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C11P95 – But mortals

C11P95 – But mortals published on 12 Comments on C11P95 – But mortals

…I hate to say it, but in these kinds of conversations, usually I’m Milan. Renar is frequently played by a very patient Cory. (Sometimes Renar is also played by me, but then I get into arguments with myself.)

One of the reminders I have on my Inspiration/Mental Health board is “I can do Anything, but not Everything.” Which is hard for the perfectionist in me (who stubbornly refuses to be quelled despite my best efforts) to accept. Perfectionism demands that all efforts go from 0 to 100% overnight. I must do EVERYTHING and I must do it NOW or else I have failed. Slow progress isn’t a sign of success, it’s a lack of perfection.

We are but mortals.

Progress is a series of steps, punctuated by the stumbling blocks of necessary mistakes, that over time lead to improved skills and a stronger sense of mastery.

Unless you’re aiming for perfection. Perfection says that mistakes are failures, “improvement” is another word for “not good enough,” and mastery should be the starting point (which should also be one’s end point…because somehow those are supposed to happen simultaneously). Practice is not perfect, says Perfectionism. If you can’t do it right the first try, you shouldn’t attempt it at all.

Perfectionism is a lying jerk. Or a really, really insecure portion of my brain that fears inadequacy so much it would rather induce that feeling preemptively than have to possibly live it in real-time.

…Probably it is both of those things. Or even more things on top of that.

Regardless of where it comes from, Dr. Milan (and also me) would probably benefit from detaching the definition of failure from the demands of perfectionism. We are but mortals. We’re going to get better as we keep trying new things and learning in the process. That’s how learning works.

What’s your approach to learning? What else is important to keep in mind about the learning process?


Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

oh god this hurt me so much in school. It’s always nice to hear someone else struggling with the same thing… I’ve always been dogged by it.

Your “Remember we are but mortals” reminds me of a Latin quote. Originally, it was used for the opposite problem (quelling overwhelming egos) but it seems right to post it here:

“Hominem te memento.” (Or memente, I don’t remember wich because Latin was forever ago) It means, “Remember you are human.” Originally when someone would win a medal or sports game or prestigious award, they would be given a slave whose only duty was to whisper that in their ear to make them more humble.

However I think sometimes we need to be the slave whispering in the ear of our perfectionism’s ego. (Not a slave, but you know what I mea). “Perfectionist Me – remember you are human.” Human means making mistakes… and also achieving incredible things. We need to remember both meanings of that phrase.

That is a really interesting history tidbit. Also: Wow, what a super weird job that would be. One’s entire duty dedicated to just reminding someone not to give in to the temptations of hubris. “Remember, you’re human…if you forget it, you’ll probably marry your mother or be lost at sea for ten years or visit the Underworld or something. Stay frosty, human. Stay frosty.”

My favorite quote on the subject, which I need to remember more often:

“Ever try? Ever fail? No matter.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

I like that a lot. It reminds me of a game-designer philosophy I was introduced to via the YouTube show Extra Credits, which is “Fail Faster.” The idea being that failure is not only unexpected, it is an absolute guarantee and necessity. The faster you can find out what doesn’t work (ie, the failures of your game idea) the sooner you can either find a better way or fix what’s wrong. The faster one fails, the better, because it reduces resources that might otherwise get committed to rotten ideas. Thinking this way totally changes the mindset for me. You really have to commit to something to pursue faster failure, which means that every effort is exuberant, but without the stress of being desperate for something to succeed.

Extra Credits! I love them. The “fail faster” philosophy turns out to be useful in developing less-artistic stuff, too. Is it gonna flop/break/eat your face? Find out as soon as possible, get that out of the way. Or maybe you’ll find out it’ll be awesome, so you can be excited about something real instead of something imaginary. In either case, address the most likely failure point ASAP.

My personal interpretation of the quote, though, comes closer to one of the most famous lines from Adventure Time:

“Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sort of good at something.”

You have to remember, some things are actually, objectively DIFFICULT. As in everybody fails repeatedly as a part of the learning process. The difference between the people who get good and people who don’t is that the former fail while learning from their mistakes, and slowly, incrementally improve their technique until they have something that passes as halfway decent. From that point on, most of the world is so amazed by your marginal competence that you have enough leeway to practice until you’re actually good. (And then you get severe imposter syndrome because you know you were only okay when everyone started cheering for you, but that’s another story.)

“That’s how learning works” is a really important point. Thank you for mentioning it, Robin, because it’s true, and it’s something I’m trying to remember. I used to avoid doing things if I didn’t already know how to do them, which made my life kind of small. Now I’m relearning how to like learning, if that makes any sense.

It’s something I only realized a few years ago. I don’t remember exactly when it struck me. Maybe when I was working with kids? There’s so many mistakes inherent in the learning process. To the point where they’re not just an occasional by-product, but an absolutely necessary part of skill-building.

Mistakes are not only guaranteed, but in many cases desirable. Many, many successful creations came out of mistakes that people looked at creatively. Sticky notes, kevlar, penicillin, microwaves, the pacemaker, etc. All were found while looking for something else, noticing something about the process or failed test that was interesting, and within that mistake discovering something valuable.

Mistakes are not only how learning works, but can be the heart of invention, if we’re open to seeing them that way.

/nods to everything in this post and panel/

Thaaat pretty much hits the spot for me.

A friend got me into Fallen London – made by Failbetter Games, and something in that name spoke to me. I figured playing this online strategy game would help me adjust to not getting the *exactly perfect* result in one go.

And it has – but not just because that person pointed me in the direction of Fallen London.

The friends they helped me find have defined me – and learning from the mistakes of those friends, heeding their advice – that, too, has aided my growth and stayed my want to be More than Human.

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