Merely perfect

Posted by – February 20, 2010

I saw a brief interview with a middle-aged academic woman who is unemployed and angry about it because she “did everything right”. On reflection, an odd thing to say. If you do everything perfectly by the book, the best you can hope for is the best the system can do, which is nothing special. By the time you’re ready for employment you’ll represent what people born 50 years ago thought would be a good thing to produce. Not only will you be unremarkable, you’ll be obsolete.

Also, it strikes me that people who choose exactly what is offered must be severely lacking in imagination and passion for their subject, not to mention disturbingly in awe of authority. The world hasn’t reached a state of perfect equilibrium, the right thing keeps changing. If you decide to be perfect, you abandon your duty to improve things.

By the way, I suspect this tendency towards faux perfectionism instead of excellence is a particular psychological burden of female academics.

Don’t walk in the masters’ footprints. Seek the things the masters sought.

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