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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 4:46 am | Mostly Cloudy 52º


Paul Burri: Perfect Timing for a Freeway Epiphany

Sometimes, the best route is to have the drive to just let go

Because of the way I was raised, I was cursed with being a perfectionist. Everything I ever did had to be perfect or I felt unsatisfied with myself. No room for error. Must be perfect every time. Of course, that was a no-win situation because I got only self-deprecation when I failed and no reward when I was perfect because that was what was expected of me.

Then one day I had a freeway epiphany that changed all that. It happened while I was working at a job that was about 75 Los-Angeles-freeway miles from home. That meant, of course, about 4½ hours of freeway driving every day to and from work. (It was not what you’d call a pleasant experience.)

At the time I was the general manager of a small manufacturing company that did contract work for all the major aerospace companies in the area. The work was satisfying most of the time. The major exceptions were the occasional times when a job went wrong for a quality issue and that meant a loss to the company and a threat to our accreditation with the customer. That was an extremely worrisome situation both for the company and for me personally.

On this particular day, one of those situations had occurred earlier and I was very worried about it as I sat in stop-and-go traffic on the way home. I was sure I was going to have a restless, sleepless night.

Suddenly I had an internal dialogue with myself that became my epiphany, and it went like this:

“Didn’t we have a situation almost exactly like this about three months ago? And weren’t you just as worried about it then as you are now?”

“Yes, we did.”

“What company was it?”

“I can’t remember.”

“What was the exact situation?”

“I can’t remember.”

And try as hard as I could, I couldn’t remember any of the details of the prior situation. Then it hit me:

“If you can’t remember that situation that was only a few months ago, you won’t remember this one if you wait a month or so.”

That realization was the most calming and stress-relieving moment I have ever had. It was as if I had laid down a huge bag of rocks I had been carrying around with me. I never again let myself get so worked up over a work situation. And from that moment on, I gave myself permission to not always have to be perfect all the time.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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