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Forget about Perfect

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Forget about Perfect

Why your best is good enough.
Ben  Stein
Mar 08, 2010 at 09:00 AM

Al Burton was the director of creative affairs for one of the largest TV producers in Hollywood. He witnessed the elevation of television from a small experiment into the most powerful media apparatus in all history. From his offices on Sunset Boulevard, he supervised production for prime-time television situation comedies.

Each and every day, Burton saw young men and women parading into his office with stars in their eyes. They wanted to be great men and women of the flickering screen. They had ideas of how they would make television into a completely new and different force.

“These people came in here with tons of energy, just waiting and dying to become someone important and get their ideas across on TV—and make that kind of money that you make for writing successfully for TV,” Burton remarked. “Some of them made it,” he added while playing with a weather radio on his small Louis XV–reproduction desk, “and most of them went back to Kankakee.”

But could he predict which of them would make it in advance of their actually doing so? “To a certain extent,” he said. “This is how I could tell. If a guy came in here with his heart pouring out a desire to write a script for ‘a show,’ I had it in my power to tell him to write an outline of a story. If we liked the story, he’d get money for the story outline, and then he’d get money for the story—the script—when he wrote it.”

“I made that offer about 20 times each month,” Burton said. “And most people took that possibility and went home and just completely froze. They thought that they had to turn out the greatest script in the history of television. They sat at their typewriters and they tried to write the one dynamite first line of stage direction that was going to make them immortal. And it didn’t come out that way. So they tried about a hundred different ways of writing that first line or that first act, and all the time they were trying to be the Molière of situation comedy, trying to write something that would be absolutely perfect.”

“They’re the ones who went back to Kankakee,” he continued, “because they were the ones who were never going to turn in anything at all. They got so completely wound up with trying to do something perfect that they never did anything at all. I would see them maybe a year later and they’d tell me they were still working on that sitcom script, and God help them, it was the truth.”

Burton looked at a Delacroix reproduction painting of a Parisian street scene and smiled a contagious grin. “The ones who were going to make it were the ones who took home a few copies of scripts that had already aired and tried to do one at just about the level that you see on TV every night. They didn’t try to do junk, and they didn’t try to do Shakespeare. They just wanted to do a workmanlike, solid, good job. And that’s what they did. And those guys might come back here 20 times trying to do the same show, but eventually they’d get one on the air that would fly. Then they’d be off to the races.”

Al added, “The ones who made it are the ones who weren’t killed by thinking that they had to be the one perfect Hollywood TV writer. The ones who made it just wanted to be good enough to get one on the tube.”

Well said, Mr. Burton, my dear friend. Few things can be more wasteful of time and spirit than the necessity of having to live up to a completely irrelevant and useless standard of perfection. The compulsion to do something perfect is the exact equivalent of the compulsion never to get anything done at all. Both of them lead to a hopeless lack of production.

If nothing is produced, nothing is accomplished, and no steps are taken to getting you the objects of your heart’s desire.

About Author
Ben  Stein
Ben Stein is probably the closest any man comes these days to being a true renaissance man. His financial and economics work was cited in the efforts of the recent Nobel prize winner in Economics, George Akerlof. He is also the host of the long runni Continue reading