Friday, July 21, 2006


Silvia Hartmann just wrote this on a mailing list, and she has permitted me to post it here.

I just heard some really bad advice from my good dead friend, Bob Ross.

And it made me want to make a public comment about that because I think he's not the only one to suffer from this misconception.

Bob said, "I advise everyone to remain constantly dissatisfied with everything you do. Because if you are constantly dissatisfied with what you're doing, that'll make you try harder and do better next time, and you never stop learning and growing that way."

Now the fact is that I've heard this sentiment expressed by many others and in many different ways before, and I think that's appalling.

What is all that learning and growing FOR, if you are constantly dissatisfied and disappointed with what you've already achieved? This leads to nothing but a life filled with DISSAPPOINTMENT - like a donkey running after a carrot tied by a stick to its head and which it can never reach, no matter how hard it runs itself into exhaustion.

You might as well just stop altogether and save yourself all that trouble and be just as dissatisfied and disappointed, without doing anything at all!

To "honour the work of the day" is one of the most important lessons I've personally ever learned.

I think it might have been a poem I found that I wrote many years ago by accident one day, and it was superb. I couldn't have done any better today, not after 25 years of studying language, experience, internal representations, state and metaphor in a professional capacity.

The thing was that I remembered writing it, and *being entirely dissatisfied with it* at the time. Angry. Horribly dissappointed with my "failure" to make the poem work.

That started me thinking that the things I do today are probably not as bad as I think they are either, and that I'm doing *some thing* in my head to devalue my efforts of the day.

Which is completely de-motivational and only leads to an ongoing sense of failure, regardless of how amazing your achievements might actually be.

Only success, in the end, leads to more success.

Success calls more success to it, and in the case of activities, such as building a business or painting a picture, it is the road to pure, unadulterated misery if we keep judging things to be faulty and full of failure, one way or the other.

You look for the good, and you'll find the good.

We all need to learn to look for the good, firstly in our own endeavours, and then let that spread out to the endeavours of others around us.

There is no other way to get ourselves and our civilisations out of the HELL we have constructed for our own selves, and for each other.

Look for success. Encourage EVERY success, then success will grow, will be right at home with you, and you'll go from strength to strength, without any fear of failure.

That's a complete fact and a real truth about our lives and the work we produce.

And I thought that was so important, I wrote an essay about it today in preference to doing anything else.

Success to all, and in all ways, Silvia Hartmann


Adam Czarnowski said...

Ah, the good old perfectionist-failure bind!

One you have to come to terms with if you write, draw, paint, take pictures, make movies, have children, work, have relationships, love and/or want to live with any measure of happiness and contentment.

Knowing where to stop - and what to leave out, what not to say - is the art, I think.


Dragonsbane said...

Actually, I believe that many (most?) people don't come to terms with it. Many people seem to either be disappointed in what they accomplish even when it's good, or just as bad, belive that their handiwork is perfect, when it is terrible.

eolake said...

Indeed, I think this article is for the minority who can change their mind about things.

StarFields said...

Dragonsbane said...
"Many people seem to either be disappointed in what they accomplish even when it's good, or just as bad, belive that their handiwork is perfect, when it is terrible."

Those who believe their handiwork to be pwonderful, even when it *is* terrible, will have a better time, and a much better life.

And then there can be an endless discussion on the definition of "terrible" across the ages, so who knows, they might be right in the first place!

eolake said...

Indeed so. Most famous artists had periods where most people thought their work was dreck.

Adam Czarnowski said...

The vagaries of fashion in the arts being what they are - some of the stuff hailed at the time as wonderful does not last - while other work grows with stature as the years pass. The work of Nick Drake and Tim Buckley was not thought highly of (except by a prescient few) at the time but now there work still sounds fresh unlike a lot of late 60's and early 197o's music.

Perhaps, on a different subject, someone could tell me why blogger swallowed all my pictures and now on the edit page the buttons do not even show so I can reload the phots and start again?

Most frustrating...

Pascal R said...

Perfection is not a goal. It is a direction, a beacon to show you the way. Like the horizon, you can follow it, but don't expect to reach it.

Life is a journey through Time. We know how it ends, but the purpose is to enjoy the journey and make something positive from it.