If you think perfection equals excellence, being a perfectionist is something to brag about, and perfection is a fundamental component of success, you need to put down whatever else it is you were doing and read this right now. “Perfect” has no place in your vocabulary if you want to be successful. Yes, you read that right.
The Fantasy of Perfection
Before we dig deep into the meat of this, let’s be very clear about something really important: Perfection is an illusion. It’s simply unattainable. Perfect is not synonymous with great service or a top-notch product. Giving up the quest for perfect doesn’t mean you settle for “meh.” Strive for quality. Aim to put your best foot forward but be willing to accept that done well is good enough.
Have you ever sat staring at a blank new document on your screen? You begin to type. Backspace. Type again. Backspace. Sigh. Stare. Give up. Find coffee (which admittedly is never a bad thing to include in your process), and begin again. Welcome to the quest for perfection. Trying to craft the perfect opening line can turn a simple missive into a painstaking project. Your quest for perfection can stall your efforts quickly.
Writing an email and can’t get past the subject line? Skip it and come back to it when you’re done. Just get something down on virtual-paper. Here’s the key piece you’re missing: undone is not perfect. Not completing a task, not communicating, not launching a new business or idea is not any better than trying and falling short. In fact, it’s actually worse.
Sensing a theme? Holding out for perfection, just like yearning to be perfect, can keep you from moving forward. If you are waiting for the perfect moment to launch your business, it’s just never going to happen. You can wait for favorable conditions, but recognize that the stars and planets are simply not going to line up in just the right way to assure a risk-free pathway to entrepreneurial success.
You can work hard to mitigate risk. You can roll-up your sleeves and put in the blood, sweat, and tears it may take to bring your company to life. None of that, however, requires anything that looks remotely like perfection. Waiting for perfection is about fear. It’s a solid excuse to avoid stepping out in faith and leaping toward your dreams. Let go of fear. Be willing to risk failure. That’s where success lies.
The Details Still Matter
Don’t misunderstand what we’re saying here. Giving up on perfection doesn’t mean settling for mediocrity. It doesn’t mean you embrace typo-laden marketing documents, sloppy production of your products, and lackluster customer service. Quite the contrary. You’re not settling. You’re letting go of what’s not realistic so you can put your energy and focus on your best efforts to produce high quality output.
Failure Leads to (Eventual) Success
Yes, it sounds counterintuitive but it’s not. That brilliant nugget of an idea you are currently mulling over is not guaranteed to succeed even if you dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s. Innovation requires a willingness to risk failure. Landing that new account requires a willingness to risk failure. Putting yourself out there to develop new skills or for a new relationship requires a willingness to risk failure. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” This attempt may not succeed but the things you learn along the way will equip you for the next risk you take.
Good Enough = Happiness
What happens when you yearn for the unattainable? Simple. You become overwhelmed and stressed. You are continually disappointed. Your confidence wanes. Your self-contentment falters. To quote author Guy Harrison, “Perfection is overrated, boring. It's the imperfections--the vulnerabilities, the weaknesses, the human elements--that make us who we are, that make us real, beautiful . . . necessary.”