‘Life is not a Game of Perfect’

I’ve a book in the office by Dr Bob Rotella called “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect”. It’s a great read whether you’re a golfer or not, because its central premise – that you don’t need to be brilliant to succeed – is a liberating message. Life isn’t a game of perfect either, and, paradoxically, the sooner you accept that the easier life gets.

Apropos absolutely nothing, but I was listening to the Labour leader Keir Starmer this morning talking about living in “the best” country in planet with “world beating” public services (are ye, aye)?

Right. So.

Firstly, the UK isn’t a country. It is four countries.

Secondly, my hunch is that this hyperbolic language seriously misjudges the mood. Every time I hear guys like Hancock boasting about “world class” vaccines and testing apps, they just lose all credibility. It’s a ridiculous way to speak. I’d have so much more respect for them if they said, “look guys, it won’t be perfect – nothing is – but it’ll get the job done until something better comes along. Bear with me here”.

One of the (sometimes deliberate) misconceptions of the movement in Scotland is that we somehow see ourselves as special, exceptional. Here’s the thing. We really don’t. We genuinely just want to be granted the opportunity to be ordinary and imperfect, just like everybody else. The chance to screw things up and take ownership for the bouroch. To fail, and then, as Dr Rotella says, try to fail a little better the next time.

One of Bob’s other great maxims is that there is no such thing as playing above your abilities: you’re just catching a glimpse of your true potential. Which, I think, has been true for Scotland in its mature handling of this crisis. We really are living in the early days of a better nation.

Never mind world class. In these most difficult of days, indeed on any day, I’d happily settle for living in a normal, self-governing, bang average Scotland. An increasing number of us would settle for that, too. Because in this life, and golfers will recognise the term, there are no mulligans. You give it your best and accept the outcome, come what may.

Stay safe out there good people. I’ll meet you further on up the road.

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  1. By chance, I watched a television programme called ‘Travel Man’ With Richard Ayoade. He and the most excellent Kathy Burke were visiting Barcelona, and he began the programme by saying, something like, I might not remember it exactly –
    “ Catalonia is part of Spain. But it’s a separate country, with its own language, and flag. Like Scotland.” And I thought – good on you Richard, for mentioning that.
    And now – it gets more interesting…….I was writing this, to add to your article, Alec, and I wanted to get the quote right – so I went onto the channel 4 re-play thingy, and …at the beginning of the programme, Richard does say about the language and the flag, but doesn’t mention Scotland! Knowing that I can be forgetful at times, I asked Mike what did he remember Richard saying, and he remembered his saying Catalonia is like Scotland, too. So – what has happened there? Very interesting. If I do this right, you should be able to see/hear it for yourself.


    Seriously, I’m sure that on the original broadcast, Scotland was mentioned as being comparable, in having its own language and flag and….actually being a separate county, like Scotland. That’s why I commended Richard Ayoade, for mentioning it!!! It caught my attention.
    I’m not going a bit more nuts – Mike remembers it too.
    I must admit, things like this don’t help my general uncertainty about my sanity, one bit!

    Then I watched Susan Calman visiting the Falkirk Wheel, and I thought – how can anyone say that Scotland can’t…do things? Look at it – just – look at it! The nation that can produce people who can design, then create, something like that! It looks stunning, and – it works – it just.. bloody well…works.

    OK – end of minor rant
    And I’m not even Scots – I’m Irish by race.

  2. Not an exact quote but I once read somewhere that the definition of success was accepting failure without losing enthusiasm. I’m fine with that.

    • I like that. And I’ve used this one before from the great Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot, and missed. I’ve failed over and over in my life. And that is why I succeed”.

  3. If your greatest wish is to have a country that is just “ordinary”, that “screws up” and “fails”, then you will be delighted to have Sturgeon and her useless minions in charge.

    • That is, to be charitable, a rather selective perspective on what I’ve written, given that I’ve described the Scotgov handling of the crisis as mature. What I’m saying, as you will appreciate, is that failure for governments is normal. “To step aside is human”, to borrow from Burns. What isn’t normal is not having all the powers available to do things better. I also found it revealing that the public was quick to forgive Holyrood over the recent exams fiasco because the government owned up – education is devolved, it’s our mess, we’ll fix it. It showed that people response positively to an imperfect government if it is honest. It showed Scotland in a good light, I think.

    • We’ve already got Boris Johnson and the Tories who regularly screw up and fail, maybe that’s what your thinking of. The rest of us want an independent Scotland free from Westminster cock-ups.

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