Creating legacy and the quest for perfection

‘People throw away what they could have by insisting on perfection, which they cannot have, and looking for it where they will never find it.’  Edith Schaeffer

Creating legacy and getting things done

Creating legacy is about taking action, and about making the best with what you’ve got at the moment. There is never a perfect time for creating legacy. There are never any perfect circumstances. And you’d better accept the fact that no matter how long you work on it, your legacy project will never be perfect.

So don’t wait for the perfect moment to start your legacy project, and don’t keep your legacy project hidden from the world in a quest for perfection. All you can be sure of is the ‘here’ and the ‘now’. Start with these. And don’t wait interminably before making your legacy project accessible to the world. Set yourself a deadline for when your legacy project will be complete, and stick with it as much as possible. Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good, as Voltaire says and Gretchen Rubin discusses in an excellent blog post on the Happiness Project blog.

The perfection fallacy 

Of course, some of the great legacies often seem to embody perfection. So it is tempting to think that we should not release the result of any legacy project into the world until we are one hundred percent happy with it, until we find absolutely nothing more to add to it – thereby thinking we are standing a better chance of our legacy project making an impact.

But if you look at the way the greatest legacies were made, you will see that people rarely came out with a masterpieces as their very first work. Mozart composed dozens of pieces before creating anything memorable. Shakespeare had written many plays before Hamlet and Macbeth. Goethe took 60 years of redrafting to come up with his final version of ‘Faust’ (60 years! can you imagine?).

Each and every legacy creator we admire today had to start somewhere small, somewhere imperfect – and worked through their imperfections day after day after day, honing their craft, before producing some of their greatest work. Don’t be fooled by looking at their greatest accomplishments, and seeing that as their general standard. Look into some of their early work, and also take into account that their really early work never got published – and you will see that they never would have created anything memorable if they had harboured the delusion of creating something perfect from the very start of their career.

Don’t look for the perfect circumstances

It is also tempting to see our lack of time and money as obstacles to starting a legacy project. So we adopt the deferred life plan. We say to ourselves that ‘I will work in a meaningless job that pays lots of money for X number of years, and once I am financially secure I will quit the job and start creating legacy.’

In practice, it just doesn’t work that way. Because you will always have obstacles in your way. For starters, it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll have a well-paying  job and yet keep on living on as little as possible; well-paying jobs come with expectations about your lifestyle. So you won’t be able to save as much money as you think to allow yourself the time to create legacy – which means your ‘creating legacy start date’ will get postponed for later and later in life.

Wouldn’t it be better not to get the high-earning meaningless job, but settle for something more flexible yet less well-paying instead, and use your spare time to create legacy?

What about you?
Are you what they call a perfectionist? Or are you waiting for the perfect circumstances in your life to start creating legacy? Share your story or your ideas with us in the comments section.

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at www.alexaispas.com