What 10-yr Old MJ Taught Us About Progress Over Perfection

Every trip Jansen and I go on, we always bring something back for the kids.   

On our recent trip to Breckenridge, we found ourselves in a hobby store on Main Street. 


Our eyes scanned the walls of the homely shop.  Kites, yo-yos, rubber band guns and then… a wall filled with different types, styles and shapes of rubiks cubes.

MJ has recently been into these cubes.  He has a small collection of 8.  Including broken ones, because he wanted to proudly show his effort in putting it back together, by first, taking it apart. 

We added to his collection with a stickerless, magentic pyraminx.


Last night, we surprised him with his new “toy” – and he went to work figuring out how to solve it.  On his first try, it took him 30 minutes to figure it out.

By the time the night was considered over, about two hours later, he had figured out the algorithms.   Yes.  He actually said that word -  which I only refer to in complicated mathematical situations, where I can’t explain “my work”.  If you did long division and took math when I did, without a calculator, you know what I mean.



From 30 minutes to TWO minutes, TWELVE seconds.  How AWESOME is that??

I figured, sh*t, if he can do this thing, then so can I.  Right??  N. O. P. E.

Not even once had I made it.  After what seemed like the 100th try, I screamed, as if one of the kids spilled on our white carpet, "MJ, look!!! I got it.”  Whoo hoo!! I had completed the yellow side.


“Oh? Aunty Jan, sorry.  You didn’t do it cause you only have one side.” 

I guess when you’re working one side, you’re supposedly trying to work another.

What the f*ck? Ultimate utter deflation.


Why do I even bring this up, and how does it relate to confidence in the workplace?

You see, he continued to play with this thing.  To us, a toy.  To him, a lesson.


I asked, “MJ, why do you keep doing it, when you already solved it?”

“Because I want to get better at it,” he says, as he attempts to beat his 2.12 time.


Progress, not perfection.

In the workplace, often times we find ourselves trying to be the best. 

The best accountant.  The best manager.  The best strategic thinker.  The best whatever…


There are two types of people:  the get-best or the get-better people.

While there is a place to be the best, the get-better person focuses on progress, not perfection.  Get-better people lean on learning, growth and expansion, allowing for mistakes along the way.   


Progress builds confidence.

Perfection doesn’t exist in the workplace.   There are too many personalities, standards, expectations – you name it, in the workplace, someone else has involvement in it.   If we always strived for perfection, we would ultimately fail.

Perfection is a destination.  Progress is the journey of excellence. 

Can you imagine if Apple stopped at perfection?  Their competitors would move forward and win.  Apple continues towards progress -  getting better – and moving with needs of its customer’s ever changing demands.


Progress, over perfection, is better for our health and makes us happier!

Perfection is exhausting.  We’re always trying to get “there”, doing whatever “it” takes. 

Progress allows for flexibility, pause and reflection.

Perfection is deflating.  We’re always focusing on trying to fix, what we could be doing wrong.

Progress focuses on what we did to get here and allows for celebration! 

And who doesn’t like celebrating??


As someone once said, “Perfection is the pursuit in the worst of ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough.”

I think we can all take a lesson from MJ. 



It’s not about being good enough. 

It’s about doing the best we can and then choosing to try again.

Janice Tanaka