It’s a dilemma.
Without quality, what’s the point in producing something? But seeking perfection can be counterproductive in the extreme.
Where do you draw the line?
I think the answer, as it is for so many questions like this, is: “It depends.”
Every circumstance has to be evaluated and re-evaluated on an ongoing basis. “4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferriss recommends running an 80/20 analysis on your business monthly. Not a bad idea.
Once you accept that perfectionism is something that can’t be eliminated with one killing blow, then what you need are guidelines. Here are two of my all-time favorite guidelines for dealing with perfectionism plus a new one I just discovered that inspired this post.
Guideline #1. “It’s amazing how rich you can get without being perfect.” – Richard Dennis, super successful futures trader.
Becoming rich (or happy, or contented, or successful) has nothing to do with being perfect. Perfection is most definitely not required.
Guideline #2. “Perfection in infinite time is worth zero.”
I wish I could remember who I first heard this from. I Googled it and nothing came up. Maybe I actually coined this phrase and forgot. It wouldn’t be the first time. I know I’ve been using it for many, many years.
This one says it all. Getting the thing done, whatever it is, in time to actually use and enjoy it is what matters the most. Perfection on some far off, undefinable date is absolutely worthless (unless you plan to live forever which, let’s face it, is unlikely.)
I recently discovered a new perfectionism quote which comes from a book called “Beyond Success and Failure” by Willard and Marguerite Beecher.
I learned about this book is a very circuitous way.
Lawrence Bernstein, who’s one of the world’s greatest archivists of classic advertising copy, gifted me with a rare collection of ads by Eugene Schwartz that he painstakingly uncovered through researching back issues of old newspapers.
Schwartz was a grand master of selling books by mail order and the ads he wrote are so good that I felt compelled to track down as many of the books that he advertised as I could. “Beyond Success and Failure” was one of them. (By the way, every book Gene wrote ads for was a winner and well worth buying.)
Anyway, here’s my newest favorite quote about perfectionism. It’s the most stark and it’s one you’re not likely to forget:
Guidline #3: “The perfectionist is doomed to starve in the midst of plenty.”
Wow! No sugar coating there. And they’re right. How many times have we seen people who could have something good, but don’t because they want something GREAT? My advice: Start with the good and work towards the great with the good as your base.
The Beechers, who are psychologists, get into the psychology of perfectionism and they hit the nail right on the head:
“(The perfectionist) will resist and reject What Is – simply because it can never measure up to his imagined goal of what-should-be.”
OK, now that we undestand the disease of perfectionism, what causes it and what it costs, what about the cure?
Here’s a brilliant one, short, sweet and most of all practical:
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi
Life can be simple when we let it be.
– Ken McCarthy
P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.
If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.