Bossa Nova, the Beatles, and the Problem with Perfection


I was driving the other day.  For some reason, I couldn’t get the bluetooth on my phone to connect with the car’s sound system, so I found myself listening to the Beatles station on XM radio.  I’ve been in a podcast haze for the last several months, and despite my affinity for them, was needing a bit of melody in my heart and body to balance out all that heightened cognitive consumption.  

I didn’t grow up on the Beatles mind you.  Sure, both my parents were musicians, yet they didn’t really grow up on the Beatles either.  It wasn’t their thing.  They (and as a result, I) grew up on jazz, namely, the Bossa Nova brand.  I’m not mad about it either.  

My Beatles education comes from my husband.  As a drummer, producer, and the biggest music nerd I’ve ever met, he’s constantly schooling me about the legendary imprint those fab four left on the world.  I’m grateful for this and always trying to listen for another layer of genius each time I hear one of their songs.  

Back to the other day...I had one of those “aha” moments in the car on my way back from Target.  You ready for this?  

We absolutely can’t entertain the creative process and perfectionism in the same room, let alone breathe.  They are distinct enemies and hate each other’s guts.  

Why?  Creativity is messy and takes loads of courage and curiosity.  Perfectionism depends on control and reeks of fear.   Creativity requires letting go in order to trust a higher, more vulnerable process.  Perfectionism is an excuse we give ourselves as to why we stay stuck in the need for certainty.  Really, it’s just a scared man’s game.  There’s nothing virtuous or noble about perfectionism.  It’s a total sham.  

If you listen back to some of Bossa Nova’s most magical moments, you’ll undoubtedly find two central characters, Astrud Gilberto & Antonio Carlos Jobim (well three…Stan Getz).  You know what you will not find?  Autotune, a thing they use in modern music production that can take your tone deaf 82-year-old grandmother and make her sound like Brandi Carlisle.  It’s like photoshopping a recording.  

Guess what?  There was no photoshopping the Beatle’s either.  Despite their masterful, tight sound, what makes it so good and authentic is the quirky, jangly, and quintessential English flavor we know and love.  It’s all them.  As I listened to In My Life, a total favorite, I was reminded of the simple wizardry hidden all throughout.  Likewise with Corcovado, a classic Getz/Gilberto tune.  Both, in my estimation, are iconic complete with endearing pitchiness, that yummy analog warmth, and an energy that’s palpable—breathable.  

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.  I’ve clung tightly to this mantra for years.  If you are waiting to write the perfect book, give a pristine presentation, release a musical masterpiece, or develop the fanciest website for your business before you ever put yourself out there, you’ve already missed a great opportunity.  It’s the opportunity to find your voice and begin using it despite the nervous, wobbly first couple hundred efforts.  Also, it’s the opportunity to be known.  

It’s true. You and I may never make jazz or rock n’ roll history.  However, as  human beings born to create (and yes, you are highly creative no matter what you think), we have a responsibility to live courageously in the direction of our dreams.  It’s what separates us from animals—this ability to make up stories and all sorts of other stuff.  It gives us meaning.  It gives us purpose.  Purpose, after all, is the opposite of depression, not happiness like we tend to assume.  

The world doesn’t want your perfection, it wants you.  Ask yourself what it is you would do, create, or be today if fear was not an option.  What’s that treasure hidden deep inside you? 

Got it?  Go write it down.  Every detail you can muster.  You know what?  You’re already one step closer.  I dare you to take one more.  Go fall flat on your face and get back up.  Take another. That’s called courage.  And that, my friend, is more than perfect…it’s everything.

Love & Gratitude,