Serendipity, Synergy and the paradox of perfection

Striving towards perfection is a noble and admirable goal, yet in the journey towards it, the ether of forgetfulness infects us all. The sad truth is we tend to forget the mistakes and errors we made as we moved towards our goal of perfection. This is shown in two major ways

1) we often show a lack of tolerance and patience towards others in our group on their own journey.

2) We seem to focus on the result not the requirements endured to get there.

The acceptance of youth and inexperience and the errors they need to make, seems to have been replaced by the ruthless coldness of intolerance, inflated ego and a general lack of understanding and compassion.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing and we often love to be seen as being knowledgeable. Yet the knowledgeable person, expert or leader often uses their knowledge like a fountain expounding information and like an over flowing vessel, often making a mess in their wake. The information that makes up knowledge does not make anyone wiser only more knowledgeable. The true wisdom is in knowing when to say something and when not to, when to help and when not to. The basic difference between knowledge and wisdom is how to use it, silence can be a far greater educational tool than providing the answers.

The journey of learning is what is truly memorable and the foundation of wisdom.

Once you have an answer, you are biased. We hold on to our answers tenaciously, fighting tooth and nail in their defence, rarely letting go of them and the more we do so, the harder and tighter we hold on to them and they us. There’s the rub, once devoted to an answer we become zealots and almost fanatical about its virtues. So in such an environment, how can we grow and develop. To quote many Hong Kong martial arts movies, “How can you learn when your cup is already full? Empty your cup.” The basic idea is that with preconceived ideas, how can new truths be discovered?

Your eyes see but they do not observe. 

Experts focus on their strengths while masters allow for possibilities to develop.

When leading, others follow but true leaders also listen.

We live in a flawed culture, we all know it but most of us seem not to even notice. Harsh words but when it comes to our daily lives we seem to expect perfection from all others but allow ourselves the benefit and luxury of compassion, understanding and tolerance.

Perfection is the goal to strive for and we all should aim to get as close as possible. Yet we mere humans are not perfect and therefore the end results of us striving for perfection often leads to less than perfect outcomes.

Look back through history and we see, a fairly recent cultural shift from destiny and the preordained, to we are responsible for our own life and all of our failings are our own doing.  “Les Miserables”. The cultural shift has been brutal, no longer can someone be down on their luck or a victim of circumstance, instead everything can be calculated, designed, controlled and predicted, we are responsible for our own lot in life.

There is a good TED talk by Alain de Botton on this subject

There were poor unfortunates and people who had a hard time of it but now they have been found wanting and therefore are losers and no-hopers. The tolerance and understanding of things beyond our control has been circumvented by the capitalistic ideal of perfection and just rewards. There is no longer room for errors, mistakes or failure and therefore anyone showing or seeming to harbour these traits is excised for the good of the “whole”.

A rather bleak view of the world but somehow for all our advances we seem to have forgotten our own humanity. I firmly believe in rewarding effort and work but I also believe that true advances don’t just happen but are often the result of many failures, mistakes and errors of judgment. It is only through these errors and mistakes that we can truly learn and grow. The individual must have a desire to develop and grow, and only through encouragement and support can this be truly achieved. Think of a small child, do you scold them whenever they make an error or do something wrong, or do you try to explain, protect and develop the individual. A strict military style may still work in the short term but ultimately you end up with small frightened children too scared to try or do anything, crippled by fear.

Is this where we want to be?

So, what about serendipity and synergy, well interestingly enough, most great advances in human knowledge owe all or part of their existence to the synergy of personalities and the events which resulted in the serendipity of discovery. So next time you’ve got all the answers and plans mapped out, take a step back and allow silence to teach and the synergy of the group find that point of serendipity…… Eureka. !!