Perfection Sucks! Let's stop chasing it.
Ever heard the expression done is better than perfect? Yeah, it is, but let me add that, good enough is perfectly acceptable, because sometimes you just can’t or should not go for perfect. Let’s talk about why you should instantly stop chasing perfection.
Our topic today is perfection and perfectionism. I was gonna name this one the Curse of perfectionism but then I might have to admit I’m cursed. 🧸
Anyways, let me get to the point immediately-
Good enough is acceptable
When you’ve had your fare share of challenges sometimes - actually all the time - you'll probably come to the same realisation I have:
And when it's acceptable ... I mean ... do it! It’s not perfect - I know - but it’s fine. It’s not exactly what you wanted - I know - but it’s fine.
Doesn't it often happen that you sit down with your team and brainstorm, how to solve something, how to build or improve a feature, a workflow, and the overall solution looks fairly complex?
Let me help you out here: you don’t need complex solutions. My experience shows that they always create more challenges, ending up with us chasing even more complex solutions, you know ... in our crusade for perfection. If you’re technical, you pretty much know what I am talking about, just think ... mmmm ... technical debt. Yeah, the pain...
Optimize, don't maximize
The best kind of solutions I’ve seen and were able to achieve myself were a result of the optimisation function, not the maximisation function. Let me explain: you don’t just want maximum results, you want maximum results achievable with minimum effort.
For example, I’ve been an aikido practitioner for years, and even tho the martial art has been getting a lot of hate lately (thanks Stephen!), I’ve witnessed myself how real masters of the art literarily make the smallest, often unseen moves that make people basically defeat themselves. Yeah, minimum effort creates maximum impact, this is the kind of solutions we should be all looking for all the time.
Another way to explain this is simply from experience. I mean tap into your past work and think about the biggest, meanest problems you’ve encountered. I bet you’ll find that many of them had veeeery simple, almost mundane, like … every day solutions. Being in charge of software engineers and being one myself, I have to say we all tend to fall into this trap of building, overbuilding and then refactoring / rebuilding glamorous technical solutions, which will yield some nice padding on the back from our peers but can also create some serious waste of time and effort, where focus could have been on more impactful things.
Just so we're clear, this trait is not reserved for engineers, no no no, there’s no immunity to the curse of overbuilding, you just have to avoid picking it up or dispel it as soon as someone notices.
You can't afford perfection
Many times you’ll be in a position where you can’t afford the perfect solution you want, meaning you either lack the time, people or finances to pull something off. A solution that is acceptable is better than no solution, wouldn’t you agree? I mean nothing stops you from improving this down the road, but if you don’t solve a challenge just in time or just early on, it might return and bite you in the behind later on.
All I have to do to slap myself when dreaming about perfection is to simply visualise all the damn backlogs of important things that got left behind because the solution was just too damn expensive. And looking back, man there were some easy wins there I’ve missed in the form of simple solves, because you know: the curse of perfection. And in retrospect, I can safely say it costs more to not apply simple(r) solutions than not to solve things.
But hey, all you have to do is remember all those times you didn’t do something, didn’t launch a podcast, didn’t start a project, didn’t say something you wanted to a loved one, juuust because the timing wasn’t perfect, your hair wasn’t perfect, your blah blah blah wasn’t - perfect. Trust me - I know! My wife is a damn perfectionist and she keeps not doing things because it’s just not the perfect … whatever. She cute tho. And yeah, done is better than perfect when you don't actually do anything, for God's sake.
Perfectionism isn’t sustainable
Take all of the above into perspective, everything I said about perfection, and scale it. Make it span across a time period you'd consider significant. Is it sustainable? Is it sustainable to keep chasing perfection? No, of course not! It's keeping you from delivering good enough, and good enough is acceptable, and it moves the needle.
And you won't get the time back. Nope. You've likely spent so much time on just designing perfect solutions that you didn't have the damn time to actually implement them. Think about it, it's not a sustainable model.
Striving for perfection is delusional, as nothing will ever be perfect and it will stop you from seeing the "good enoughs".
We should all just aim for better and not perfect because, if you think about it, it is imperfection that actually allows us to grow in a sustainable way.
I've heard people say "aim for excellence" and I don't disagree, but when we're talking about SAAS, trust me, better is good enough, and good enough is perfectly acceptable.
Finally, here’s a formula for you, how to decide if you should go for solutions that are not perfect, not really what you want, but are good enough: if it gets the job done (and you can prevent wasting time, adding complexities, adding dependencies into your product or workflows) - yeah - go for it! Do it.
Of course, it's up to you and your team and your customers to define what's good enough. You need to pick your battles carefully, Software as a Service has to be customer driven, or it will likely die in a fiery pit of doom.
But I bet if you apply this formula you’ll quickly realise that perfection is actually … irrelevant.
Stop chasing perfection
We don't all have to kill ourselves to build the perfect product, perfect customer service, perfect internal workflows, perfect social presence... And in reality, it's all about the customer.
Instead of helping you achieve more, perfectionism often results in you achieving nothing and leaves you feeling like you’re never quite there when you achieve less. Simply because - let's face it - you never actually know what perfect is? At best, you can only assume. So...
Rather than doing it perfectly, we could all just focus on doing it better and - iteration by iteration - one better step after another - we'll actually get somewhere, maybe even quicker and more fulfilling than we imagined.
Perfection sucks. Stop chasing it.