John Suler's Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors
A master calligrapher was writing some characters onto a piece of paper. One of his especially perceptive students was watching him. When the calligrapher was finished, he asked for the student's opinion - who immediately told him that it wasn't any good. The master tried again, but the student criticized the work again.
Over and over, the calligrapher carefully redrew the same characters, and each time the student rejected it. Finally, when the student had turned his attention away to something else and wasn't watching, the master seized the opportunity to quickly dash off the characters. "There! How's that?," he asked the student. The student turned to look. "THAT.... is a masterpiece!" he exclaimed.
People's reactions to this story:
"It's not how perfect you do something that's important, but how others perceive it."
"It's reminds me of trying hard to accomplish something, and failing. If you just do your best, then that's the masterpiece."
"Spontaneity is beautiful, not carefully planned out and conforming work."
"Trying hard at something can lead to poor results. Let it come naturally."
"We get habituated to everyday life. When we see something all the time, we take it for granted. When we see something new, for the first time, we appreciate it."
"Originality is what makes each of us a masterpiece. Don't stick to the same old way of doing things."
"Stop thinking and just do what's natural for you, instead of what's expected. Some of our best work is done when we least expect it."
"You can't perform perfectly under the watch of critical eyes. When you don't force perfection, it happens by itself, spontaneously. Great things happen when you least suspect it."
"Whenever you watch over someone you make them self-conscious and uncreative. It's like trying to teach a child. If you let them alone they will usually figure it out themselves and it will be great."
"Teachers always criticize students' work even though they revise it many times. It's a hassle. You wonder if it is ever good enough. Students sometimes feel that they'd like to switch places with the professor, so the professor can feel what it's like to be criticized over and over."
"I have to wonder why was the master so concerned with the student's opinion in the first place? Anyway, I think that when you become an expert at something, you pay less attention to it than someone who is new to it and who therefore has something valuable to offer."
"Sounds like the master is the student and the student is the master."
"People tend to be too critical. If they do not see the effort that goes into a project and just the finished work, then they can appreciate it."
"You can't see a masterpiece as it's being created stroke by stroke. You have to see it whole. It's like not being able to see the forest from the trees."