Legendary comedian Norm MacDonald passed away at the age of 61-years-old this week. The former Saturday Night Live star was known for his deadpan delivery and fearless commitment to pushing the boundaries of humor.
Located among all the stories of Norm and his impact on comedy was an article that caught my attention. Norm and I had something in common.
I learned that he was searching for the Holy Grail.
I’m not talking about the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper.
Norm was a perpetual student of comedy. He was searching for what he called the “perfect joke.” One where “the punchline and the setup were almost identical.”
In his lifetime, he wrote only one joke that he felt even came close. Here it is:
“Julia Roberts told reporters this week that her marriage to Lyle Lovett has been over for some time. The key moment, she said, came when she realized that she was Julia Roberts and that she was married to Lyle Lovett.”
When asked if that joke was the Holy Grail, MacDonald said, “It was pretty close. I was happy with that one.”
Despite all his success and fame, Norm Macdonald was simply a humble man in search of the perfect joke. He spent a lifetime pursuing perfection.Despite all his success and fame, Norm Macdonald was simply a humble man in search of the perfect joke. He spent a lifetime pursuing perfection. Click To Tweet
This story resonated so much with me because I’ve also been on a quest for my own Holy Grail.
As a business leader in the electrical industry, I spent 12 years working to develop a particular rating on a piece of electrical equipment. The vision was to create a product that would effectively eliminate the need for six other products.
I worked on it initially at a large company and continued to pursue it when I co-founded my own company in 2016.
Over the years, my engineering teams got close but we were never able to get all the features I wanted.
But last year they finally did it.
My company was able to launch a product that is changing the industry. It was so special, we called it the Holy Grail.
Even now when I present it to customers and trade groups, I refer to it as the Holy Grail.
We chased perfection for over a decade and, in the end, we were able to create a near-perfect product and the demand has been through the roof.
So how does all this relate to you and your leadership journey?
The story of Norm MacDonald chasing the perfect joke should be our story as well. As leaders, we need to be perpetual students of leadership. We should be endlessly curious and continually searching for ways to improve our leadership skills.As leaders, we need to be perpetual students of leadership. Click To Tweet
We should be chasing the Holy Grail of becoming leaders worth following.
To do this, we must be dissatisfied with the status quo and, like Norm, be quietly and humbly pursuing perfection.
Resources like education, training, coaches, books, and podcasts should all be used to help us find better ways of inspiring people to do difficult things.
We will ever achieve perfection? Probably not.
But, like Norm, maybe one day we can get pretty close.