Perfectionists and Control Freaks

I’ve noticed that the people who don’t like detail are quick to call those who do “control freaks” or “perfectionists”. The people who like detail can easily fire right back that those who “go with the flow” and “let it all hang out” (cool 60s phrases, young people!) are sloppy and disinterested.

Actually, I find the truth somewhere in the middle. You have to have a clear idea of what you want and a strong desire to get it but you also have to be willing to adjust as you go and work with what shows up. Some people can do one but not the other, some people can’t do either. The people who succeed are the ones who can manage both.
Developing anything unique requires quite a bit of study, research, application and a willingness to “work out the bugs” as you go. It asks for tenaciousness, perseverance, dedication, and a strong determination. It requires a resilient spirit, a hopeful attitude and a constant willingness to re-group and re-organize without becoming discouraged. When and if you finally do get where you wanted to go, others will want to join you there. It’s as if you have summited the mountain. Afterwards, others will want to climb to that summit as well, because you have said it’s possible. If, then, you were to advise others about the safest, easiest, most practical way to ascend, you would think the travelers would want to heed your advice. Don’t count on it. Some of them, at least, might just tell you to mind your business, because they will figure out their own path, thank you very much. If the mountaineer offers advice freely or makes comments about the best way to climb to the top of the peak, some would-be climbers would, rather than taking that advice, tell the mountaineer to be quiet and stop being a “control freak”. They might see the mountaineer’s advice about making sure that all the climbing equipment is checked, and guidance about what to pack, what to expect, and what to avoid, as being “too perfectionistic”.
Such it is with singing. There are people who sing well, who have a track record as artists who have performed successfully. There are people who also understand the process, because they have had to work it out as they made their journey. They may be people who actually paid attention to what worked and what did not. It would seem only logical and practical that those people would be the beacons of light to whom others would turn. Not always so. It would seem that the profession would be interested in learning what those artists have to say. Wrong again. There are actually others in the profession who are against taking advice or guidance from people who have been successful at singing or teaching singing because they don’t want to be perceived as people “needing” guidance. Crazy, huh?
I was always interested in learning from those who knew more than me. I was willing to sit at their feet and absorb what they had to teach me, knowing they had done something well and successfully that I also wanted to do well. It didn’t occur to me to tell my teachers that they were trying to “control me” when they expected me to conform to their criteria. It didn’t occur to me, either, that they were “perfectionists” if I had to do something over and over in order to get it right. It seemed reasonable to me.
Understand then, people who are very good at something are perfectionistic, because if there were not, they wouldn’t be really good. They work to get the details right because they know that’s what makes the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. People who are successful pay attention to the details, even the smallest ones, because they know that its in the small details that the task is completed thoroughly and with nothing left undone. Every Olympic athlete worries about the hundredths of seconds that can be shaved off a swim, the small twist that could be eliminated from a high dive, the precise landing of a gymnastic dismount. Every successful business owner finds the last dollar in the bank statement and the annual report. Every glamorous model has a perfect presentation from head to foot when she steps out on the runway or out on the town.
Being “so-so” is easy. It’s what most people do. Being amazing requires perfectionism and precise control over whatever it is that can be perfected and controlled. Knowing that things change all the time and that nothing can ever exist in that imaginary state of “perfect” doesn’t stop one from trying to get there every minute of every day.
If you are not that interested in making sure the details are handled or in holding to the standards that matter in your work (singing or anything else), don’t expect others to look at you with high regard. If you are one of those “whatever” folks, be aware of the labels you put on the people who have actually achieved something. Don’t assign them too quickly. You might have to go back one day and take those labels off and find newer, more accurate ones to use instead. In fact, if you really get your goals accomplished, you might find other people calling you a perfectionistic control freak and you might not agree with that label at all.
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