Running On Sober

I'm not empty, just sober

How to be Perfect (a poem by Ron Padgett)

I stumbled upon Padgett’s poem as I was skipping around “The Writer’s Almanac” site and thought it was too good to not pass along. It’s taken me many years to realize that perfection is a moving, ever-changing target, but I still found myself smiling at many of his suggestions.

Do any of the below stand out to you? Do you have any suggestions for the list?


Excerpts from “How to be Perfect”

by Ron Padgett

Get some sleep.

Eat an orange every morning.

Be friendly. It will help make you happy.

Hope for everything. Expect nothing.

Take care of things close to home first. Straighten up your room
before you save the world. Then save the world.
Be nice to people before they have a chance to behave badly.

Don’t stay angry about anything for more than a week, but don’t
forget what made you angry. Hold your anger out at arm’s length
and look at it, as if it were a glass ball. Then add it to your glass
ball collection.

Wear comfortable shoes.

Do not spend too much time with large groups of people.

Plan your day so you never have to rush.

Show your appreciation to people who do things for you, even if
you have paid them, even if they do favors you don’t want.

After dinner, wash the dishes.

Calm down.

Don’t expect your children to love you, so they can, if they want

Don’t be too self-critical or too self-congratulatory.

Don’t think that progress exists. It doesn’t.

Imagine what you would like to see happen, and then don’t do
anything to make it impossible.

Forgive your country every once in a while. If that is not
possible, go to another one.

If you feel tired, rest.

Don’t be depressed about growing older. It will make you feel
even older. Which is depressing.

Do one thing at a time.

If you burn your finger, put ice on it immediately. If you bang
your finger with a hammer, hold your hand in the air for 20
minutes. you will be surprised by the curative powers of ice and

Do not inhale smoke.

Take a deep breath.

Do not smart off to a policeman.

Be good.

Be honest with yourself, diplomatic with others.

Do not go crazy a lot. It’s a waste of time.

Drink plenty of water. When asked what you would like to
drink, say, “Water, please.”

Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.

Excerpts from “How to be Perfect” by Ron Padgett, from How to be Perfect. © Coffee House Press, 2007.

Source: The Writer’s Almanac

Edited to Add on 9/6/12: The full version of his poem may be found here

Categories: Recovery & Life, Writing and Poetry

Tags: , , ,

27 replies

  1. Fantastic, great advice to live by!


  2. Do not smart off to a policeman……took me many years to appreciate that one. Great stuff!!


  3. I love Henry Rollins’ spoken word. I think I can achieve a lot of Ron’s expectations for perfection!!


  4. Loved Padgett’s poem, especially “When there’s shooting in the street, don’t go near the window.” I looked up the complete version online. These are a few of the ones omitted from the excerpt:

    –Eat a bowl of Kellog’s raisin bran every morning.
    –Make eye contact with a tree.
    –Stay out of debt and small swimming pools.
    –Do not practice cannibalism.

    Thanks for such a nice plug of my blog.


    • I just read the full poem as well, what gems! I think I’ll add a link for the full version to my original post. I love the first three:
      -Get some sleep.
      -Don’t give advice.
      -Take care of your teeth and gums.

      You’re very welcome for the mention, it was my pleasure.


  5. Thanks you for the intro to Susan – am loving her writing and the poem above IS perfect. Cxx


  6. how hilarious (and true)! thanks for sharing :)


  7. Yay! Love it! Perfect read for me today. Thanks for sharing this!



  8. “Wear comfortable shoes”…oh, yeah!

    This list is fantastic!


  9. Thank you for sharing this. I have re-blogged it on our site.



  10. Another perfect post. And thanks for the link to Susan-terrific!


  11. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog



  1. Re-blogged from « "R"HubBlog