27/30: On Perseverance

Life is a struggle, but not trying new things to overcome the problems you face can end up doing more harm than good.

This is the twenty-seventh of thirty days of stories.

We all want to live our best life, so we do the things that we think will generate that result. We do them without regard for how long they may take, how difficult they may be.

There’s that old quote that’s often misattributed to Albert Einstein,

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

While we may agree with this statement at face value, we by and large continue to do the same things over and over, expecting things to be different, because that’s what tenacity is.

To use my favoured and perpetually ongoing example, I’ve sent out many, many job applications, but I have yet to find employment. If I were to bash my head against the wall repeatedly, how long do you think it would take for me to get a concussion?

I’m not saying that you should give up on your dreams (God no), but beyond being an important life lesson, the “never give up” attitude has been fetishized to the point where that definition of insanity rings true.

It’s one thing to be stubborn in the face of adversity; we can all agree that’s admirable. However, being stubborn in approach to a problem only gets us so far, and while things might break for us through sheer luck, it’s certainly possible that there’s a better and more direct route to what we’re trying to accomplish.

The alternative is that despite all of the effort that we put in, things don’t work out, and we fall apart.

Today, I sent an email to the principal of a company where I’d like to work asking if they were hiring anytime soon. The answer was no, but it was a far more effective and straightforward route to take than sitting around and waiting.

If there is one thing completely at odds with perseverance, it’s perfectionism, the belief that everything needs to be right the first time, and nothing can get better or evolve as you work on it.

Rationally, this makes no sense: without editors, newspapers would be single pages and bookstores would be barren. Some people have the gift of self-editing as they go, but that’s not generally how things transpire.

Steve Jobs was famously quoted as saying,

“real artists ship”.

This is one man who constantly strived for perfection, but he understood that perfection is a near-unattainable ideal, and that even a perfect product has no value until it reaches the end user.

With Jobs at the helm, Apple created some amazing products, but these products were not immune from the hand of persistance. Over the years, Apple has continued to iterate and improve on their products, to the point where what we can currently do on our iPhones wouldn’t have been imagined when the device was introduced ten years ago.

With such a revolutionary product, it’s easy to forget that copy and paste, one of the most basic functions of any operating system, wasn’t available until the iPhone’s third software iteration.

Apple notably has been a company where many of the new products have been written off before catching on like wildfire. Many people, myself included, considered an iPod Touch “an iPhone without the phone”, or the iPad as “a big iPhone that can’t make calls”. These things are both true, but they differ in their target audiences and uses.

As of late, the Apple Watch and the Touch Bar have been pointed to as examples that Apple no longer has “it”, and while they may not be perfect products, they provide plenty of learning opportunities for future improvements.

Real artists ship.

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