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Perfection is my ultimate goal

Published: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 11:21 a.m. CDT

Sometimes, I’m too hard on myself, and I can’t help it.

I have this overwhelming desire for several things, when it pertains to my job: success, perfection, accuracy, creativity and relevancy. With the exception of perfection (yes, I know that no one is perfect), I don’t think I’m asking too much of myself.

I provided the Daily News’ weekend coverage this past weekend — capturing bloated bodies of water, fireworks, family fun and tracking tornadoes, oh my, — and Monday’s paper reflected a lot of what I did. Two stories I wrote were published and 14 photos were printed, most of them in color.

Instead of taking solace in having what seemed like a great run at weekend coverage, I can’t get over the little things. I forgot the word “a” in the very first cutline. I misspelled “Chartier” and wrote “put” instead of “putt” in two other cutlines. In one story, I said “less than a year” instead of “slightly more than a year” and in the other story, I wrote “participates” instead of “participate.”

Even worse, I wrote down “Johnson” instead of “Jackson” in my notes and mislabeled someone in a photo.

Already feeling terrible about those mistakes, I noticed that spellcheck changed “guard” to “geurad” in the cutline of one story I wrote on Tuesday. I discovered this only after I returned to the office from yesterday’s Jasper County Board of Supervisors meeting and it had already printed.

Excluding the names — which is a major journalism no-no — to most folks, these seem like silly little mistakes to dwell on. And, yes, most publications have some sort of funky little things like those every day — still, I just can’t get over them. I have this innate desire to become the best at what I do, and when I see ridiculous things like that, it makes me literally grit my teeth.

I don’t have any sort of anxiety disorder, and in spite of that, when I see mistakes like those, it puts me on edge. I get tight in the chest, my body gets restless and I can’t even fathom trying to relax or calm down.

The publisher of this paper, Dan Goetz, even congratulated me for my hard work this weekend, yet, I can’t even enjoy simple successes like producing a majority of Monday’s content because all I can see are the screw ups.

A few months ago, I was reading a detailed feature story on the late, great Bill Walsh. Walsh was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 1979 to 1988. In that time frame, he won three Super Bowls, six NFC division titles and the NFL coach of year award — twice.

He is considered the father of West Coast Offense, is credited with helping develop Steve Young and Joe Montana — two Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks — and creating a coaching tree that has spawned nearly 30 NFL head coaches since the ’80s.

In 1993, he himself was elected into the hall of fame.

I really wish I could find that article now, but the gist of it is still clear to me: Walsh didn’t really consider himself successful. He knit-picked at every little thing he did. He always realized what he should’ve done or could’ve done better — even after his teams won the game.

Walsh was so adverse to failure and his drive to be a success was so great, it actually caused him physical health problems.

It’s almost absurd, to me, that a man as accomplished as Bill Walsh had these kind of thoughts. In 1984, he achieved more in one year than I could ever hope to. That year, he won both his second Super Bowl trophy and NFL coach of the year award and his team went 15-1.

According to the article I read, none of that mattered to him. The only thing he was fixated on was that one loss.

I guess you could say to a lesser degree that’s how I am. I could write six stories in one day and they could all come out nearly flawless. During copyediting, however, I’ll fixate on a missed single quotation mark inside of a quote rather than how clean the rest came out or how good the stories were.

My biggest fear in life is failure. To me, that missed single quotation mark is an issue that could turn what seemed like a promising career into a catastrophe.

A lot of my friends have suggested that I tend to overreact a bit to things like this, but when my name is on something, I want it to be the best product possible. I hold myself to an unjustly high standard when it comes to work, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

While it may seem impossible, when it’s all said and done, (my vision of my future is that I’m a cheap, still handsome 70-something caffeine addicted editor yelling at a fresh crop of journalists), I want my work to be perfect. In fact, I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely satisfied with something I do.

I know it sounds implausible, even so, we all have to have a dream right?

Senior staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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