Rosanne Cash tells a story in her memoir, Composed about a performance she did with George Harrison. Dress rehearsal had gone wonderfully but the performance didn’t go quite as well. Seeing she was disappointed by that, Harrison walked over and consoled her. “It’s never as good as the rehearsal,” he said.
As with music, so with life.
Even when we do a premeditatio malorum, even when we get everything set just right, we’re still surprised by how things go. We eliminate all the big things that can go wrong, and then it turns out that a couple little things still didn’t go right. It’s just never perfect.
That’s one lesson. The other lesson is that even as we study and rehearse this philosophy, as we plan out the people we want to be, we’re still always going to fall short. And so are other people. Marcus talked about how we can’t go around expecting the world to be Plato’s Republic. He also talked about picking ourselves up when we fall—because we will fall. Epictetus said that he never expected to meet a full sage—he just wanted to meet someone trying to get better. (Confucius, as it happens, said something very similar).
So don’t expect to be perfect today. Don’t expect things to be as good as they were in your head or how you practiced them. Be content to be as good as you can be, while still trying to get a little bit better next time. Because that’s how progress is made and improvement is banked—and it’s the only thing we can count on for sure.
P.S. This was originally sent on May 1st, 2019. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.
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