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.  

Get Your Hands Off My Intellectual Property

A good friend and respected colleague contributed to my professional library by providing me with a book that I’ve come to value called, Linchpin: Are you Indispensable by Seth Godin. The book, in a nutshell, discusses the decisions you make, your future, your potential and how you make yourself relevant. That’s a really brief, almost vague nutshell that doesn’t do it justice so GO BUY IT! At the end of the day the book is only as valuable as its impact on each reader and this one had significant impact for me.

One of the major takeaways while reading it was that my Intellectual Property  is the thing that makes me valuable everywhere that I go.  I have gained more career opportunities and professional experience based on my differences from other potential hires than by how closely I match the job description posted. What great employers come to realize as I go through a hiring process is that my mind is my greatest asset. Once I’m hired if they’re smart they take advantage of it. If they are insecure they attempt to cage me in via micro management and other useless tools of the fearful leader.


My well used, dog eared copy of a great book!

Creativity in thought and action has been a major component to my success over the years. While other sales reps relied on high-priced degrees to show their value, I entered the work world without a piece of paper validating that I could read a book and pass a test but competed and frequently surpassed those who were institutionally educated. I don’t say that to argue the value of a degree, I’ll spout my feelings about that in another post, but rather to show that the thing that has made me a “player” is something that can’t be duplicated easily or sometimes at all. By the time a competing salesperson has “pulled my card”, I’ve moved on to another trick or I have so many cards in play simultaneously that I don’t have to worry about being directly replicated.

My Intellectual Property is the thing that galvanizes me when I feel unappreciated or have effectively outgrown my position. It gives me the confidence to efficiently review my successes and determine my value so that I can present it well to others and open new doors. In a recent experience, my IP proved to be the thing that kept an employer from showing me the door when I gave two weeks notice (a rare occurrence in a book of business oriented sales world). Asking me to stay through the two weeks was less about their love for me and proof positive that I was indispensable because of what I knew and even more significant hard to replace.

Ultimately Intellectual Property, if focused on and developed, can offer you a level of assuredness in a world that offers very little job security and shows even less appreciation for the person that can follow directions, manipulate a computer, and tow the corporate line. It should give you the feeling that you are “KING/QUEEN of the world” because it sets you apart. My recommendation, push yourself to the most painful points of honesty and growth so that you can walk into any situation confident that you are truly an individual because of what you can offer. For a person whose IP is acutely developed they can put someone in your chair but you can never be replaced.