Ever since I was a kid, I loved reading biographies, from entreprenuers like Steve Jobs to great poets like Su Shi from ancient China’s Song Dynasty. I read David McCullough like the Bible, from his recount on the creator and builder of the Brooklyn Bridge to the 1000-page books on John Adams and Harry Truman…
I studied the successs patterns. I tried to find out exactly what made those people great. And I wanted to “fake it till I was great, too.”
Then, I found the cultural differences between the Chinese and the English versions on the same subject, say Newton or Einstein. In the Chinese version, they were almost always so damn perfect. It was in the English version that I realized that, “Oh, they did have a sense of humor. Oh, they were kids once too.” You might be able to imagine how shocked I was when I read Walter Isaacson‘s Steve Job biography…
To err is human. And yet, it was hard to get that message reading the biographies in Chinese… So, as a teenager, a young adult, I tried hard to get rid of my little foibles, my big shortcomings. It worked for a while, then there was always counterattack.
As I took up writing, it dawned on me that what made characters relatable is exactly their freckles, their imperfections.
When I chose Eddie the Eagle (2015) for my movie buff dad to watch tonight, I ended up watching it with him.
Eddie didn’t look like a pro; he didn’t have the Olympian presence as per the snobbish British Olympic Committee. But Eddie tried, he failed and fell. He came as last but people fell in love with him and what he stood for – He is our guy. He is the guy who doesn’t care to be perfect. He can’t. He was 22 when he was 16 years too old to begin ski jumping according to the pros. He can’t change people’s minds, but he sure defied gravity and elevated the founding principle of the Olympic Games:
“The most important thing is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
– Baron Pierre de Coubertin
Most of us aren’t going to be Mozart, maybe not even Salieri. But I’d say this, something plastic surgeons never say, if you are able to feel okay your imperfection in public, I think you’re closer to be the person you dream to be.
PS. Speaking of imperfection, we might be the last few generations who are imperfect. Now those gene-edited babies are among us…