16 July 2010

Perfection is Overrated

When I came back from Ireland, the yards were out of control. Two weeks of wet and warm weather was just enough for everything to mutiny. Twelve hours later, and there are still weeds to pull, plants to prune, and other various yarding to do. Leading me to wonder why I actually want a yard, and thinking that good enough is, well, good enough.

I’ve never been a true perfectionist, but I come closer than others. Perfection is an unattainable target - a target that drives people insane. At some point, the weed bucket, pen, whatever needs to be put down. Sure, there are more tweaks that could be made, but the project needs to be finished.

This attitude towards perfection is something I’ve learned to embrace over the past year in starting our own businesses. You can’t make money unless you have something to sell. Just do the best you can and get something to market. The product will evolve from there. I’m not advocating cutting corners, or producing something that is not quality. The goal should still be to produce the very best you can.

At some point, though, analyzing the smallest details is no longer productive. It will slow you down, inhibit you from acting, and even prevent you from entertaining new opportunities. You can get more done, if you do the best you can, and leave the small stuff alone. It’s important to understand when attention to detail is critical, and when it’s not. Most of the time it’s not.

Fear of failure, or worrying about perfect results also keeps people from acting. We learn from failure, but if you never try because you can’t get it perfect, you’ll never know if the idea would have worked or not.

We struggled with the marketing of our starting a brewery books, and realized that we needed to take action faster rather than sitting around theorizing about ways to market the books. By trying out more of our ideas, we learned quickly what would work and what would not. We’ve gotten better at it, not perfect, but, we have accomplished something that we wouldn’t have if we had kept concentrating on finding the perfect methods.

Practice makes perfect, right? But, to practice you actually have to do something, and forget about getting it perfect. Learn from the failures, and move on. Goals should propel you forward, not keep you back as you figure out the perfect way to attain them. My goals are things I strive to do well and that I can get a sense of satisfaction from.

from the back yard - looks pretty good to me!
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