Perfection is Not the Goal

Two Cubes

No one would mistake me for a perfectionist.

When I think of perfectionism, the garden variety perfectionism that comes to mind has to do with completing tasks exactly right, redoing what isn’t perfect, endlessly researching a new gadget in order to make sure that you get the exact right one. This perfectionism is an exacting and unforgiving search that typically leaves the practitioner dissatisfied.  

This isn’t me at all. If you’ve been reading this blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed a number of misspellings and missing punctuation in my posts. Leda and I often use the motto, “done is better than good!” We apply this attitude liberally to our writing, a great number of sloppy craft projects, cooking, buying a new shirt; anything that can suffice will do just fine. (read more…)

Where are they now?

Edward_Collier's_trompe_l'oeil_painting

In the nearly three years that Small Answers has been running, we’ve had almost 40 guest authors who have shared stories about everything from how they avoid marital disappointment, to finding love in Craiglist’s “Missed Connections,” to dealing with not being a prodigy. We wanted to check in with them to find out how they’re doing: are they still struggling with the things they wrote about? How have their lives or careers changed since then? WILL THEY BE OK (of course they will!)? Read on, if you’re curious… (read more…)

Fighting for My Beliefs

john-winship-woman-with-a-stroller-acrylic-on-canvas-22-x-39

It’s still on my bookshelf: the paperback copy of Moby Dick (Signet Classic, 75¢) that I read while serving in the Army in Vietnam, indelibly stained with the red dirt from western edge of III Corps, along the Cambodian border, where I spent six months in the late 1960s. It is about the same latitude as Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, and a tourist destination for many Americans.

I was a young man with liberal beliefs who went to a Quaker college. How did I end up in the Army, fighting in a war I despised? (read more…)

Oops, I Did it Again. Or How Life Circles.

merry-go-round-nahant

Yesterday, I realized that I used to be smarter. You see, I found a letter I’d written to myself last October. It was tucked in a stack of papers on my desk, a pile of things that I want to keep handy, but don’t have a good place for. The letter felt like it had been written by a different person.

In October, less than three months into a new job, I’d had a realization. I had been feeling upset about my role, frustrated with my day-to-day tasks, and sometimes frustrated by structural issues in the organization. But I realized that much of these feelings were coming from things that I’d known about the job (especially the boring day-to-day tasks) before I had accepted it, but I had forgotten that and the reasons that I’d taken the job in the first place. (read more…)

Reinventing Your Job

Royal Hawaiian Feather Art

There is a narrative from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, now largely mythical, about what a career looks like: graduate from college, find a job, then put in twenty five or 30 years before retiring at 55 with a gold watch and a pension. In other words, it used to be very typical to stay at one company for a long time, maybe even your whole career. But in the intervening decades, our cultural expectations of career have changed. Having many jobs has become normal — actually, valued. And there is a general belief that once a job ceases to fully satisfy you, it’s time to get a new one. While there are times when this response is justified, sometimes I think we’re too quick to assume a new job will be the answer. Sometimes a workplace reinvention can be as or more effective. (read more…)