Perfection is a Buzz Kill…but We Should Strive Towards it Anyway.

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Photo by Mauricio Artieda on Unsplash

Human beings aren’t perfect. Most of us know this; some of us loudly deny it. Regardless, healthy minds accept the fact that people are limited by a number of different factors.  Buddhists believe that it is our immersion in the material world; Christians believe it is our innate sinfulness. Some psychologists believe it is our incurable narcissism, while others think it’s our childhood trauma.

It could be any of these things, or all of them — or none of them. Ultimately, it is not the knowledge of what limits us, but rather the acceptance of our limitations that matters.

Acceptance does NOT mean apathy

Acceptance isn’t surrender to chaos. Acceptance is instead a starting point for improvement. From the point of acceptance, we can reconnoiter how and where to begin the battle for change. It’s in our DNA. And it is a battle.

Change comes hard to most of us. We’re hardwired for routine: following established, familiar trails means we’re less likely to get lost, to get separated from the group and be eaten by a sabertooth tiger. Routine also means that the brain can pay attention to more important things.

The body has an autonomic nervous system that ensures we continue breathing when we’re asleep, that our hearts keep beating while we’re unconscious, that we don’t choke on our food. This system frees the brain from having to pay conscious attention to the minutiae of everyday existence. Can you imagine if we had to be sure that we remembered to breathe every few seconds? It would be the entire day’s occupation just drawing a regular breath and keeping our hearts beating.

But we DON’T have to do these things, and so our brains are free to think creatively and to solve problems we encounter daily — like perfection (see how I brought that back to the topic?) Truthfully, perfection itself isn’t a problem. Even the pursuit of perfection is fine.

It’s the dogmatic insistence on achievement that’s the real issue

Take grammar. I know, I know. Grammar is like math: you either hate it or you deal with it as a necessary evil. Some of us (me included) just LOVE grammar — and love correcting people on its proper usage. Why do we do this? It’s not like mathematicians go around correcting people’s long division (wait: do they even teach long division anymore?) Maybe mathematicians accept that lots of people suck at math, while we grammar fiends feel that speakers of the language should be able to write it properly, too.

My expectation of perfection in the use of grammar isn’t realistic with so many people from so many different backgrounds writing and publishing their thoughts, poetry, and works of fiction. Yet, it still rankles when I see errors, and I’m unable to change that expectation.

The current wisdom in the blogging community (and web writing in general) states that content should be aimed at a 6th-grade reading level and that grammar rules should be overlooked in favor of easy comprehension. While I lament this decline in standards, I do understand that online writing formats need to be changed due to the nature of mobile devices and how and where people are reading nowadays.

The amount of information presented to people on a daily basis is staggering to the point of being incomprehensible. There’s simply too much for any of us to digest. So we scroll through article titles and click on what grabs our attention immediately, but stop reading and move on in the first 10 seconds if the story doesn’t engage us.

Striving towards something greater

It’s vital that we, as humans, continue to strive towards something greater than ourselves. Whether one does so spiritually, physically, or philosophically is a matter of personal choice. What’s important is that we have an idea that we aren’t currently the be-all, end-all of the universe; that there is no resting on our laurels.

If we’re honest, we don’t have that many laurels to begin with. Regardless of your politics, most Americans — and an even greater number of humans elsewhere on the planet— feel that the world is in trouble. It is more important now than at any other time in human history that we seek that “something greater”. We need to turn our collective conscience to the betterment of not just ourselves as individuals, but of our world.

Greta Thunberg Knows More Than You Do About Getting Things Done: 5 lessons a sixteen-year-old can teach us about passion.

Photo licensed from Pexels

By now, you’ve all heard of her: A teenage girl who has moved a generation to become involved in perhaps the most contentious, most difficult social issue in human history.

“This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!” ~Greta Thunberg UN speech, September 2019

At a United Nations summit on climate change held on September 23, 2019, Greta Thunberg delivered an impassioned rebuke to world leaders over their failure to put forth any effective measures to avoid the impending climate crisis. Her angry “How dare you!” has been heard around the world, and demonstrates Thunberg’s unique position in the global discussion.

