Perfectionism is the Enemy

It was just a couple years into my website development career when I began to recognize that my clients could be sorted into two camps:  those who prioritized pragmatism, and those who prioritized perfection.

The more pragmatic clients embraced quick turnaround.  They knew that their websites were living creatures that should never remain stagnant. These clients expected to make frequent updates to their sites, and so they tended to worry less about “pixel perfect” work and aimed instead to get their message online quickly and accurately, so they could use their resources to serve their own customers better. Pragmatists tend to be better decision makers, and thus more effective business leaders.

For the perfectionist clients, I noticed that they tended to fixate on the most mundane details. They spent hours discussing which style of bullet points to use, line spacing, and tweaking the color pallet and images for their website.  They believed that their pursuit of perfection was a badge of pride. I felt that it was a symptom of wastefulness, focusing on the trivial while losing focus on the big picture.  No visitors to their website would ever even notice those details–customers want accurate, easy-to-find information that is presented in an intuitive manner.  

It is just shy of blasphemy to suggest that the pursuit of perfection is an obstacle to success–but that is exactly what I believe!

This seems to hold true for all manner of creators:  whether they write, build furniture, create art, or develop websites.  It seems natural for people to applaud perfection, but to pursue perfection is to squander resources.

Satisfaction Today is Better than Perfection Tomorrow.

Sometimes you have to be willing to admit that “good enough” really is good enough!  This isn’t a matter of accepting mediocrity.  It is a matter of finding that sensible point where continued effort will yield diminishing returns–and then mustering the willpower to STOP.

It is my observation that we often use the Pursuit of Perfection as an excuse for indecisiveness which can lead to paralysis. Instead of launching a project and moving on to the next item on the list, we become stuck in place.

Even though I know this to be true, sometimes I find that I am guilty of this same mentality of pursuing perfection.  I will spend hours editing a simple blog post that might get seen by no more than a few dozen loyal readers.  Sure, I want to present my ideas with clarity and I take pride in my work, but at some point it becomes a huge impediment to progress–to actually publishing the damn article.

Pursuing perfection means compromising quality over the long run.

The pursuit of perfection means raising the bar and thus the barrier to entry. It means decreasing quantity of output.  Ironically, the pursuit of perfection means decreasing quality too. The single best way I can become a better writer is to write more.  

I am no literary genius, but I won’t even have a chance to find out what I am capable of if I fixate on achieving that elusive, mythical objective of Perfection.  

I am betting you probably have a project which you have gotten bogged down with because you have been trying to make it perfect. If so, I challenge you to step back from the project and ask yourself if that extra, small gain is worth the time investment.  Most likely the best answer will be, “this is good enough!”  Put a bow on it, and move on to your next task.

About Frank Hurt

A woman once told him, "Frank when you grow up you're going to be brilliant and handsome."

It turns out Frank's mother is pretty good at predicting the future. Almost as good as Frank is at writing his own bio in third-person perspective.

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