I’m a lark, not an owl. I’m at my best early in the morning rather than later in the evening and so I tend to be up early.
I never thought we lived in a particularly noisy neighbourhood but one thing that has stuck me during the quieter days of lockdown is the birdsong, which seems to have been louder, richer, and more vibrant than I ever remember it.
This morning as April dawns, and as I again lay there listening to the amazing dawn chorus I was reminded of a quote by the poet Henry van Dyke:
‘Use what talents you possess; The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.’
Now I’m a bit (alright, a lot) of a perfectionist. I’m constantly driven to make things as good as they can be. The problem is, I’m not perfect and so the stuff I do is never going to be perfect either, no matter how long and how hard I try. As a result I used to spend a lot of the time disappointed, cross and angry with myself.
Then one day, as I sat there mulling over another less than perfect performance, I realised that the problem wasn’t about me desiring perfection, it was about how I was defining perfection.
I realised that me wanting to make something as good as I can make it is a good thing; but as good as I can make it is not the same as it being as good as it can possibly be.
I reckon I’m a decent Dad. I can hold a half-decent tune. My 5k time is not too shabby for a 50-something with a replacement knee (don’t tell my surgeon!). I get good feedback about my work.
But I’m not perfect.
There’s someone out there better than me at these and a-million-and-one other things. If perfection is my benchmark then I’m always going to be disappointed, dispirited and downhearted.
But like the birds outside my window, I’ve come to realise that my responsibility is not to be the best full stop, it’s just to be the best I can be today. And then tomorrow try to be a little bit better.
And the same is true for you. The only person you need to be better than is yesterday’s you. Your work doesn’t have to be the best full stop, it just needs to be the best you can muster today. So whatever talents you’ve been given, however meagre they feel, use them, go for it.
The world needs to hear your song.
The day is richer and more vibrant for it.