The problem with perfection

02.10.15 seek substance before perfection (blog)

I have seen too many smart, savvy, brilliant people let their ideas die on the vine because they want to do something that many of us think is admirable. And it should make all of us angry and sad:

They want to be perfect.

All the stories that people need to hear. All the talent that could make the world a better place. All the benefits customers and clients are aching to achieve. None of it seeing the light of day because:

“I can’t start my business until I have the perfect website worthy of Vogue or Fast Company” (Right, because everyone expects a Phase 1 website to look as slick as an Apple ad)

“I can’t write my book because I don’t know enough about publishing or story structure so I need to attend more conferences and get more credentials.” (Right, because there is a “right” way to publish a good story and, besides, there’s no one who can help you along the way)

“I can’t send that email or post that blog post until I have an editor thoroughly check it for grammatical mistakes or typos.” (Right, because good ideas that have impacted everything from society at large down to one individual life were mocked because someone wrote “there” instead of “their.”)

Please make no mistake: This is not a defense of shoddy quality or mediocrity. I’m not even advocating poor design. You’re talking to the woman who cries when she realizes there’s a typo in my writing.

But you also know, if you’ve been with me a while, that – news flash – I’m human and I make mistakes. We ALL do. But it doesn’t stop me from continuing to serve you and deliver value. Waiting until something is 100% perfect before you share it with the world is just crazy – and impossible. You will always want to tweak something later. Always. It’s called “learning and evolving.” Besides, 80% of great is better than 100% of nothing, any day.

Think first about why you are chasing perfection? Is it fear holding you back? Tara Mohr, in her recent book Playing Big, purports that many talented women use this as an excuse to mask their fear and hide their light. But I’ve seen many men do this, too. “Perfection-seeking as delay tactic” crosses gender lines. I know, because I’ve been there myself and fight this everyday.

Seek to create substance, value, and inspiration first rather than perfection. (Tweet this!)

Don’t lose momentum. Get your message out in to the world. Shape it as you go. Learn from the feedback you get and improve things further. It’s why innovative companies launch beta projects: to gauge reaction and work out the kinks, fast.

Kindly request forgiveness from your audience. But don’t let the pursuit of perfection stop your message from reaching the people who need it most.

This is not permission to let quality slip. It’s a rallying cry to get your ideas out into the world and shape them as you go.

Do you agree? Where has this shown up in your own work? What ideas have you sat on for fear of them not being perfect? Please share in the Comments below!

Image Credit: finchlake2000 via Flickr

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