Watchmaker or Bricklayer?

Many of us struggle with perfectionist tendencies.  You know who you are…the ones for whom good enough is never enough. Often these tendencies have to do with childhood insecurities or beliefs that we are not safe – especially not safe to be ourselves.

For me (and many of my siblings) we grew up believing if we did things perfectly then people would have no reason not to like us.  We clearly did not take into account there would still be those who would not like us specifically because we were such perfectionist over-achievers.


Ann Wilson Schaef said, “Perfectionism is self abuse of the highest order.” As I grow older and hopefully wiser, I’m learning to give myself permission to simply do the best I can and allow other’s the same.

Last week I was helping a friend with a project that required laminating and cutting some name badges.  I enlisted the help of a librarian to complete the task before a fast approaching deadline. I used a paper cutter to quickly separate rows of badges and handed them off to him to cut the short rows with scissors.  As we worked I told him, “Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect.”



He replied, “Oh, that’s good to know.  I’ll switch from watchmaker mode to bricklayer mode.”


I laughed out loud, immediately embracing this analogy for all future projects.

Think of the power in letting someone who is working alongside you know the expectation for the task.  Either you want the particular precision of a watchmaker or they can just plow through it with the passable production of a bricklayer.

Even working alone on a project I can now give myself permission to choose something besides 100% meticulous watchmaker mode.  Maybe a little bit of both is called for the work.

brick design2

What’s your most productive mode?

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