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(tranquil digital music) - I often espouse a general philosophy in my life of pursuing a discipline of one sort or another. My main avenues of discipline are working as an entertainer, which means as an actor, as a humorist, as a writer, and then also as a woodworker, making things out of wood in my shop, but it's not to ever approach any level of perfection. You start, you go in knowing that as human beings we never can achieve perfection, and so I feel like mastery of any skill or art form really more involves becoming much better at covering your mistakes, but no matter how much of a virtuoso a person becomes, I feel like if they're still in the mentality of a student or pursuing their discipline, then they'll never finish ripping out a Beethoven symphony, or playing a game of basketball, and say, there, I've done it. That was the perfect rendition. Instead, what keeps us living, and what keeps me vitally engaged is a constant pursuit of betterment. So, I gave up on perfect a long time ago, and now, I'm just chasing halfway decent. (tranquil digital music) Part of this philosophy I'm talking about came to me naturally. I grew up in a family out in the country in Illinois, both my mom and dad grew up on farms. I grew up working on my mom's family's farms, and so we were very frugal. It was very Little House on the Prairie in the '70s and '80s, which means we had a television, but we were still raising as much garden as we could, and we got this free farmhouse. In exchange, my dad had to build some cabinets for this farmer, and we hired a guy to roll this house six miles, and then we spent our lives there, improving it. We painted it every couple of years, we built a little barn, and so, I dunno, just by naturally learning to enrichen my own life through my parents' activities, I came to understand that even if I wasn't succeeding, even if I was making woodworking projects in an alley in Los Angeles 25 years ago, I was improving, and they were crappy, and I would make mistakes, but I pretty soon came to learn that those mistakes were some of the most valuable time I ever spent. I worked for a very long time as an actor before I got the job on Parks & Recreation, which would be considered my big break, where suddenly I had a lot more clout, I had more freedom to choose my projects. Neil Gaiman says something really profound about mistakes. It's a New Year's benediction that he gave, and to paraphrase, he says I hope that in the coming year, you have blessings, and health, and all that, but I really hope that you make mistakes, because if you make mistakes, it means that you're out there trying. It means you're taking a swing at achieving something, and if you're not making mistakes, it means that you've given up and you're becoming one of those fat baby people floating around on the chairs in the movie WALL-E, eating everything in some kind of weird milkshake. (tranquil digital music)
This course includes videos from:
Nick Offerman, writer, woodworker, and actor (Parks and Rec)
Shane Snow, science and business journalist and the cofounder of Contently
Barbara Oakley, professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, MI
John Seely Brown, former director of Xerox PARC and current USC advisor
Jamie Wheal, leading expert on the neurophysiology of human performance, Flow Genome Project
Note: This course was produced by Big Think. We are pleased to host this content in our library.