Thunberg first hit the public stage when she decided to spend her Friday’s sitting outside the Parliament building of her native Sweden, holding a sign that read “School Strike for Climate”. Her actions have since sparked Friday walkouts at schools and businesses around the world.

An environmental powerhouse.
A student strike organized in March 2019 claimed over one million participants. By September, strike participation had jumped to four million, and then six million just a week later.

Naysayers have argued that the numbers are inflated and that participants are simply interested in having a long weekend. But student involvement in the environment isn’t limited to just school strikes.

From the University of Washington to Columbia University and everything in between, student organizations are forming or re-energizing themselves to join the battle against environmental destruction. Even that tradition-laden institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts has a few different student groups which focus on environmental concerns.

High school and even elementary students aren’t being left out either. School environmental clubs are starting up, tackling everything from paper recycling to planting pollinator gardens on school grounds.

National organizations like the Student Conservation Association, 350 Org, and many others are seeing their membership numbers explode as more and more students realize the greater impact they have as a unified voice, rather than as individuals.

Young people are getting involved in climate action like never before — and that activity can be largely traced back to Greta Thunberg. Her passion and ability to communicate clearly and simply can be held up as a model for how all of us can improve our effectiveness — no matter what our ultimate goals are.

The Rules of Passion
Here are the big lessons we can take away from Greta Thunberg’s achievements:

1. No Fear

“Many people say that Sweden is just a small country, and it doesn’t matter what we do. But I’ve learned that you are never too small to make a difference. And if a few children can get headlines all over the world just by not going to school, then imagine what we could all do together if we really wanted to.” ~Greta Thunberg, UN speech December 2018

Ms Thunberg didn’t waste time wondering whether what she was doing was effective, she just did it. True, her youth is a big advantage to her: she doesn’t have to worry about making a living or whether her actions will adversely impact her ability to do that. She is young enough to not have suffered from life’s defeats — and naive enough to still believe that one person can make a difference.

But there’s a lot to be said for just plunging ahead with something instead of trying to plan for every possible obstacle. Some of the best solutions are conceived on the fly, in the heat of the moment when we just have to make a decision right now without overthinking it.

Passion is a thing that waxes and wanes; sometimes we work joyfully, easily on our project and sometimes we have to kick our own butts to do the things we need to do to succeed. If we’re lucky, the highs are more frequent than the lows.

2. Act NOW.

“The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.” ~Thunberg, UN speech September 2019

Another advantage of youth is their innate familiarity with technology. The school strikes and other environmental demonstrations in the past year were organized easily and organically via social media. Many corporations, however, are severely hampered by a business structure that doesn’t allow for quick implementation of trends and ideas. They are entrenched in “the way we’ve always done it” thinking and layers of management that slow innovation to a crawl.

The problem with trends is that they move fast. This doesn’t have to be a barrier for business. In fact, lots of start-ups succeed specifically because they are able to fill an immediate need that no one foresaw.

There are other ways to be innovative than technology, of course, but sometimes the adept utilization of existing resources is more effective than creating new solutions.

3. Get Real.

“You are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal.” ~Thunberg, UN speech September 2019

Authentic concerns expressed with genuine emotion is what has propelled the recent student demonstrations to such prominence. In a world grown weary of fake news and unconscionable lies, earnestness and conviction are refreshing.
Facts have been twisted, manipulated, and mauled to the point where they are no longer recognizable in political, corporate, and private arenas.

We use the word “transparency” when we mean “stop hiding the truth” and “falsehood” when we mean “lie”. Reality is so distorted now that many of us have thrown up our hands in exasperation, believing the situation hopeless.

But not Greta, nor others like her. The plainspeak that some traditionalists decry as not “nice” has been embraced as an effective tool to bring attention to important issues.

