Pride, passion, perfectionism and percentages

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Pride, passion, perfectionism and percentages


Written by Lara Gochin Raffaelli (PhD), Chief Editor at Milpark Education


When I started my academic career teaching translation (English/Italian), I had to look up rubrics for marking students’ work. One provided for a range of marks deducted from the total, which went from -4 for a translation that got something completely wrong, to -1 for a typo or something slightly off. The significance of the variation in marks was the impact it could have on a potential user of the translated matter. Imagine translating a manual for a pilot, a surgeon or a missile launcher, and the devastation that can be wrought by a wrong calculation or term, like hot for cold, up for down, artery for vein, liver for kidney, or similar.

I also found that the pass mark for a translation exam was 75%, something very distant from the 50%, 40% and even 30% we’ve seen in some educational arenas. It made sense: why would you hire someone who can only translate half of a text correctly?

When recruiting editors, we apply the same reasoning to the standard set in edit tests. You don’t want an editor who misses 50% of typos or semantic errors – personally I’d prefer zero defect but there will always be differences in interpretation that you need to account for. The requirement contains the ability to spot reasoning or logic errors, as well as grammar and syntax. So, the pass mark for an editor to work at Milpark Education is 75%.

I always recall a long journey I took by car after I finished first year university. The person I shared a lift with, “Bob”, was studying medicine, and he boasted that he only ever studied for 50% – a pass mark. I remember from my schooldays that learners would ask teachers what we were going to be examined on – and they would study only those things, just to pass. It amazed me as I always went for 100%. “Bob” wanted to become a specialist, and I remember thinking, poor patient who consults “Bob”, who has only 50% of potential knowledge. It stunned me that a person could have such a low personal bar.

Not everyone is the same. Pride in your work and passion for your work are different and subjective. Are you working for a living or doing your life’s work? What is perfectionism – the fear of making mistakes, being taken to task for an error, or is it just the immense pride one takes in creating a masterpiece – whether it be a painting, book, meal, or bringing up a child to be a good, conscientious person? Can pride and perfectionism be taught? Is it the characteristic of a star sign, like Virgo? Can we inspire people to take pride in what they do and to care about how it is received or perceived by others?

We don’t all set ourselves Everests to climb. As a child, I would find a “mountain” (metaphorical), and resolve to climb it all the way to the top. I’ve kind of slowed down on mountains with age, but if one presents itself that appeals to me, I’ll do my best to make it to the top. We can’t and don’t all have to be high achievers, but this is where the old clichés come in:

If you do a job, do it properly.

Don’t do things by half-measures.

Take pride in what you do.

Having a passion for one’s work is a privilege: not everyone has the fortune to work at what they love. But pride and a passion for perfection can be instilled: it is simply a case of doing it properly, to 100% of one’s ability. A car, computer or TV that works 50% of the time or a medical diagnosis that is only half right isn’t useful. It’s not the percentage that matters. It’s the amount of care you have for what you do. You may work for a living but your life’s work is what you leave behind: how you have affected the lives of those for whom you work. I don’t mean your employers. At Milpark we are dealing with the lives of our students – preparing them for a profession or career. That’s what we work for and it’s not something we can do half a job on.

07 Oct 2021