Progress vs Perfection

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“You don’t have to perfect it,” recalls a reader of my book The Gift of the Ordinary.

“I was asked to deliver my next project and then I remembered what I read in your book ‘You don’t have to perfect it.’ …Then I said yes.” Now, she’s back on the go!

I was so happy hearing that from her. I am awed by what a book can do.

The pursuit to perfection can be a double-edged sword. It can push you to excellence or it can pull you back to stoppage. It can push you to excellence as it gives you the aspiration to give all your best and deliver an excellent output. However, it can also pull you back to stoppage as it could potentially be used as an excuse for not delivering.

If you ask a person, “Why are you not delivering your product?” He or she would respond, “Well, it’s not yet perfect, you know, I need to do more polishing.” And when you ask the same question a year later, he would give the same answer. Now that is stoppage not excellence.

The differentiating factor can be the decision when to deliver. Even the great Steve Jobs who is known for being a perfectionist learned the lesson. He once said, “Real artists ship.” Yes, they aim for excellence or perfection but they know when to deliver. And you can see that even after delivering, the iteration process does not stop.

The other way of looking at it is not to pursue perfection but progress.

I like the point of Prof. Art Markman in his article with fastcompany.com. He said, “It is far more important to make steady progress on projects and to get things done than it is to guard against the possibility that any mistakes will be made. No product (not even the Macintosh computer) is perfect when it is first released. Instead, it has to be improved through successive versions and revisions.”

In other words, you cannot be the best that you can be in a single day but you can become better than you were yesterday as you grow every day.

Bestselling author Jeff Goins once talked about building bridges versus taking a leap. He made a very sobering point that we don’t have to take that huge leap but rather build bridges little by little every single day.

We won’t arrive immediately to the place where we may find perfection. It is then important to aim for progress on a daily basis. This would be more realistic and would give us permission not to be so hard on ourselves especially when we make mistakes along the way. This gives us the permission to ask, “Have we made progress? What can we learn from this to move forward?”

The pursuit to perfection could still be there but the pursuit to progress on a daily basis is ‘posted on your wall.’

My first book The Gift of the Ordinary has its own share of mistakes that were made in the process of writing and missed in the process of editing and proofreading. The moment it was out, I celebrated! When I was re-reading it, I spotted some errors. But when I looked back, I realized how phenomenal the progress has been. I have grown in the process. And the bigger bonus is when people say they liked it, they were moved by it, they could relate to the stories, they were inspired by it, and that they decided to take action with its help. That, for me, is priceless!

I’m glad I chose the fluidity of progress not the rigidity of perfection. How about you? Would you rather choose to deliver rather than to delay? Would you rather choose to build bridges rather than that huge leap? I hope you will. Choose progress and grow in the process!

(Chris Dao-anis/CPA, as an author and speaker, helps aspiring and young professionals become better communicators and leaders through his books, blogs, and seminars. Visit his website www.chrispoweracademy.com or email him at chrisdaoanis@ymail.com.)

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