Why There’s Nothing Worse Than Perfection

“If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.”

This single phrase, that we’ve all heard a million times, became a crutch and impaired my actions. I wasn’t able to get things done because of the fear of not doing it “right”. Projects accumulated on a to-do list. I always found a way to justify to myself why the situation wasn’t right, why I didn’t have the things needed to complete the project, etc. I lived in apartments for years without decorating because “it wasn’t permanent”. When I finally moved into my own house, I didn’t paint because it was “too much of a commitment” without having the room completely decorated.

If Pinterest existed back then, I would have had a million pinned items and nothing to show for it.

Eventually, I stopped dreaming up new ideas. I was crippled by a sense of fear that led to inaction.

Work was a different story. The fear of losing my job was greater than my fear of failure. But the phrase found its way to burrow into my thoughts at work too. “Stay in your safety zone and do what you know works,” it whispered. “You don’t know how to do it perfectly, don’t bother trying.” And when I would almost have the guts to do something, it begged to my senses, “That’s a nice idea, but nothing ever turns out as well as you think.”

Now, I should have preface with letting you know that I’m not an underachiever by any means. From an outsider’s perspective, I looked like a normal, productive person. I made good grades in school and graduated magna cum laude from East Carolina University. So, obviously, I got some things done.

But what mattered were the things I was missing out on. The innovation my organization was missing out on because I was too paralyzed by the perfection.

Then one day, our team decided to adopt the 80% rule. The 80% rule states that you get a project 80% there and then you just stop without tinkering or perfecting.

The key to my buy-in of this idea was that everyone agreed and it was made clear to our clients and colleagues, our goal was not perfection, but completion. Perfection became the enemy.

No longer did we waiver over words or punctuation. We focused instead on the execution of ideas and the big picture.

The crippling phrase was removed and I started living every day with a new motto: “Be a CLOSER.” I marked each day as success by what I was able to “close” or complete.

By doing so, amazing things started happening. We started to develop more content. We figured out the direction of our organization, and we kept our clients happy.

If you’re like me and you struggle with perfection over completion, here are 3 things you can do to be a closer:

  1. Set the Expectation of Imperfection. Get buy-in from yourself, your colleagues and customers. Here’s the great thing about getting to 80% that could sell them on the idea: people love to add their two cents a lot more than like to actually do the work. If you can get a project/idea/template to them faster, without the expectation of perfection, then everyone will have a chance to chime in with ample time to meet deadlines.
  2. Rely Less On Tools and More on Yourself. Whenever you blame the tools you have for lack of action, you are just making excuses. If there’s an idea you believe in and your team needs to make it happen, you can find ways to make it happen. I make a lot of videos for work. I am, by no means, an expert animator, but I’ve found ways to use tools that come on every Apple computer to make my videos dynamic and get them done quickly. People don’t care what tools you use, they care about the end result. Find a way!
  1. Create a Constant Reminder of Your Goal. I have this post-it on my computer. Cheesy? Most definitely. But it works as a totem for my team and me. When we get caught up in the “what ifs” or the “it would be cooler if it did…” we ask ourselves if we’re going beyond 80%.

As someone who likes to dream of possibilities, plan, and perfect, it’s been extremely challenging to implement this mind shift, and sometimes I do falter, but the results are worth it. This article is a perfect example of a “close”. It took me one hour to write and run this article by a colleague. It’s now complete (with minor typos to be expected), but I got an article posted today. What about you?

I challenge you to become a closer today. In the comments section, let me know what you closed today.

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