When I was in Tech Sales in SF, most of the people I worked with were motivated by money. That’s fine because the top of the leaderboard was filled with money motived people (and some of the best salesmen and woman are). I am not humble bragging but I was often, if not usually, at the top of the leaderboard but I’ve never been money motivated. Or I wasn’t then. Maybe that is changing now that I am more of a starving artist and as I get older. I digress. I wasn’t money motivated and this usually shocked my peers and superiors (not they minded based on my performance because that is what sales is based on).
No, instead I am a perfectionist. There is no 100% in sales; there is no A+. There is 110% and then 120% and on and on. There is no goal line and so perfection is hard to achieve so what did I do? I just kept running. You can read about it here.
I was thinking about this the other day when I wrote about Why versus How (does that sound too much like Carrie Bradshaw?). What motivates me and the people I love? What motivates you? Some people easily said they were why people, others easily said they were how people, but a few said they were both. Maybe you can be both. But if you had to pick. If someone told you a crazy story, let’s say this one about DB Cooper…at the end of it, do you ask how or why?
I don’t know when I became a perfectionist. It doesn’t mean I was always perfect. It means I felt shame when I was less than. I remember it keenly in school, even in kindergarten. I knew those checks and pluses equated to actual grades (who didn’t?). But my brother was different. School never interested him. At all. Homework? What was that?
But my brother was an unbelievable ballplayer. This is a sport I could never play because there is no such thing as perfect. My brother was a homerun hitter. It wasn’t rare for him to hit a grand slam and a home run in one game. Still, even if every time he came up to bat in a single game his batting average wouldn’t be 1000 (perfect). It’s impossible to finish a season like that.
That sentence is so hard for me: it’s impossible.
Have you read The Art of Fielding? I reviewed it here. This quote has always stayed with me when I think of my brother and baseball: “What other sport not only kept a stat as cruel as the error but posted it on the scoreboard for everyone to see?” (Harbach, 259).
So what motivated my brother? The boy who considered finishing The Great Gatsby “but then they showed the movie and I was like, what’s the point”? Hours and hours of practice, of running until he puked over and over again, batting practice and fielding practice, mentoring the other players, captaining the team, coaches good and bad and everything in between…
I find satisfaction in perfection or as close to it as I can get. What do people like him find satisfaction in?
I’ll leave you with a paragraph from the short story I teased about on Monday…I don’t know if I will ever post the whole thing but here you go (it’s still rough):
“For a long time, she imagined a chubby, little hand opening and closing. Buh Bye, a voice told her and then arms held out and up. Hullo, Mama, hullo. Their watercolored hands and arms and pretend voices just appeared one night in her head, as she watched him rub a hand over his jaw, trying discern the Swedish instructions for putting together the television stand and she knew then they would get married. She never pictured a dress or a ring, only these children.
It’s now she realizes she never did see their faces–just hands and arms reaching. And was the older child saying goodbye instead of, Hullo, hullo? Had she gotten it wrong? Was she already the kind of mother whose children learned the shape of her back instead of the dimple on their mother’s cheek, the sweep of her eyelashes as she slept and they babbled around her, the kind of mother always leaving even only imaginary children?” (Me).
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