The Mirage of Perfection

If you’re like me, you strive to achieve excellence in everything you do.

The problem though is that the thought of “excellence” can be daunting and paralyzing. But there lies an underlying issue. Many of us have a misconception of what we think excellence is, and what we’re substituting it for is the idea of perfection.

Here is the difference:

Excellent: Very good of its kind, eminently good, first-class.
Perfect: Being entirely without fault or defect, flawless.

In your work, be careful in pursuing perfection. It will hold you in a cycle of revision, never letting you move on to the next idea, and stunting your growth. The extra time and effort you’re exhorting to get your idea from 90% to 95% or 100% isn’t worth it.

Thats right. It isn’t worth it.

There’s a term in economics for this; The Law of Diminishing Return. The law states that the continuing effort you put to a particular project will decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved. That level of result is at excellence, or what my friend SeanWes would say, 90%. Your 90% is everyone else's image of 100%.

There’s a big difference between 70% and 90%, both in the effort that’s put forth, and perceptually to the consumer, but it pales in comparison to the lack of payoff that's seen from 90% to 100%. It’s important to know where that bar of excellence is in your work, where the sweet spot of 90% sits. Don’t become lazy and set your bar at 70% and call it excellent, but don’t set your eyes on perfection and either miss the deadline or be frustrated at your performance.

For those who struggle with the pursuit of perfection, be willing to let things go and ship your ideas, projects and products at 90%. We all would rather see you ship 10 really great, or excellent projects, than one or two, or even zero, seemingly perfect products.

Strive for excellence, but leave perfection up to God. Don’t be caught in the paralyzing unknown that is the pursuit of perfection.