4. Keep pushing.

“Until you start focusing on what needs to be done, rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis.” ~Thunberg, UN speech December 2018

The word “impossible” doesn’t exist for the current crop of student demonstrators. They proceed with the presumption of success, not failure. They assume they will be taken seriously, and they refuse to accept the attempts of others to dismiss them.

The promotion of these kids’ ideals is relentless; the powers-that-be find them unsettling or even obnoxious, but all waves of change are preceded by resistance from the status quo. Change comes painfully to people— but it does come. To all of us.

5. Suck it up.

“When you’ve resorted to a teenage puppet for your public policy argument… you’ve lost. Climate bedwetters… the world laughs at this Greta charade.” ~Steve Milloy (@junkscience), self-described “climate contrarian” and Trump EPA administrator, on Twitter.

“If [the climate movement] were about science, it would be led by scientists rather than by politicians and a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left.” ~Michael Knowles, political commentator and podcast host, on Fox News’ The Story.

These and other personal attacks on Ms Thunberg’s personality and intelligence recently have been vigorously condemned — not by Greta, but by her supporters. Ms Thunberg herself doesn’t pay attention to what other people think of her, nor does she bother wasting time and energy on complaining about how she’s treated.

Instead, she persists in the face of her detractors, demonstrating her own maturity though still a child, while adults around her act like schoolyard bullies. If anything, their rage merely serves to make her will stronger, her purpose clearer. She rises above.

“Climate delayers want to shift the focus from the climate crisis to something else. I won’t worry about that. I’ll do what I need.” ~Thunberg at press conference before setting sail to UN in a solar-powered yacht.

Our passion is intimately connected to our purpose. One can’t survive without the other. Ms Thunberg and the student activists of today can teach us all how to channel our passion effectively — if we let them.

Hello, new friends!

So, I haven’t updated this site in a while. I’m trying to build platforms on 6 different sites right now (you know the struggle!), and I’m not doing a good job of keeping up with all of them. I’ll try harder!

In other news, I got a contract to write my 4th book! If you don’t know, nonfiction writers get a contract BEFORE they write the book. So reassuring! This one’s near and dear to my heart: An environmental book about green living! So stoked!

I’ve also been doing a TON of writing on (@debram315) Writers, check this site out! Get paid for reader engagement with what you write every month. It takes a little while to get traction, but the sky’s the limit on potential earnings.

That’s it for now. I’ll have a sign up list for email goodies, hopefully by the end of the year. Until then, stay awake!

Here’s an article from Psychology Today magazine about how to tell if you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP).

There’s No Turning Back Now!

As of 9/22/19 at 3am, I have officially submitted my proposal for my fourth book to all of the agents that requested it at the 2019 Writer’s Digest Conference last month in NYC. I can’t believe it’s done! Though I had fully written the proposal BEFORE the conference (before Pitchslam, more importantly), after speaking with the agents, I needed a substantial rewrite.

What I had conceived as an ADULT stand-alone nonfiction book morphed into a five-volume MG/YA series! I actually think the series was a better idea, so I was happy to do the rewrite.

But, it took me the better part of a month to do it–including getting all-new photographs AND writing two completely new sample chapters.

Still: WORTH IT! I know it’s premature to start thinking about hearing from them (I just sent it YESTERDAY), but I’m already thinking: What if someone accepts it? I should be more realistic; the odds of having a five-volume series accepted by the first agent it lands with are…well, they’re higher than I can count.

But isn’t this why some of us write? For the chance to dream about making it BIG? For these very moments when we can sit back for a little while and bask in the notion of being a big-name author with a “major deal” from a prominent publisher?

Though I’ve had three books accepted for traditional publication, I’ve never had an agent. Somehow, it seems to me like having one gives me a sense of stability–like I’m not just hanging out in the freelance lane (nothing against freelancing; in fact, I’m still doing it and have no plans to quit any time soon). Does this make any sense or am I just babbling?

Anyway, congratulations to all of the #amwriting and #writingcommunity folk who have submitted (or will soon) work that piqued the interest of agents from #WDC19. And good luck to us all.