Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Positives of Obsession

It's okay to embrace your inner perfectionist...really.
It’s that aching need to figure something out, solve a problem, or perfect a project.  Sometimes it’s simply the relief desired in finishing that project.  Can obsession be a bad thing? Of course, but when focused on the right thing it can help us advance some pretty important causes.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone tell me to “stop obsessing over the details,” or “Adam, good enough is fine.”  I understand their view point, especially when circumstances like deadlines are involved, but that nagging need to refine, perfect or figure something out is the difference between good enough and something that’s memorable; the difference between mediocrity and exceptional.  My favorite is when I hear people say ridiculous things like “you’re making other people look bad,” as if, we perfectionists stay up at night trying to concoct some maniacal plan to make other people’s work look bad.  I feel bad for people that think in these absurd ways.  I simply want to better myself and hopefully those around me as a result of the obsession I apply to aspects in work and life.  The analysts and leaders I enjoy working with the most are the one’s willing to put in extra work to stretch their limits.  It makes us all better in the end.  My experience has taught me that laziness is the greatest enemy of success.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for obsession.  The more I read about talent and its origins, the more I’ve come to realize a little obsession is a big part in skill development.  Perfection is unachievable, but improvement is.  While there’s clearly a fine line between genius and madness, there’s a chasm between genius and laziness (enough distance where I believe for those who are lazy to misinterpret all obsession with madness).
I say embrace your obsessions as well as others’; it may lead to some pretty incredible things.
Here are some great quotes pointing out the importance of obsession:
On Warren Buffet… "He had worked extremely hard to learn all about the field that obsessed him.”  - Talent is Overrated
On Moe Norman (pro golfer)… "Top-level pro golf requires much more than just hitting straight shots, bat at this particular skill, mind-boggling repetition produced amazing ability.” - Talent is Overrated
“Bowman could also see that Phelps, even at a young age, had a capacity for obsessiveness that made him an ideal athlete.  Then again, all elite performers are obsessives.” - The Power of Habit