Dating Doctrine – Step 4 – Give Up on Perfection and Embrace Failure

I teach competitive Latin dance – you know, that stuff you see on Dancing with the Stars.

Pics or it didn’t happen.

I specialize in teaching people who have never danced a day in their lives.

You know what the first thing they say to me is, even before we begin?

Can you guess?

Well, here’s a selection of things that people tell me (and themselves) even as they’re walking into my class:

“I can’t dance.”

“I’m not coordinated.”

“There’s no way I can learn this.”

“I’m not talented in that way.”

Basically, the same damn thing I told myself the first two years I started doing Latin, 8 years ago.

So, I know where they’re coming from.

Usually, what they’re thinking when they say “I can’t do that,” is that they’re imagining the end goal. So they see something like this…

… and they think “I’ll never get there.”

They see a dance like that video up there, and to them it’s perfect and unattainable. It’s not even worth it to try.

Of course that happens. They’re beginners. They’ve never danced before. And usually, because I teach at a top tier University, they’re also really damn smart. So, it really frustrates them when I explain something with words, and they understand it, but they still can’t do it.

So, here’s where a lot of different neuroses, habits, and hidden downsides of “self-perceived aptitude” all come together in a perfect storm of getting nothing done: the illusion of perfection makes it impossible for you to improve as a person in any endeavor.

You tell yourself “Well, if I was good at it, I’d already be good at it.”

And then you don’t try. Because people who are good at things don’t lose.

As if no one has ever lost at tennis, basketball, or jello wrestling, right?

See, there’s something about our culture that reviles failure. As in, you fail at something – even something small, like a spelling test in first grade – and that’s it for you. You carry that shit around like luggage.

In modern civilization, you are not allowed to fail.

Let that marinate for a bit. Really let that sink in.

“But Vichet,” you say. “We’ve all failed in some way or another!”

Yeah, I know we have. I’m the one writing this, remember?

But really think about it. How openly do we allow ourselves to talk about our failures? How strong is that reaction in the pit of your stomach that makes you think “oh no, I better not mention that time I _______.”

What’s going on there?

Shame? Regret? Anger? Despair?

Sheesh. Where did that come from, right?

All of this, because for some reason, we all feel the need to be “perfect.” Whatever that means.

Got it?

Now, think of someone who is the paragon of their field.

Richard Feynman. Michael Jordan. James Brown. Anyone. Think of people who are world champions, renowned artists, leaders.

Now, think about the fact that when they were young, they were pretty much just like every other kid around them, and very likely, they were getting their asses handed to them at whatever it was they became known for.

You think Michael Jordan won every basketball game in his life, ever? Even when he was 6?

You think he was born knowing how to play?

It’s more likely he started playing when he was young, sucked at it for a while. Someone was dunking on him. Someone was breaking his ankles with a sick crossover. Someone was making him walk home and think “maybe I should get into something else.” Someone made him feel the way anyone who ever started fresh at something has felt, ever.

Right. Now why do you expect that your life would turn out any different?

I’ll tell you why.

You expect yourself to be perfect.

You think you’re a Betty Crocker Instant Expert kinda person. You think there’s some skill out there that you haven’t discovered yet, and that skill is your calling, and you’ll be better at it than anyone else in the world, instantly, because – well, because you think perfection is what you deserve.

Sounds really weird when you voice that opinion out loud, don’t it?

Well, you’re not. No one is instantly good at something. Well, Mozart, maybe. But, really, are you saying you think you’re f*cking Mozart? Ego much?

What this really comes down to is how often we let our pride make decisions in our lives for us.

Your pride is what tells you that you have to be perfect at this or that, and if you’re not, well, get out of there because you can’t let people see your “weakness” or “failures.”

Let me tell you this. I started ballet and modern dance less than 2 years ago. I’m in classes with people who are both very talented, and have been doing it for longer.

Twice to three times a week, I step into a place where I am measurably one of the worst people in the room.

But I don’t let that matter.

Because if you want to be good at everything, you have to embrace the fact that you will suck at it for a long time.

Those were just two examples of things I’ve been new at. After I got over my pride, I discovered I could be new at ANYTHING and just do it without being embarrassed. I got in control of my life instead of my life controlling me.

So really think about it. Where are those moments that you allow fear of failure to make decisions for you?

Yeah. Get rid of those. The only way you’ll get better at anything is to commit to failing for a while. If you’re starting at a 1 out of 10, you’ve gotta go through 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 – all failing grades – before you get to 7.

So, live it. Become it. Be it.

Jake the Dog agrees.