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.