Passion Over Perfection

Passion Over Perfection

This weekend I made a deal with my sons. Saturday we would visit Legoland for the day if Sunday they would enthusiastically embrace a trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I recognize for most ten and six year old’s this would be a miserable concession but I am extremely fortunate to have children that enjoy an occasional visit to an art museum.

There was a significant amount of dialog before, during, and after our visit about the pieces we viewed and what evoked emotion and why certain pieces were powerful (in a great and inspiring way or even in a disturbing way).

One of the best artistic examples of passion over perfection to me – as it relates to art is – Van Gogh’s “Irises”. This was not painted to be a masterpiece and sketches of this work have never been found indicating this was “off-the-cuff”. Van Gogh, himself, considered this piece “a study”. The brushwork, the colors, the dimension, and the passion and feeling behind this piece make it a masterpiece to the masses.

My greatest motivation when it comes to exposing my children to art of any kind (cinema, music, painting, sculptures, culinary arts, etc.) is appreciating the passion behind the artist’s work. There wasn’t perfection in every piece but there absolutely was passion and it was a salient quality that all the artwork shared regardless of how it made me/them feel. It is the most important quality from my perspective.

What Is Your Greatest Weakness?

This experience resonated with me especially this weekend as I had a very interesting week – professionally. I have been working through a  project outlining critical success factors for an organization to elevate their sourcing/recruiting practices. I was helping to establish hiring criteria through interviews – both mock and true – with candidates to identify some guidelines for these success factors and heard the platitude over…and over…and over in responses that the candidate’s “weakness” [I reshape this question in our interviews but for ease of understanding, this is essentially the question being asked] was that they were “perfectionists” and/or [to shake things up a bit, I presume] “have OCD“. This was stated as a weakness in 77% of the interviews I conducted last week.

In more than 18 years as a professional, I have never once hired someone who described their weakness as being a perfectionist – it’s a cop-out answer that means, literally, nothing and I immediately know that they read – somewhere – this is a fabulous answer to this question. Studies show that the general population contains approximately only 30% perfectionists [so I know at least 4.7 out of every 10 people that gives us this answer are likely not being honest or they profoundly lack any sense of self-awareness].

Passion is the genesis of genius. – Galileo

I will take passion, moxie, chutzpah, grit, and/or rebellion over “perfection” any day  – regardless of industry. Passion brings results, it supports accountability, it delivers on promises and a purpose that is aligned with productivity and personal accomplishment.

“Perfection is an illusion and those who seek perfection will find themselves unfulfilled their whole lives” – Unknown

Characteristics of People with Passion & Moxie

  • COURAGEOUS: Though it is difficult to measure through pedestrian questions, one of the things that immediately will become clear when you are speaking with passionate people is their courage. The ability of the candidate or the team member to manage their fear of failure will be imperative and a predictor of likely success. Courageous people embrace the chance of failure and see is as part of the process. People who possess moxie understand that there are really valuable lessons associated with defeat and that the vulnerability of perseverance is essential for achievement
  • TENACIOUS: This is defined by the individual who works tirelessly because they are committed to doing a really great job, getting the job done on time, and – finally – delivering an excellent result that they are proud of. Passionate people are adept at, and driven to, find solutions and overcome any obstacle that presents an impediment to their goals. These mercurial and passionate go-getters are more far more achievement-oriented than their self-controlled, slow and steady counterparts. The fundamental difference between someone whose ultimate goal it is to achieve success and the person who just does a lot of work is that to the passionate person – their practice serves a purpose. It has meaning and it propels them forward.
  • RESILIENT: Passionate and productive people have the ability to work through criticism and – EVERYONE is a critic. According to Andrew Zolli, “resilience is a dynamic combination of optimism, creativity, and confidence, which together empower one to reappraise situations and regulate emotion – a behavior many social scientists refer to as ‘hardiness’” Hardiness or moxie is comprised of three tenents: “(1) the belief one can find meaningful purpose in life, (2) the belief that one can influence one’s surroundings and the outcome of events, and (3) the belief that positive and negative experiences will lead to learning and growth.”
  • EXCELLENCE: In theory, perfection is excellence’s nefarious sibling. Perfection is pedantic, expositional, and shallow.  In reality, it is the common person’s excuse for lack of accomplishment. They couldn’t do it on time because it wasn’t perfect, they didn’t have the time, they didn’t have all of the information readily available, etc.  Excellence yields results – it creates action. It delivers on a commitment but allows for growth and improvement when something new and/or better is identified and people who are passionate always seek to improve upon what they know and do today.

6 Things Passionate People Do Differently

  • Passionate People Are – Generally – Obsessed: Passionate people can become inspired by taking the smallest step closer to their goals. They are obsessed in a healthy and positive way. They feel energized and enthusiastic about their project – never burdened or constrained because they are so motivated by their purpose.
  • They Manage Their Time Effectively: You will NEVER find someone who is passionate about a project wasting time…never. They won’t fill their days with tasks that kill time or make them feel stagnant. They are deliberate and focused as it relates to planning their days. They devote every available moment to the pursuit of their passion. Using their time wisely and filling their days with productive effort is not a sacrifice, it is thrilling and galvanizing.
  • They Are Risk Takers: Usually passionate people are compelled to put everything on the line to see their idea(s) come to fruition. They know that the potential payback is great. They are all in, all the time.

  • They Are Highly Excitable: Even the smallest amount of gained knowledge and/or forward momentum excites the passionate person. When they can apply new information to their purpose they go full-tilt into their project. Passionate people don’t do anything half-heartedly.
  • They Are Optimistic: Passionate people won’t tell you what they can’t do. They will tell you how they intend to accomplish their vision. They’re always chasing their next goal with the confidence that they’ll achieve it. Passionate people self-motivate every day, and their optimism is driven by their high-level of emotional intelligence. The don’t get easily disheartened when something doesn’t work out – as a matter of fact it often is the catalyst for the next big step in their process.
  • They Tune Out The Noise: Passionate and driven people don’t entertain gossip or become defeated by criticism. They suss out their least enthusiastic supporters to weed the bad seeds out. Conversely, they keep their promoters close.  They only surround themselves with people that will help keep them driven and excited at all times.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

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3 thoughts on “Passion Over Perfection

  1. Elizabeth, this is so right on the money. I’ll take imperfect massive actions/passion over perfectionism -is that even a word?!- any time. Great article.

  2. The information you entailed in this article is so essential and of great importance to understand and know. As great a read the article is, it really has helped me to do some self evaluation and self reflection of how I define myself and if that definition of myself is true based on the clear and simplified definitions of character that you laid out. I belive that often times people define themselves one way and in practice misrepresent their own definition of self.
    A question I hope you can help answer for me is, what tools or practices can one utilize to rekindle or develop any of the areas you outlined both in professional and personal life? A follow up question how can these traits be measured or evaluated?
    Thank you for continuing to encourage and shed light to very important subject matters for those of us who seek continued self improvement and growth in the areas of leadership. And the ability to empower those that we have the opportunity to lead.

    1. Hi Nare – In my opinion you have to discover/develop your passion. I don’t know of any tools that can be used other than good-old-fashioned interest and excitement around something. I consistently work on reinventing myself if I feel stagnant in any area of my life – so keeping an awareness around learning and development helps when you feel complacent. From my perspective, I measure it in excitement and enthusiasm around what I know I need to accomplish. When there is no need or desire for procrastination. When you are consistently looking for ways to improve and make things better, more efficient, more productive…there is passion there.

      So glad to hear from you! Thanks for taking the time to comment! 🙂 Enjoy your weekend.

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