Progress, Not Perfection

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

By: Jackie McHale

I know many are working on a dry-January and while dry-February sounds a little better with 28 days versus 31–you do you. Only about a week to go. My apologies for the wine reference.

Last season as I watched This is Us Season 4, there was a scene in which Miguel (John Huertas) tells Rebecca (Mandy Moore) about one of my favorite wines, Brunello di Montalcino.

The writing on this show is profoundly thoughtful. I won’t pretend to have made it through a single episode without uncontrollably sobbing—and my-oh-my is it “kathartic”. We all need that emotional release no matter where it comes from. It’s healthy to purge those tears and apparently this weekly show is my therapy. That particular episode was no different.

Photo by Engjell Gjepali on Unsplash

Miguel says, “They call it the king of Italian wines. Made of 100% Sangiovese grapes grown only around the Tuscan town of Montalcino. The region is so small that they can’t produce a top vintage every year. The ripening season has to be perfect and there is nothing they can do if the weather won’t cooperate. Maybe this year is too hot, this year is too cold. They have to be patient. They have to wait out the bad years, believing that there is a better year coming...and it always is.”

It spoke to me. I immediately typed it in my Google Keep knowing that one day I would want to refer back. Today I did, it was a reminder I needed. Maybe you do, too.

Top Vintage

We all go through “weather” like the grapes in Montalcino. It can be frustrating. When the ripening season isn’t perfect and the weather won’t cooperate, there is nothing they can do but wait and hope. More often than not lately it feels like the weather is not cooperating. Even though sometimes we give our all, we aren’t always fruitful.

I have learned that fruitful can mean a couple of things. Most would say fruitful means success. I see it a different way. Sometimes failure can be fruitful. Out of failure and challenge, there is beautiful growth and change. We are each unique and evolving and perfection should not be our goal. I often tell myself “progress, not perfection”. While it seems that everyone around us might produce their “top vintage” every year (easy to believe from the beautiful social media posts) that is merely an illusion.


I find comfort in the thought that this celebrated and cherished wine takes time to become. We wait for it without questioning the process. Can’t we allow ourselves that same grace? After all, life is hard in different ways for each of us.

One day we can be on top of the world, the next...down-and-out. Maybe if we can accept that life will never be perfect, that there will always be weather, life will be more fulfilling. Doing so will require us to change our expectations, embrace the journey, and persevere with hopeful patience and gratitude just like the grapes on that beautiful hillside in Montalcino.

Maybe ripening is the part we wish we could skip past to get to the beautiful parts. But what would we miss?

Photo by Sven Wilhelm on Unsplash

No doubt, there are some things we want to erase from memory. There are moments where we need only to focus on the victories. Not going to lie, from my experience, it’s tough. Waiting out the bad days can feel like torture and, lately, giving up hope in this delicate world is easy. But what if we change our way of thinking? What if we can realize trials are a difficult but necessary part of appreciating the journey of who we are becoming.

If the Sangiovese grapes in Montalcino ripened easily and perfectly every year, we might not find the Brunello so magical.

For our hearts to survive hardship, we must look for the lesson, remembering along the way...progress, not perfection. We must bask in the small joys and victories that life brings (perhaps with a bottle of Brunello). We must be intentional in the journey, realizing the weather shapes us and helps us grow stronger and more prepared for the next storm.

We must have faith that there is a better year coming and remember what Miguel said...

It always is.

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