The Trouble With Perfection



I finally realized the trouble with perfection.  It’s an impediment to completion and an aid to procrastination (feel free to borrow that).  I don’t believe in doing something just to get it done, it’s not in my DNA, but that my friends, is the rub.  Doing things “perfectly” slows me down.  I have 25 posts in draft format in my WordPress dashboard just waiting to be fed to the eager reading masses–all 19 of you.  Twenty-five drafts, the exact amount of posts currently live on this blog.  Hour’s worth of work, thousands of words, and countless revisions are hidden away because I can’t be convinced that they are perfect enough to both entertain and educate you, or me for that matter.

Perfection is subjective unless you’re taking a test or baking, otherwise you actually are living your life in a game of horseshoes– where close counts.  Don’t believe me? Walk through a museum with a group of art lovers and listen to the disagreements about the merits of a Picasso.  If that guy can be judged harshly, I guess I should relax a little.  So, what keeps me from doing just that?  I care about my work and how it is perceived.  The most important part of that statement is that “I care about my work”,  ultimately,  THAT SHOULD BE ENOUGH.  When you care about your work and what you present that will be enough to generate the right product.  At the risk of sounding way more zen than I really am, perfection is a never ending journey.   After recognizing that the journey is continuous you can focus more on the effort and enjoyment of it all and avoid losing sight of your mission.  I often feel that the pursuit of perfection removes the fluidity of the process, it becomes mechanical action leading to a reduction of creativity.  All of this counterproductive behavior without recognizing it, and for what? Wouldn’t it be easier to maintain high standards instead of the pursuit of perfection in every project?  High standards aren’t a copout it just allows for more attainable measures of achievement.

During interviews the standard question, “What’s your biggest weakness?” always comes up and while I’ve heard a lot of responses (I had a stint as a head hunter), nothing has stood out as unique.  Least of all, “I’m a perfectionist”.  It’s a rookie answer that even seasoned professionals have fallen back on.   Based on my drive to put out a perfect product, I’ve learned that perfection could be negatively received as, ‘it takes me a long time to finish projects’ or ‘I’m not confident with my work’.  And, that’s only two reads that can be given from that one statement, trust me there are more (I’ll post a creative way to answer this in another article–that won’t remain a draft).

While typing this blog and ironically backspacing , I’m watching Chopped (one more competitive cooking show).  Chefs with varying degrees of experience are competing for a cash prize and champion status.  I’ve seen it before and again it’s been demonstrated tonight, the chef that is most focused on perfection, second guesses himself and ruins a competitive dish with a last-minute addition or change.

More experienced chefs commit this error frequently.  The interesting result is that the winning dish is never perfect–the three judges rarely are unanimous in their critique–but it’s better than another dish.  The dish is creative in the eye of the chef, doesn’t have obvious mistakes, like over salting, and is confidently crafted.  So, at the end of it all, that’s my cure to avoid the trouble of perfection: Know what you like and create that–don’t try to get into your bosses, or in my case, the readers head; Don’t make obvious mistakes (you’ll know what they are for your particular task); and BE CONFIDENT.  


11 thoughts on “The Trouble With Perfection

  1. This is such a great post! I have struggled to achieve perfection my whole life and one day it dawned on me – it was not my idea of perfection I was striving for it was other people’s. Perfection does not exist, confidence in oneself is enough.
    Pop those posts on – as Arnie once said, “I’ll be back!”

    • Thanks Michelle! I look forward to your return and will check you out as well.
      You hit the nail on the head about the existence of perfection, the unfortunate thing is that we all are just holding each other to a standard that we’ve never really seen AND limiting growth. I’ll take your advice and “pop those posts on”.

  2. Everything you say is so true and yet, we are taught that anything less than perfection is failure on some level. So unless to avoid the sting of failure, we do nothing. You can’t lose that way, but, of course, you can’t win either. Thank you for this. You really need to do a post on answering interview questions : )

    • Thanks J! I’ll definitely post on the interview questions, especially the ones that come up all of the time.
      I see your picture of your little one and I have to say that the area that we repeat the mistake the most is with our children (guilty!). We’ve all been pushed for perfection and then we convince them that there is this secret society of people that hold the banner and they should try to get there.
      I’m a firm believer in being competitive and doing your best but also a good example of the impediment of pursuing perfection!

      • Yeah, I’m definitely a perfectionist and it definitely holds me back from certain goals. I’m working on it. One of things I love most about hanging out with my daughter is that my worth in her eyes is measured by how much I love her and how willing I am to be silly with her. Job performance, being published and sales don’t mean anything to her and I love it.

      • THAT is perfection! I miss that age. I’m in the “teenagers who see your flaws as an opportunity to laugh and remind themselves of how smart they are” phase. I remember that and know they’ll come back around to recalling how wise I am (well, that’s the hope).
        On the other hand, nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments and going for the gold standard of selling and being published in a professional sense. As long as the metric you’re going for is one you set and not another person’s ‘perfection ideal’.

  3. Great post! Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I rarely struggle with creating blog posts and getting them good enough for publication. The hardest thing for me is all the other stuff I’m sorta good at or want to become better at where I let the idea of the finished product being pristine stop me. I’m trying to get out of that habit, though.

  4. Great post. I absolutely agree. The pursuit of perfection can slow you down and in some ways hinder you. Especially as it relates to blogging. I try to keep a system so that I don’t get stuck in that pursuit. I write the post, leave it along for a day, come back to it, make revisions and then I’m done. Otherwise I’d be revising forever.

    • I love this suggestion. I started comparing my sales career to my blogging venture. In sales I don’t hesitate to make suggestions, put it all on the line, dial or whatever it is I need to do to create an opportunity. I don’t even think about potential errors because I’m sure of my creative ability in that realm. Writing feels so subjective and the audience matters so much that I have forgotten to jump in with both feet while I work on perfection! I’ll keep your pattern in mind as I’m writing my next post.

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