I tend to be a perfectionist. I remember attaching myself to this concept at a very young age. One young memory is of me folding a paper in half, and working tirelessly to get the edges perfect, as well as the crease. The first few times I refolded the paper, the corners were just a few milimeters off. I never did get those corners absolutely perfect. I had to settle for 2 milimeters off. I consoled myself that at least the crease was perfect.
I learned pivot tables from an incredible teacher, who backed his classes with a 100% money-back guarantee. I was skeptical about that guarantee. I had heard pivot tables was a difficult concept to grasp, especially for people not in the finance field, but the teacher delivered a learning experience that made understanding the concept and implementation of pivot tables seamless.
Earlier this week, I served as this teacher’s assistant for an all-day Excel class. This was the first time I was working with him. We had a lot of material to run through. We also had to deal with a lot of slowness issues for the large class of beginner-level students.
The teacher was going too slow in the first half of the class. He has an excellent way of teaching, which builds, step by step, an understanding of a function or a feature, but his approach was going to result in the students not learning anything about some of the functions we needed to cover.
I could see him struggling with his core values of teaching so that students walked away with a complete understanding of the material, and with the need to cover all of the important functions in the material.
We took a break for lunch. And when we came back, he was phenomenal. He was still able to communicate a deeper understanding of Excel, while moving the class along at a faster pace so that all of the important functions were taught. I couldn’t believe how good he was and had to know — given my own struggles with perfectionism — how the heck he’d been able to do that.
No magic, he said. It was a brutal struggle (I’m paraphrasing) where he had to keep focusing on the end goal of covering the material. I told him that in shifting his focus, he actually achieved both goals.
It was a great lesson for me that relaxing my standards of perfection might help me achieve it.