The problem with perfectionism

The problem with perfectionism

Back in the days when I was a student going through my business communication module. There was a class on interviewing skills.

The instructor asked for volunteers and one of the questions went like this:

Instructor: Tell me about your biggest weakness.

Response: I’m a perfectionist. I spend too much time getting caught up in the little details…

Cringe.

This was a decade back where this response was considered the model answer for “what’s your biggest flaw” type of questions.

This poster, found on the walls of... - Facebook for Education | Facebook
Poster on walls of Facebook office

Today, with technology and best practices changing so rapidly, perfectionism would be crippling to most organizations.

Agile, Scrum and Kanban are the buzzwords for innovation for almost every organization nowadays. It focuses on incremental changes, testing, and modifications. Rather than in-depth planning right at the beginning.

“If you think that’s a big failure, we’re working on much bigger failures right now — and I am not kidding. Some of them are going to make the Fire Phone look like a tiny little blip.”

Jeff Bezos on the failure of the Fire Phone

Successful organizations are increasingly aware of the importance of trying out, going fast and making progress instead of executing only when there’s a ‘perfect’ idea.

What’s wrong with being a perfectionist?

It is paralyzing.

“Perfectionism is insecurity with lipstick on it”

Gary Vaynerchuk

The quest for perfectionism is a defense mechanism that prevents us from doing anything. It is the worst procrastination tool around.

The true perfectionist will not try new things, because they know it will never be perfect.

If you’re looking for a perfect life, you will never enjoy living.
If you’re looking for a perfect opportunity, you will never find it.
If you’re looking for the perfect investment, you will never invest.
If you’re looking for the perfect relationship, you will never find anyone.

Many knows that their life could be better by investing, getting insured, publish their content publicly, or pursue their dreams.

But would never do it.

“Investing is too risky, best left to professionals.”

“It has already been done by many others, I’m too late to try.”

“I don’t think I’m good enough.”

We are afraid that we have no talent. That we will be rejected, criticized, ridiculed or misunderstood or — worst of all — not be heard.

But we forget that the path to being good at anything is to start.

The gap between expectations & reality

We often look at our idols, be it Michael Jordan for basketball, Warren Buffett for investing, J.K. Rowling for writing or Jeff Bezos for running businesses and awe at how good they are.

We start setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves as amateurs and compare ourselves with our idols. With what we see on the surface — perfection.

Our perfectionism starts to torture us when we overlook how hard others had work or suffered before reaching ‘perfection’.

The original Amazon website (August 1995)
The original Amazon website (1995)

Amazon did not start out to be the e-commerce powerhouse it is today. Jeff Bezos was rejected multiple times when trying to raise funds in 1994.

He said, “I had to take 60 meetings to raise $1 million, and I raised it from 22 people at approximately $50,000 a person.”

In the book The Everything Store, Bezos started out packing books, rushing to meet customers orders, and struggled to find supplies.

Nothing was easy nor instant. Bezos achieve what he has today with a constant struggle of refining, testing, failing, and improving before Amazon became the number one e-commerce store.

What do we do?

Start the process by not judging yourself.

At least not in the short term. Don’t judge yourself in a day, or weeks, or months. Judge yourself in a life.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Focus on progress, not perfection.


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