Perfection or Excellence?
I’ve been a perfectionist for most of my life, even as a child. Every poster had to be perfectly centered, the house had to be immaculate, clothes folded perfectly and the list goes on. There are elements of that dynamic that I appreciate and am proud of.
And there are elements that I have realized need to be curbed. I believe there is a healthy level of perfectionism, as well as an unhealthy one.
Unhealthy perfection is when your desire to execute every level of a task with such perfection incapacitates you and prevents you from ever getting your idea out to the world, or finishing a project or resolving a conflict. Perfection has a tendency to transform into obsession, which is just another form of fear.
Healthy perfection is what we call excellence. It means you’re not satisfied to ship work that isn’t your best. You work diligently to ensure the details and nuances are taken care of, and you give it your all. But you also recognize the importance of efficiency. This is a healthy habit and lifestyle that I am a big proponent of.
Sometimes you just need to go for it, perfect or not. We move in a very fast paced world, and if you’re not keeping your propensity for perfection in check, it will blow right by you. Your ideas will be lost. Your relationships will fail.
I used to labor over each blog post, among other things. So many ideas, thoughts and concepts will never be known because I didn’t feel they were perfect enough to share. Not any more. When it comes time to implement, I’ll make it as perfect as I can, but I will not let my desire for perfection limit my productivity or level of efficiency.
Like anything else, even perfection requires some balance. Freeing yourself of the obsession of perfection can allow you to experience the true benefits of operating with excellence.
As the late Steve Jobs used to say: “Real artists ship.” Every written product I’ve ever created has evolved into what it is today. The advantage of not waiting until it’s perfect is that the world will help you improve it anyway.
“The advantage of not waiting until it’s perfect is that the world will help you improve it anyway.”
Excellent wisdom there! I really have grown to value and even enjoy the refining process of just getting something out there and letting it organically evolve through communal feedback. It’s a process, but one I tend to enjoy.
Sometimes excellence doesn’t have perfection in it at all…it’s what you said above – it’s about pushing for your best, even if it’s not perfect. It’s why I look at my daughter’s artwork and see excellence, even though she spelled her name with a backwards “r” and likes to write “mamamamam” as my name. It’s not just imperfect, it’s wrong by way of proper spelling.
However, the time she spent painstakingly laying out the letters and asking me how to write “for” before “mama” on the picture she drew of me…that showed me excellence – she put her heart and soul into it and was eager to show it to me finished product, even though it could have been cleaned up a bit (I’m missing some ears in the picture, but whatever).
I love it, and I’m honored that she shared it with me, and that’s what it’s all about – give your best, but SHARE the process, even if you can make it better along the way!
Seriously Jared, I’m not even in a place to share any wisdom on this topic because today (even though the blog post is a week old 😉 it is exactly what I need to be considering.
I’ve definitely seen in myself the propensity for perfectionism in this whole “going after my dreams” and starting a business thing . . . which as you said, ultimately stems from fear.
And Dan, I also appreciate your perspective about putting something imperfect out to the world for improvement! This will be something good for me to dwell on as I continue!
Thanks for calling attention to this important topic, Jared! And Rest in Peace, Steve. I will carry many of your words with me into the future.