordeaux. Although I speak French much better then I read or write (Guess why I don’t write in French…) I do make mistakes. And some of the French I am using (“a tantôt”) turns out to be more Belgian French than real French (whatever that means).

It took me a few months to realize that “the state of my French” was actually an asset for my work as a coach. I was working for a company were lots of people suffer from perfectionism. They all dreamed of the blue sky scenario. And yes they were great at explaining what the perfect world would be. They knew their problems so well. They knew what had to be done; And yet nothing happened. Is that something you recognize?

I bet you do. A lot of companies suffer from this. Hell, lots of coaches and consultants suffer from this.
They block themselves from doing anything, because they can only imagine the perfect world.

I’m in favor of starting. Any progress is better then what you had before. And by making mistakes in my language I showed the people I coached I was serious about it. The fact I let them correct me all the time I also showed them I cared about quality.


13 Responses to “Do you have a perfection ghost?”

  1. Agile Scout says:

    Love this post man. Shows us who you are. No one is perfect. All receive criticism at some point or another.

    Keep aiming high!

  2. Chris Matts says:

    You are right. I do like this post.

    The great thing about speaking is that people cannot spot a misspelling or a grammatical error. It is a pity that we do not have the same thing in written language.

    Unfortunately people forget why we invented language… to communicate and not to correct people. I think shakespear spelt his own name three or four different ways.

    When you are communicating new ideas, it is the idea that is more important than the words. These people that obsess with correct written language make great editors. They are the perfect writing pair for sum1 woo duz not kare about such fings but haz gr8 ideas to cher.

    Love your writing as it is dude. 😉

  3. Gitte says:

    This ressonates so much in me..

    Yes I have big evil perfection ghost that I have many fights with – maybe I should stop fighting…

    It is only when I teach, I let go; when I make mistakes, I just joke about it and move on 🙂

    Definetly another blogpost that trickers my mind and thoughts 🙂

    Keep writing so us, who are not in the same geographical place as you, can also benefit from your thoughts 🙂

  4. yhanoulle says:

    Hi Gitte,

    Good remark about the teaching, this is also were I first learned to ignore the ghost.
    Actually there I use something like Click rewind, long before I heard about the core protocols.

  5. I often struggle with perfectionism, so I relate to the idea of focussing on starting rather than aiming for perfect.

    I like how you described that you worked with “the state of your French” when speaking to the team. You modelled that you were open to both making errors and to having others correct them. I think that’s consistent with an approach that values learning.

    It seems to me that your approach to writing is different though; you seem to be saying “I know I can make errors when writing, but nothing I’ve done has made this better, so you should accept me like this (and if you view me negatively for this, then you’re missing out on learning something yourself!)”

    That position, if I’ve understood it, doesn’t seem consistent with being open to correction (or learning) with your writing.

    It seems like your viewing your situation as stuck between a rock and a hard place; either I write (with probable errors) or I aim to write perfectly (which means I don’t write).

    I could think of an approach where you asked others to proof read your work once you’ve written it, similar to your approach to being open to corrections when speaking. I’m interested what, if anything, would prevent you from doing this?


  6. yhanoulle says:

    hi Benjamin,

    What you are describing, I am doing for blogposts.
    What I don’t want to do is have everything I write being reviewed, like e-mails, comments in blogpost, statusmessages in FB or twitter..
    Funny enough I get more critque for making typing mistakes in FB then on my blog….


  7. OK. I didn’t realise you were asking others for help with your blog posts from the content of this post. I also wasn’t aware of the other contexts you mentioned.
    I’ve been working on improving the writing in my blog posts by sleeping on them overnight and then doing a “read out aloud” to a friend to spot parts that are unclear or confusing.

  8. yhanoulle says:

    No, the idea of this post was not to ask for help. I do ask for help by e-mail when I write post.
    And yes most of my posts are written a week or so before publication. With a few rereads in between.

  9. yhanoulle says:

    oh and yes I’m still open to feedback and correction of what I write.
    What I react against is people flatout telling me; as long as you can’t write correct English/French/Dutch I won’t read what you are saying. Or worse: people making fun of me for making stupid typing mistakes.

  10. Thank you for letting me slip a few corrections in. How about 24 for a start? Now somebody needs to correct my corrections 😉