With the Superbowl fast approaching, I wanted to share some words of wisdom from Hall of Fame coach, Vince Lombardi. It’s some of the best advice I’ve ever heard for writers.
It was Lombardi’s dream to coach an NFL team but he didn’t get his chance until late in life and he knew that if he wasn’t successful, he wouldn’t get another shot. To make matters worse, he was hired to coach the Green Bay Packers, one of the worst teams in the league. The experts all agreed the team didn’t have enough talented players to be competitive. But in short order, Lombardi developed those players into one of the most successful and dominant sports teams of all time.
Many of those players remember the first speech he gave them for establishing the core philosophy that allowed them to grow into world champions.
The quarterback of the team, Bart Starr, details the speech as follows: “When he walked into the meeting he looked us in the eyes and said, ‘Gentlemen, we’re going to relentlessly chase perfection. Knowing full well we won’t catch it because nothing is perfect. But we’re going to relentlessly chase it because in the process we will catch excellence. And I’m not remotely interested in being just good.’ Holy mackerel, man! I was just up like this. I didn’t even need a seat to sit on. … I was ready to go!”
This is profound advice, not just for football players, but for all us. Particularly for writers, who often sink their chances of success through one of two tragic mistakes:
Some writers chase perfection thinking it’s actually possible for them to catch it. These writers condemn themselves to a writing life of hell, forever plagued by bitter disappointment and shameful feelings of inadequacy. As Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life… And so if you want to write, you probably won’t get very far if you don’t get over your perfectionism.”
Other writers, smartly realizing that perfect is out the question, chase excellence. These writers don’t tend to find success. Because by chasing excellence, they end up with good, and in this market place, good isn’t good enough. Not even close.
Lombardi figured out the secret. Chase perfection with all your heart, mind and soul, always knowing damn well that you will never catch it, but forever chase it with everything you’ve got so you can have a shot at catching excellence.
Posted in Corey’s Blog | February 3, 2011