What Happened to my Undershirt – Lessons on Improvement

Raise your hand if you’ve ever collapsed an idea before it could garner any traction because it failed to meet the most impossible of all standards: Perfection?

See me? Yes, I’m raising my hand. Now, I’m raising both hands. Hell, I’m jumping and shouting. I might do a cart-wheel next.

Why?

Because perfection, for me at least, interferes with progress. Ideation isn’t difficult, but executing on those ideas is. When the internal standard is to write something flawless, the act of finishing anything becomes problematic. The edit and rewrite cycle becomes as unending as it is frustrating.

And this has me thinking today about undershirts. I’ve worn an undershirt since I can remember – say 25 years. My grandfather wore undershirts and I presume his grandfather wore them too. James Dean wore them. So did Brando and Newman. They are cooler than I am and popularized the white shirt look in the 1950s.

ShirtThese shirts, while functional and ubiquitous, had a long-standing problem: The itchy, good-for-nothing tag that dangled from the collar. For nearly a century, men have resorted to ripping or cutting these tags from their undershirts. Still, this seemingly obvious design flaw remained uncorrected.

Then, in the mid-2000’s shirt-makers wised up and began selling tagless shirts. Men would never again suffer under the scratchy tickle of an unwanted tag.

Nothing created will ever be perfect – nor should it. I think a better goal is to focus less on perfection and more on asking this question: How can I make something better?

When we remove the burden of perfection, we introduce the possibility for improvement.

Undershirts existed for 100 years, but shirt-makers never stopped questioning how they could make them better. They found room for improvement. And men everywhere are thankful.

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