What if?

I don’t like public speaking. I despise it, hate, abhor it, one might say even terrified, mortified, petrified by it[1]. Every time I need to speak publicly (and cannot avoid it), the same train-wreck pattern of a thought is coming to my mind – What if?

What if I forget everything?

What if I will start stuttering and talk nonsense?

What if I will be ridiculed by my co workers because of it?

What if I will get fired because of it?

And I can dive deeper, the longer I think and ‘what-if’ about it, the more stressed I get, and the more stressed I get the worse the what-if become. This with all the physical symptoms of stress makes public speaking not fun for me.

This always remind me from a quote from The Time Machine:

You’re a man haunted by those two most terrible words: What if?

I recently read another blog post which has a different perspective, a positive one regarding ‘what-if’ – what if I try and succeed, as a way to push yourself and take that risk. My what-ifs limit me and scare me, his what-ifs give him a push to go further. I wonder if I can change my perspective.

[1] As paraphrased from the movie “A Beautiful Mind

Treatment is Simple, Pagliacci is in Town Tonight

Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown, Pagliacci, is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor, I am Pagliacci.”

This line is from the comic Watchmen that really got to me.

I believe that most people that I know would describe me as funny, confident, with a short fuse from time to time and very good at his work. People come to me for advice regarding work and other things.

People don’t know the amount of… of… of black that I have in my stomach from time to time. That most of the time what they perceive as anger is really anxiousness, is really a terrible feeling that things are falling apart and I’m trying to prevent it.

People don’t know that behind the smile and confidence sometime I want to burst into tears.

I can understand Pagliacci completely.

Achieving Perfection

The perfect is the enemy of the good [1]

What a problematic sentence!

On one hand, I know that at times perfection is either impossible or not worth it – when releasing a product the difference between 80% and 100% might increase effort and diminish returns. At work we quote the Pareto principle (the 80-20 rule), and product demands and deadlines make us not achieve that perfection.

I know that it makes sense, but there are a lot of scenarios that I cannot comprehend not at least trying to achieve perfection. For a lot of tasks (work, personal life, but I think currently mostly work related), I need to be the best, the one that everyone can depend upon, the one that has no mistakes in his work, that completes his work fast and thorough. This obviously leaves me burning the midnight oil, not paying attention to the other aspects in my life like I should.

I feel bad if I don’t achieve perfection, I feel bad if I achieve it and the cost is high, making me tired, grumpy, feeling not appreciated and other people in my life are mad at me for not paying attention to them.

So just get rid of this need for perfection, right? Because I don’t know how. There’s this tingling voice in my head telling me that I can do better, that I can achieve whatever I want and do it perfect. If I have a task to do, and I don’t deliver it in a fast and elegant manner (or in other words, perfect), I feel like… I’ve failed? disappointed? didn’t do the best that I can? Either way, it’s a horrible feeling, making me feel less secured, worthless.

How can I feel satisfied in doing things just ‘good’ and not ‘perfect’, and not feel like I’m not ‘letting myself off the hook’, like I’m not doing it out of laziness?

[1] Attributed to Voltaire, who quoted an Italian proverb in his Dictionnaire philosophique in 1770 [Source]