Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Death to Stock

In an earlier post, I talked about how a common trap that many people fall into when starting starting something new is the trap of waiting for perfect conditions to happen before they start. This results in many people not even starting whatever it is that they wanted to start.

Unfortunately, simply starting something is not the end of it all. Another trap that people end up in, also relating to perfectionism, is always trying to make things perfect.

This has the unfortunate consequence of never finishing whatever it is you started, or even making any progress at all. You always procrastinate, trying to make things perfect, waiting for perfect conditions to happen before you can work on something.

This is a hard trap to get out of, and is the root of procrastination. You procrastinate because you don’t think you can produce anything that is good at the moment (otherwise you would have done it right away; laziness is a separate issue), so you wait a little longer for perfect conditions so that you can produce something good. Obviously, that doesn’t happen until the end when your expectations drop, and suddenly amazing work comes flowing out.

How do you avoid the trap, or get out of it once you are stuck in it? Similar to starting something completely new, just starting whatever it is you must start, no matter how bad it ends up being is often enough. Once you start, the good work will begin flowing out.

The final hurdle to overcome is actually finishing your endeavor. A lot of time can be wasted in trying to perfect your work, despite minimal change to the final product. After a certain point, you begin to receive diminishing returns, whereby the amount of time you spend in order to incrementally increase the quality of your work rises exponentially.

There is a lot of value in paying attention to detail, but in reality, nothing in truly perfect. Sometimes, all you end up doing is wasting a lot of time. A good rule of thumb is that as long as your completed work is at a 8/10 level, you can consider it finished, and start on your next project.

Although ideally, we would all like to be able to produce perfect work, in the end nothing will ever truly be perfect to us. Only things that have been completed will have impact, and often times these completed things are only good, but with great potential to be perfect.

Also published on Medium