Perfection: A Pursuit of Failure

The other day I was struck by a thought: really a revelation that the pursuit of perfection can actually be a roadblock to our success. How many ventures never get underway because no one was willing to venture out of their comfort zone? How many businesses are struggling because they are too worried about perfecting small details while the walls and foundation come crumbling down around us? I have observed that the closer a business is to collapsing, the more frantic the owners become about looking to perfect things that don’t matter.

I think that it is a natural failsafe. It allows us to fight for what we can control. Unfortunately, the answers to turn around a struggling or stagnate business typically come from letting go of the things that are dragging us down or holding us back. Don’t get me wrong: perfection has a high place in business success, but we must learn to pursue perfection of the things that matter while also realizing that it is ok for other less important things to be a little raw or unpolished.

In fact, I would say that oftentimes showing a little humanity (imperfection) can actually be a good thing. When we let our guard down and stop struggling for perfection in every area of our life or business, it allows us to experience new things, experiment with new ideas, and, most importantly, it frees up our time to spend perfecting what does matter without holding everything else back. The problem is that more times than not, most of us get distracted by perfection. Distraction can cause accidents and in business that can mean failure. The pursuit of perfection, when unchecked, can become a disease that quickly spreads throughout our life or business. Unchecked perfection drives us away from what really matters. It consumes us until all we can think about are the small details that just aren’t quite right. We begin to ignore the big picture. We forget that our competition is moving forward while we are stuck trying to appease our own inner desire for whatever we think perfection is.

A better pursuit 
If you find that your life or business is not balanced, not able to meet its goals, and unable to find purpose, then you are pursuing the wrong things. You are using perfection as an excuse for inaction and this is obviously counterproductive. So put away the magnifying glass and instead climb to the top of the hill.  You cannot see the big picture with the magnifying glass or microscope pressed up against your eyes. The pursuit of perfection, in the wrong places, causes us to focus on the wrong things. We are sitting in a corner, polishing the fine china for a dinner that we never got around to inviting anyone to. We are getting our ducks in a row to swim in an empty pond that we forget to fill up with water. We are waxing a car that has no gas in it. While we are polishing, organizing, and waxing away, we wonder to ourselves why no one is showing up for dinner, why our sales have dried up, and why we have not gotten anywhere in months or even years. If we allow ourselves to step back for a moment, we would realize that real perfection would have been sending out the dinner invites, filling up the pond, and putting gas in the car. Perfecting these tasks would have ensured that our goals were met. Perfecting these tasks would have actually accomplished something more than just having sparkling plates, lined up ducks, and a shiny car that now we can’t even afford. Don’t let perfection drive you out of business: learn to focus on what matters, on what you can control and on what moves you forward. Let everything else be a little rough around the edges.