Hi, my name is Rod, and I’m a recovering perfectionist.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve focused on methodically and carefully taking my time to weigh my options before taking action. I thought that by striving to deliver perfect work all the time (for example, straight A’s or “flawless” work performance) I would be on a path to long-term personal, professional, and financial success. However, recently I’ve realized that this has led to some unexpected side effects that have made me question whether perfection is really the answer to success. Spoiler alert: the answer is no, at least not for me!
Striving for perfection has made me a rule follower.
After all, you can’t be perfect if you don’t understand the rules governing your task, right? You’re probably thinking, “wait a second… is following the rules a bad thing?” I would argue that for a perfectionist, it can be. By incessantly crafting my decisions, projects, and work to meet the required guidelines, I’ve inadvertently stifled my creativity along the way. This has led to work that, while still usually good, is not really ground-breaking in any way. Now, I believe that true innovation sometimes doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it goes against the rules (blasphemy for perfectionists)! Sometimes people are going to disagree with it and even criticize it. Let them!
Striving for perfection has led me to missed opportunities.
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right? And as a perfectionist, sometimes you don’t realize you have a shot because you’re too worried about what would happen if you tried and failed.
Striving for perfection has made me a risk-averse decision maker.
Perfection requires that all decisions made be the right decisions, right? And you can’t know if a decision will be right unless you analyze it to the fullest extent and eliminate virtually all risk. And this could take time. A LONG TIME. And taking time can lead to not taking action. Which can lead to not making a decision in the first place. Do you see where I’m going with this? I’m not saying making conservative decisions is a bad thing. Far from it! I’ve just realized that it’s OK to be uncertain sometimes. It’s OK to make a decision that may be risky. It’s way better to make a decision and learn from it than to never make a decision out of fear of it not being “perfect.” And yes, it’s still OK to think about a decision before making it. I still believe in doing a quick “best case,” “worst case,” and “likely case” analysis when considering a given choice. A perfectionist (like I used to be) will make a decision only if the “likely case” and above is acceptable. The newer, non-perfectionist me will make a decision if the “worst case” and above is acceptable.
Let me be clear: I am not promoting mediocrity in any way, shape or form. I’m not saying you should stop trying to do a good job. Bad work is still bad work! However, “good enough” work is better than perfect work that is either late or never delivered.
“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” – Reid Hoffman
Reid Hoffman, one of the co-founders of LinkedIn, said: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” This is the essence of non-perfectionism! The “Lean Startup” movement in business is all about developing a “Minimum Viable Product” and improving it over time based on customer feedback. Some people have taken this concept and applied it to their daily lives. That’s what it means to “send it.”
By dedicating yourself to “sending it,” you are committing yourself to constant improvement and iteration. Could something “good enough” eventually become “perfect?” Absolutely it can! Perfection should never be the initial goal, but it could be the end result of constant progress.
At this point I bet you’re thinking “Rod, stop writing all this self-help, motivational fluff and stick to travel blogging!” Well, here I am, ready to tie this whole post back to my family’s travel plans.
Honestly put, the perfectionist in me would have NEVER decided to sell everything, quit my job, and travel the world with my family. There are a lot of unknowns with this decision, after all! However, even though at this point we don’t know whether we will be successful or not, we’re still going to send it. Because even if we don’t find a way to make this a sustainable lifestyle, I can still look for a job and continue to support ourselves until we figure out our next step.
I’ll be the first to admit that this post probably has some errors and flaws. But in the spirit of its intent, I’m just gonna send it!