Put Down Your Burden Of Perfection To Get To The Real Amazing Work Of Your Life

Many commencement speeches recommend graduates take on a great challenge of the future. In author Anna Quindlen's speech at Mount Holyoke College, she implores us to do the opposite: give up on being perfect to take hold of being yourself.

Photo by Brian Snelson.

Quindlen's speech is so rife with great words, it's hard to pick just one quote out. And although the "march to a different drum" theme may sound cliched, we may need regular reminders that this is our life's work: to make it all up as we go along and resist the constant temptation and pressure to imitate and fall into lockstep.

[N] othing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great ever came out of imitations. The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

Otherwise, she warns, when one day in the future something momentous happens to you and you look into the centre of yourself, if you find you've met all the expectations of you everyone's ever had, "chances are excellent that there will be a black hole where your core ought to be".

One last quote, to help separate the mask from your true self:

Remember yourself, from the days when you were younger and rougher and wilder, more scrawl than straight line. Remember all of yourself, the flaws and faults as well as the many strengths.

You can read the entire, highly recommended speech below. Thanks tonynyc!

Anna Quindlen's Commencement Speech [Mount Holyoke College]


    REALLY? Nothing great came from imitations?


    i could think of a million more, but isn't taking something (imitating, if you will) and improving it how we end up with some of the most amazing things?

      I'd suggest you could look at all those examples and others and say that it was someone taking something they loved and putting themselves in there, people contributing to represent an icon the way they wanted to, like Chris Nolan (along with all the other people who contributed) making a Batman movie when many directors and hundreds of artistic people before have been working on the same creation.

      Or a more recent example would be John Scalzi's novel Fuzzy Nation which is essentially a fan fiction rewrite (in Scalzi's own words) of H Beam Piper's book Little Fuzzy. He's writing the same basic story, with the same characters and names and world, but he isn't imitating Piper he's writing in his own way and producing his own work.

      All creative people begin by imitating the people they admire, that's human nature. but they become great by, as Quindlen puts it, finding their own voice.

      Ok, I think you really need to look into the definition of imitation.

      A remake of a movie is anything but an imitation.

      At worst, it is an interpretation, and an effort to make something different.

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