Perfectionism Is Dangerous!

Multiple BullseyesI was reminded the other day by an article by Joshua Rivera of Lifehacker that you have to be careful about trying to achieve perfection in whatever you create. He linked to a video with the late David Foster Wallace from when he spoke on the topic of ambition on the PBS show, “Blank on Blank”.

The key point of the video comes in the first 30 seconds. He said that the danger of perfectionism is that you don’t want to finish something because if you finish it, you have to come to terms with the fact that what you created wasn’t as perfect as you had imagined it to be in your head.

That’s really a good way to look at it. I’m well aware of that same tendency in myself to want to keep working on something, but I have fought against it over the years. Eventually, I started a new check on this tendency of mine, by setting checkpoints of when aspects of whatever I was working on should be completed. When I reached that point, if I wasn’t finished, I had to decide if I wasn’t finished because it wasn’t the idealized version that I had in my head or because the product was not good enough for whatever purpose it was intended. If the idea was good enough, but could be significantly better with a small investment of time, I put in that additional time. If taking the product to the next level would involve a disproportionate amount of time, I had to move on.

This process was very hard for me at first. Entrepreneurs and creative people (which often overlap) hate putting something out in the world that isn’t the best that they can create. So, they often don’t put the product out until far later than they should. That sometimes leads to time wasted on a product that nobody ended up wanting or the opportunity for a competitor to establish their product before the entrepreneur’s product is released. That realization is what has made me religious about my new process.  As a result, I’ve gotten a lot better at releasing products when they should be rather than when they’re “finished”. That has been uncomfortable at times, but has resulted in a lot more products that I have created being released into the world than if I had hung onto them until perfection.

The bottom line is: If it’s good enough; ship it!

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