Pursuit of Perfect– Don’t Ignore Good Enough, which is often Good Enough: Balance the Law of Diminishing Return…

Perfect: Perfect is the Enemy of Good  is an aphorism or proverb which is commonly attributed to Voltaire (great French writer 1694-1778). The moral is that perfectionism is contrary to satisfactory competence…

Aristotle, Confucius and other classic philosophers propounded the principle of– golden mean, which counsels against extremism in general. The Pareto principle or 80-20 rule explains this numerically. For example, it commonly takes 20% of the full-time to complete 80% of a task while the last 20% takes 80% of the effort.

Achieving absolute perfection may be impossible and so as increasing effort results in diminishing returns, further activity becomes increasingly inefficient… In other words, instead of pushing yourself to an impossible perfect, and therefore getting nowhere, accept good

According to frugalblog; as an overall philosophy being a perfectionist really doesn’t work... If I tell myself I need to be perfect from start-to-finish that will be enough reason to never start, so I ascribe to a– less than perfect philosophy– ninety percent is the new one hundred percent…

According to Trent writes: perfection demands a lack of mistakes, and when you set yourself up expecting perfection, you’re doomed to fail from the start. Success comes from recognizing that mistakes happen, that you can’t beat yourself up over them, and that you need to step back and learn from them. The pursuit of perfect, while ignoring good enough, can be a big mistake…

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In the article Perfect is Enemy of the Good – Find the Right Balance by Marty O’Neill writes: Voltaire’s Perfect is the Enemy of Good fits perfectly into the operational life of many business executives. Guy Kawasaki’s blog post– A Dozen Don’ts for Entrepreneurs also reminds us that perfection is an allusion. Ed Calabrese, a friend and colleague, had a saying; shoot the engineer and ship the product. So the balancing act we engage when we have to– release a product, publish a report, post a blog, wrap up a presentation is; what is the right balance?

Folklore has it that an intern working for Henry Kissinger gave him a report and asked the Secretary of State to review the document. A week later, Kissinger gave it back and said– you can do better. Another week passed and the intern gave the report back to Kissinger with a comment indicating the report was much better. Kissinger gave the report back a week later with the comment– I still think you can do better. So the intern put his very best work into the report and a week later gave it to Kissinger saying this is the best I can do. Kissinger said– thanks, I’ll read it now.

Somewhere between Guy Kawasaki’s– don’t worry, be crappy and Ed Calabrese’s– shoot the engineer and ship the product and Henry Kissinger’s painfully long review cycle is the answer. I’m leaning towards Guy and Ed…

In the article Perfect is the Enemy of the Good by J.D. Roth writes: The pursuit of perfection is an exercise in diminishing returns, for example; some initial research will teach you the basics; little more research will help you separate the wheat from the chaff; still more research will enable you to make an informed decision. Theoretically, if you had enough time, you might find the perfect option. But each unit of time you spend in search of higher quality offers less reward than the unit of time before it:

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Quality is important: You should absolutely take time to do research… But remember that perfect is a moving target, one that’s almost impossible to hit. It’s usually better to shoot for good enough today than to aim for a perfect decision next week. Procrastination is one common consequence of pursuing perfection: You can come up with all sorts of reasons to put off decision-making… Get in the game: Just start. Starting plays a greater role in your success than any other factor. When you spend so much time looking for the perfect choice then you never actually do anything…

In the article Getting to Good Enough by Dustin Wax writes: There are times when perfection is called for, of course, but allow me to suggest to you that most of the time, good enough will do. There’s a point where it takes more and more energy to achieve smaller and smaller gains– where you’re putting in much effort to get a tiny 1% or 2% improvement…

The sciences are based on the premise that you publish as soon as your work is good enough– and let the rest of the science world try to perfect it; and yet we struggle: We concede a lot when we aim for less than perfection. Here are a few ways to get over these blocks and get your work, whatever it is, out into the world:

  • Planning: Begin your planning with an outcome in mind that’s good enough to get the job done. Then, set benchmarks that are ‘good enough’ to move on. At any step, of course, you can always go beyond good enough towards perfect— but focus first and foremost on building the necessary foundation.
  • Confidence: Confidence can be a tricky thing; just saying be more confident probably won’t solve all your problems. Building self-confidence is really a life journey, not a quick fix. But, most important you must give yourself the permission not to be perfect and accept good enough. Don’t make your self-worth contingent on perfection…
  • Make perfect mistakes: Mistakes are the stuff of personal growth, and making the right mistakes can help you build a firmer foundation for any project. Embrace mistakes as part of the process of getting to good enough. Embracing mistakes means more than  just accepting them, though– it means analyzing and learning from each mistake… Perfect doesn’t correct for mistakes– it ignores them…
  • Putting your best foot forward: There’s a difference between good enough and half-assed… A lot of the advice out there for perfectionists says to settle for 80%, 60%, or less— their hearts are in the right place, but getting to good enough isn’t about settling it’s about achieving…

In the article Pitfalls of Perfectionism by Alex Lickerman writes: As long as I can remember, I’ve been burdened with a desire for perfection in all my creative endeavors. But, my dogged pursuit of this verisimilitude has often proven itself to be the greatest obstacle to my achieving it. We lose perspective on the quality of our creations the moment we create them. And the more we pore back over them in pursuit of a fresh perspective, the farther it moves away from us.

Combine this with the need for perfection and the result is often paralysis. The irony, of course, is that while perfect may exist as a concept that impels us to keep trying to better our work, any judgment that we’ve achieved remains entirely subjective and therefore by definition– imperfect. This almost certainly explains why we can judge something perfect one minute and then hopelessly flawed the next without making a single change…

More commonly, we don’t so much finish a project as abandon it, not knowing what else to do to salvage it from our own obsessive tinkering… And when we finally return to it later, we often find that the time away from it was the only thing that actually had the power to grant us an improved ability to judge its quality objectively. If we’re lucky we see, not how to make it perfect but how to make it work…

Recognizing that inflection point– the point at which our continuing to rework our work reaches a law of diminishing returns– is one of the hardest skills to learn, but also one of the most necessary… What helps to release the compulsion to create perfection is the striving to put into proper perspective the importance of the act of creation itself. When I’m immersed in the creative process, nothing feels more important to me at that moment than the thing which I’m creating.

And though that sense of importance is what drives my passion and discipline (which in turn is what makes creating it possible at all), it also represents the source of the painful sense of urgency for the final result be perfect. Forcing myself, then, to recognize that in the grand scheme of life no one thing is so important that failing to make it perfect will permanently impair my abilities, and that’s what frees me from the need for it to be perfect.

Freed, then, from the need to attain the unattainable, I can instead focus on enjoying the challenge of simply doing my best. Because if we allow ourselves to remain at the mercy of our desire for perfection, not only will the perfect elude us, so will the good…

Don’t spin your wheels doing a perfect job, when a good job will do. There are diminishing returns for your diligence… According to Lee Knight; to attain a perfect thing, whatever that is, becomes infinitely more difficult as you near it… So, at some point, you have to cut your losses, and simply say–good enough. This is not a justification for shoddy workmanship or laziness, for that certainly would not be, per se, good enough. The point is more to know when to realize that any additional effort toward improvement would result in a negligible improvement, especially in comparison to the effort required. Do what’s important, maintain your high standards, but don’t let them get in your way…

Some researchers divide perfectionists into three types, based on answers to standardized questionnaires: First, there are the self-oriented strivers who struggle to live up to their high standards and appear to be at risk of self-critical depression… Second, the outwardly focused zealots who expect perfection from others… Third, those desperate to live up to an ideal they’re convinced others expect of them…

According to Mic Farris; customers want solutions, it’s very important to get them a good answer, something that explains most of what they need, and provide it to them quickly… Being productive is an incredibly important quality in business… In fact, being productive translates to being reliable and dependable to others, since they can always count on you to produce good stuff that meets their needs…

According to Amber Singleton Riviere; perfection is not attainable and chasing it is pointless. Excellence, on the other hand, means not letting yourself off the hook, not cutting corner, not coping out… It’s being extraordinary, which, as Steve Harvey says; requires doing extra, and extra isn’t always easy…

If you want to be a cut above your competition… being the go-to expert in your field… the name that stands out in the minds of your customers, then you have to strive for excellence. You have to know when you’re giving too much attention to things that don’t really matter (i.e., trying to be perfect) and when you need to give extra attention to those that do matter (i.e., being good enough)…