Monday, 16 February 2015


I keep on hearing the word “perfect” nowadays. When someone asks me my name and I tell them they tend to say “perfect” as if in awe at my accurately and confidently remembering my own name. Perfect has become the new “great”.

I’m not sure I much like “perfect.”  Seth Godin the management guru and inspirational writer said: “stop trying to be perfect. Be remarkable”.

Remarkable is what a live performance can be.  When, many years ago, I stood just a few feet away from the Kinks playing “You really got me” they did, get me that is, because it was quite remarkable. But it was far from perfect.   Dave Davis was so drunk he could hardly stand and Ray was reviling him. It wasn’t perfect but it was very exciting wondering if rock murder might occur in front of me.

It’s the danger of live performance that provides the frisson of what has been called “the dramatic moment” when the suspension of disbelief is total.  It happened to me in Lewes at a performance of Othello in a hotel when suddenly I found myself almost part of the action arguing about a handkerchief. Rather than grand Shakespearian Tragedy I was embroiled in a domestic.

Life is not perfect. And if it always were perfect how dull we’d find it. I talked to real live Russians and Ukrainians last week at a conference, not the sort you see on TV. All that these smart people wanted was to get on with their lives, better themselves and their prospects, become remarkably successful. Putin and Poroschenko seemed a million miles away from the reality of life I was hearing about.

Nearly all politicians we are told are increasingly aggrieved by the apathy and active dislike the electorate feels towards them (and that includes you too Nigel.)  It’s because they really don’t have our interest at heart at all. They want to do their own thing and create their own perfection. Their persistent criticism of business seems a bit odd.

Business generates wealth, generates opportunities, generates jobs and generates happiness. Not perfect but pretty good.

Innovation is seldom perfect either. The first version of almost everything is slightly defective. Have you ever had a “new improved” mobile phone that wasn’t “new and nearly improved but not quite yet.”  But that striving to improve is what appeals not the perfection. Psychologist Carol Dwek established praise of effort has a much more beneficial effect on recipients than if they are praised for their talent.

On Friday we went to a promenade performance at St Paul’s Cathedral by the Cardinall’s Musick, a group of accomplished singers whose speciality is early English Church music by composers like Tallis and Byrd. And it was remarkable because we were there watching something being created live with all the risks that entails.

Listening and having our hearts and minds moved. Mere perfection would have been plastic and still next to this live experience.

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