Perfection is the Enemy of Progress

A really smart guy by the name of R.C. Trench said this:

“The best is oftentimes the enemy of the good; and many a good book has remained unwritten… because there floated before the mind’s eye the ideal of a better or a best.”


Guess when he wrote this—1861, yup, way back the same year the Civil War started. Author Rosanne Bane started off a recent blog post with this quote, driving home the point that this is not a new problem. It is a sentiment and dare I say, EXCUSE, that I hear so many times. In fact, I’ve even succumbed to it myself. Want to make progress toward an important goal? Insisting on perfection is not the way to do it.

Here’s the “Reader’s Digest” version of Bane’s article. If you’d like to read the entire thing (highly recommended), here’s the link:


She makes the point that sometimes it is crucial that you do your best, especially if you’re performing brain surgery, flying a plane or maybe parenting a two year old.

However, we can be

Paralyzed by perfection


Bane says:

“If you refuse to accept good enough, you can’t move on. If you make writing a matter of “I’ll do my best or do nothing,” you’ll end up doing nothing most of the time because you simply can’t be your best all the time (or even most of the time). If you were your best all the time, by definition, that would just be your average.

You can’t let perfectionism get in the way. Well actually, you can – it’s just not effective or satisfying to let it get in your way. I truly wish I’d been more vulnerable, taken more risks, made more mistakes, and fallen on my face a lot more often earlier in my career. But with luck and persistence, I can do that now.”


This  Point of Paralysis  is exactly the spot where many folks get stuck in thinking about saving their family stories. You know you want to do it, you’re afraid of the scope of the job, you’re not sure where to start, you don’t consider yourself a writer, you’ll do it someday, etc.


Bane’s takeaway,

“…first ideas don’t have to be brilliant; they only have to be good enough to give you a place to move on from.”


Let me break it down:

A two hour oral history is a small time commitment capturing the irreplaceable voice of the person you love– timbre, nuance, humor, expressions, life experience.

A four hour oral history is a small time commitment—accomplishing all of the above and drawing out more stories, more unique humanity.

An entire series of life history interviews is a small time commitment—about 12 hours. It works because of the guided, skilled nature of the interviewer, focused on drawing out and enhancing the innate story telling skills we all possess as human beings. And did I mention it’s fun?

Here’s the neat thing–You don’t even have to be able to write! I will talk you through your story and write it up for you. Voila!


In the amount of time it takes to watch a movie or follow a season of your favorite TV show you could make a life history project happen for someone you love.


Is this your year? Break past the paralysis point and give me a call, I’d be delighted to help you get started.



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Unlock a Terrific Life Story Using a Timeline

Timelines are a great way to visualize a life. Tape a few sheets of paper together, use a pencil or colored pens, your choice, then draw a line down the middle lengthwise. Events you remember as positive go above the line, those that were difficult below the line. You can start anywhere and move forward and backward as you remember.


This technique of recalling life events even works in an oral format. Think about helping a friend with this, you can both record the storytelling and remembering as well as work on the paper outline while you talk. It’s especially good for folks who have difficulty writing. You do the writing, they do the talking.


Create a timeline of significant events in your life. Include the basics (birth, childhood, education, training, career highlights, love, marriage, children, faith and special interests). Highlight the turning points and special events that helped shape your life. What were your proudest moments, your toughest challenges, your greatest frustrations, your fondest memories?


Include the ordinary too. Describe a typical day:   school, farm chores, Sundays, seasonal activities, a day with your best friend, your favorite way to spend a lazy summer afternoon as a child.


How were you affected by where you lived at different times in your life? Did you stay in one place or move around? What are your memories of each place you’ve lived?


Record or take some notes about stories that convey

those life highlights. You can add more or go deeper at another time.


Contact me if you’d like a copy of the questions and information packet I hand out at Life Legacy workshops. I’d love to send it to you to inspire and give you practical help to begin telling your story. (Packet + first class postage only $6)

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Want to Win Fudge for Sharing Your Memories?

Want to win some fudge? Sure you do! Answer one of these “Remember the time…?” questions to be entered into the drawing for 1 lb. of Mamie Eisenhower’s Famous Fudge (made by yours truly from an old family recipe) either mailed or delivered to you if you live here in Las Cruces. It’s the best!


What world event from the past 5 years would you want to tell your great grandkids about? How about something important that you have learned? It’s up to you to pass it on.

The first 10 people to comment with an answer within the next 7 days will be entered in the drawing.


I really want to know what life memory is important to you and can hardly wait to hear from you,


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Contact Me

Please contact me for more information or to to schedule a free consultation. I look forward to visiting with you.

    Karen Ray Photo

    Karen Ray

    Address: 331 Bristol Avenue, Las Cruces, NM, 88001

    Phone: 575-323-1048