Perfectionism is a tricky thing.
On one side it seems beneficial to be a little bit of a perfectionist.
But on the other it can lead to some dark thoughts and even depression.
There have been many people in history that have been perfectionists, at least to a degree, that have reached great levels of success. I think you would almost need to be obsessive in the pursuit of perfection to have the drive to do what others won’t do so you can get ahead.
When I was kicking this idea around I thought of the story of Howard Hughes. I know the movie with DiCaprio wasn’t the greatest movie of all time, but it was an interesting look at the life of someone that was a bit of a perfectionist.
Hughes focused on details. Everything mattered to him. Things had to be done just the right way, his way. When he wanted an airplane to go fast he wanted it to not only break records, but to go as fast as possible. He was always pushing and pushing for perfect in everything he did.
The trouble, toward the latter years of his life, was that he struggled to function. It might have had a little or even a lot to do with chronic pain, but perhaps it was also due to struggling with not achieving all the things he wanted to achieve even though he was one of the most accomplished humans ever.
How Perfectionism Can Bring You Down
There is the concept of the minimum viable product. I think it’s a good concept, but maybe not with the idea that you need to create something that’s just good enough. That mindset isn’t good for an entrepreneur or a manager.
But there are a number of people that have been worried too much about being perfect. I see it with big website projects where the people invested in the project continue tweaking and changing websites and years go by and by that time the site is out-of-date again.
This can happen with many kinds of pursuits. It can happen if you’re trying to find the perfect employee. You’ll never find anyone if you look for perfect. It can happen if you want to launch the perfect product. You’ll never release it if you’re looking for perfect.
Should You Settle?
I don’t like the idea of settling for something. That’s dangerous.
It seems like the successful people in the world have two traits?
First, they’re good at pushing for perfection, but they also know that they need to release things. They need to release products or whatever it might be. They look to leap well beyond what’s already out there. They might stop short of perfect so they can release it, but they do release something once they’re well ahead of the competition.
Second, they’re good at always making sure that a product or whatever they’re doing is not “done”. The product that is first released is just Version 1.0 or whatever. The first version might not have been perfect. The second version might not be there, but they’re always working to move closer to perfect.
It’s a tricky thing to balance.
On one hand it’s good to be pushing yourself to get perfect, but if you put too much stock into perfection you’ll ultimately realize that you can’t get there and you’ll feel bad no matter how much you’ve accomplished.
A good way to do things if you’re a little too worried about being perfect is to look at what you need to do to jump well ahead of the current situation. Set that as a goal and that will be your MVP or minimum viable product. It’s not really a minimum because you’re jumping ahead, but you’re planning to release something.
You can still keep an idea in your head of what perfect will be. You can keep shooting for that, but along the way set goals so that when you hit those points you can continue to grow and improve and it will give you time to reflect and be proud of what you’re accomplishing.
The old saying is that it’s good to stop and smell the roses once in awhile. If you’re a perfectionist it can be a good thing, but don’t let it get to the point where you’re falling into depression. Keep pushing, but reflect on the good things you’ve done.